WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today announced the introduction of a package of bills to ensure that every American has equal representation within our democracy and equal voice in the direction of our government. Today’s legislation proposes bold action toward full and equal representation, including a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college and the establishment of a commission to ensure that American citizens in D.C., Puerto Rico, and American territories have voting representation.
Combined with the For the People Act that Merkley introduced this week with Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), this package of bills forms the full legislative version of the Blueprint for Democracy that Sen. Merkley put forward in January—a sweeping series of proposals to take on voter suppression, gerrymandering, dark money, and unequal representation in our democracy.
“The idea of democracy is simple and obvious even to young kids on a playground – whoever gets the most votes should win. But way too often, that’s not how our system of government is working. And we see the results all around us – the privileged and powerful taking care of themselves while most people work longer hours for the same pay at best, while costs keep going up,” Merkley said. “We need real, equal representation if we want a government that responds to the big issues impacting working families’ lives, like health care, housing, education, living-wage jobs, and climate chaos. It’s time to end the undemocratic electoral college, and to ensure a pathway to full voting representation for all American citizens, regardless of whether they live in Portland or Puerto Rico.”
Specifically, the legislation Merkley announced today includes:
1. Constitutional Amendment on Abolishing the Electoral College
This bill amends the constitution to abolish the Electoral College and elect the President of the United States by direct popular vote.
The Electoral College does not fit our “We the People” model of government; it is profoundly unfair. In just two decades, we have now seen two elections where the majority of voters supported a candidate who did not become the President, due to the Electoral College. Now is the time to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to elect the President of the United States by direct popular vote.
2. We the People Commission on Full Representation
This bill establishes a commission to develop proposals to provide voting representation to American citizens in D.C., Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The commission would help ensure that all citizens have the meaningful ability to shape their government, regardless of where they live.
There are roughly 4 million Americans living in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American territories who do not have representation. They should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in Congress.
3. The Stop Automatically Voiding Eligible Voters Off Their Enlisted Rolls in States Act (SAVE VOTERS) Act
The SAVE VOTERS Act allows for the removal of a voter from voting rolls only if there is a change of residential address to a place outside the registrar’s jurisdiction in which the voter is registered, or in the case of death.
It also establishes conditions for how voters are informed by states or local governments of their removal from the list of registered voters, including a written confirmation notice to the registrant that they are no longer on the voter rolls.
The bill states that failure of an individual to vote or failure to respond to a notice, unless it was returned as undeliverable, cannot be factors considered in a registrant’s eligibility to vote.
Lastly, it requires a state or local government to issue a public notice whenever list maintenance is taking place.
4. The Early Voting Act
The Early Voting Act establishes minimum requirements for early voting.
Specifically, the bill requires a 15-day early voting period preceding the date of the election when individuals may vote in federal elections, in the same manner as voting is allowed on Election Day.
Early voting polling places are required to comply with certain requirements, including access to public transportation.
5. Brighter Sunshine on Donations Act
This bill ensures greater transparency in political donations by amending the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the disclosure of all donations. The bill reverses an arbitrary rule by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) which requires only funds earmarked for electioneering communications to be disclosed.
Special interests can spend vast sums of “dark money” to influence elections without voters being able to see the source of the money or take into account the identities and interests of the people spending that money. This bill will help put an end to “dark money.”
6. Polling Place Protection Act of 2019
The Polling Place Protection Act prevents unreasonable wait time for voters by requiring that no individual wait longer than 30 minutes to cast a ballot at any polling place.
The bill calls for states to develop and implement election administration plans, including contingency plans, to address various problems a polling place may encounter during or before Election Day.
It also requires that there be an appropriate number of voting systems, poll workers, and physical resources for the population that a voting location intends to serve.
Lastly, it requires reasonably uniform and geographic distribution of polling places to ensure that all voters in a jurisdiction have equal access to polling places.