Our democracy needs a reboot
American democracy is in desperate need of reform. Public trust in our election system and political leaders is at an all-time low. Large portions of the Republican Party continue to embrace baseless claims about the outcome of the 2020 election, fueled by the distortions and outright lies of the former president. And politicians have passed more than 350 bills restricting Americans’ access to voting in an effort to disenfranchise millions of voters, while lobbying against critical new voting rights legislation that has never been more urgent.
Against the backdrop of an exhausting battle with the coronavirus, and in the context of a still-growing movement for racial justice, policymakers must consider bold steps now. They should immediately move to restore confidence in our democratic government, to protect voting rights and ballot access, to reduce the influence of special interest money in politics, and to ensure accuracy and trust in our elections going forward.
It is also time to be honest about how we got here and, importantly, what Congress can do to move our nation to a better place.
Ten years ago, right-wing ideological forces collaborated with corporate special interests to advocate for what became the Citizens United decision, eliminating safeguards and opening floodgates that have since allowed billions to pour into our elections. Operating under the terms of the resulting rulebook, both sides now use this decision to finance campaigns and support causes that help advance their respective agendas. This outsized influence over our election system needs to be corrected so that the voices of all voters can be heard more clearly.
Last month, House Democrats passed H.R. 1 — the For the People Act — a historic piece of legislation that will strengthen our democracy by expanding voting rights, enhancing ethics rules, and reforming campaign finance regulations to empower small-dollar donors and ordinary voters.
As the head of an organization committed to advancing a more just and equitable world through progressive and public interest causes, I am in a unique position to speak out in support of the For the People Act.
My organization, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, is a 501(c)4 nonprofit that advances progressive causes through advocacy and fiscal sponsorship. We do so using the legal rulebook in place today. Last year, with our democracy under immense strain as we approached the most important election of our lifetime, donors felt compelled to give as never before. While our organization invested hundreds of millions to shore up election infrastructure, ensure access to the ballot, and educate communities around the country about what was at stake, our opponents fought aggressively to block our work, spending millions in an effort to suppress voting rights and reelect Donald Trump.
We support and will continue to advocate for a massive rewrite of the rules to protect voting rights, reduce the influence of special interest money in politics, and rebuild the trust of all Americans.
We will also continue to level the playing field for progressives until that happens. We believe those who support science, voting rights for every eligible voter, equity, and social justice need access to the same tools as those who oppose these core democratic ideals. Sixteen Thirty Fund has and will continue to partner with donors, foundations, and advocates to make strategic investments and protect the integrity of our democracy in the face of historic and escalating threats. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.
Thankfully, the Senate has the chance to make an enormous course correction through the passage of landmark reform bills. We unequivocally support H.R. 1 and S. 1. There is no more urgent time to consider this legislation than now. Greater transparency is needed to ensure the integrity of our elections, voting rights, and begin to regain the trust of millions of Americans.
The Senate must send the For the People Act to President Biden’s desk to ensure the ideals of our democratic institutions remain intact and vibrant, and with them, the faith of the American people.
Amy Kurtz is the President of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)4 organization confronting the biggest social challenges in our country through fiscal sponsorship, advocacy, and electoral action.