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For The People Act: How It Can Be Improved And Why West Virginia’s Senators Must Support Election Reform

contact@mountainpartywv.net

The Mountain Party of West Virginia calls on Senators Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R) to work together and propose an amended version of HR1 / S1 that is fair for all political parties and removes any political conflicts of interest.

Known as HR1 / S1, the “For the People Act” is sweeping federal legislation aimed to limit gerrymandering, increase access to the polls, and allegedly improve campaign finance among other changes. While the Mountain Party certainly supports some of the changes such as making Election Day a federal holiday and mandating same-day voter registration, many proposed changes to campaign finance are problematic.

The legislation addresses dark money that currently plagues politics, but it opens the floodgates to allow new dark money to enter the political landscape with a new loophole. Money from big donors can be funneled through a national party committee to candidates at the tune of $100 million. Presently, only $5,000 can be contributed to a presidential candidate by a national party committee. Additionally, the bill will eliminate the limits on donations and expenditures candidates can receive and make. These changes present a political conflict of interest that hinders the success of real reform.

For minor political parties, two other issues have emerged from the proposed legislation. The first problem is the proposed abolishment of general election campaign block grants that political parties may acquire by winning at least 5% of the vote in the previous presidential election. This divisive and unnecessary change is an obvious effort to block the development of multi-party democracy. The second problem is the proposed quintuple increase in the qualifying threshold for federal matching funds. This change creates an unnecessary hurdle for minor party presidential candidates. An easy remedy, or compromise, to have a matching fund system that works for campaigns of all sizes is to have a tiered system, in which candidates could pursue matching funds using either the $5,000 or the $25,000 per state threshold. 

Democrats have proclaimed HR1 / S1 as the new gold standard for election reform, while Republicans fear the legislation is an assault on state’s rights, free speech, and voter integrity. Both claims are false. In the best of light, the legislation makes modest improvements to our elections. However the aforementioned subversive changes to campaign finance and the major blows against minor parties, makes this act toxic to democracy.

A much better proposal to what the gold standard for elections could be in the United States is “The Fair Representation Act” that was introduced in 2018 and 2019. This proposal would establish multi-seat, proportional representation for Congress utilizing ranked-choice voting. This could be complemented by also adopting the Clean Money or Clean Elections model that would have fully-funded, public campaign finance for all federal offices.

While we do not expect the major parties to deliver the gold standard, we demand they improve the current system of elections in a manner that creates transparency and trust between government and the people. 

The Mountain Party is the West Virginia state party affiliate for the Green Party of the United States. Read more here: https://www.gp.org/hr_1

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