Kansas’ Republican senators should support the For the People Act
If Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran votes against the For the People Act, voters will remember when he’s up for re-election in 2022, writes Lynn Stephan. She says voters will also remember when Sen. Roger Marshall is up for re-election in 2028. (Submitted)
The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Lynn Stephan has been an advertising executive and has held leadership positions on a dozen nonprofit boards. She was instrumental in launching Women for Kansas, a nonpartisan political group.
In 2005, in honor of its 50th birthday, Roll Call, the Capital Hill News Source, consulted “a blue-ribbon panel of Congressional scholars” — including the University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis — to identify “the top 10 most important pieces of legislation during the past half-century.” Of the 28,000 bills Congress had passed since 1955, the panel concluded, “only a small minority of them … had a profound impact on American life.”
Now, Congress again has the opportunity to pass a bill that really matters. While predictions are that it won’t pass because Democrats don’t have the votes, the truth is: All senators who claim to love democracy should support it, especially Kansas’ Republican ones.
Indeed, the For the People Act of 2021 would profoundly and positively influence your life and mine, the lives of our children and grandchildren, the lives of Americans for generations to come. While the benefits are not something we can see or put in our billfolds, they are far more important. They’re the long ignored, intangible election benefits that would finally, after many decades of kidding ourselves, undergird the principled democracy we claim to be.
On March 8, 2019, the House passed H.R.1, as the bill was then called. Today identified as S.1, the For the People Act of 2021 addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, partisan gerrymandering, and ethics for the three branches of government. Specifically, the bill would:
- Expand voter registration (automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (vote-by-mail and early voting). The removal of voters from voter rolls will be limited.
- Require states to establish independent redistricting commissions to implement congressional redistricting.
- Improve and protect election security, focusing on the cybersecurity of election systems in both state and national races. Intelligence information will be shared with state election officials; states will get support securing their election systems; a national strategy will be developed to protect our democratic institutions; and a national commission to protect U.S. democratic institutions in the legislative branch will be established.
- Fix campaign finance. This popular section will keep billionaires out of our elections. It prohibits campaign spending by foreign nationals; requires additional disclosure and disclaimers for campaign-related fundraising and spending; and establishes an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices.
- Strengthen ethics in all three branches of government. While ethical behavior for elected officials is seldom discussed by elected officials, this bill addresses it head-on, implementing a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices; prohibiting House members from serving on for-profit company boards; and establishing an additional conflict-of-interest and ethics provision for federal employees and the White House.
- Require the president, vice president, and candidates for those offices to disclose 10 years of tax returns.
If you, like me, want to see the passage of S.1, the bill that really matters, it’s imperative to contact our Kansas senators and tell them to vote for it: Sen. Roger Marshall, 202-224-4774 or by email on his website; Sen. Jerry Moran, (202) 224-6521 or by email on his website (Moran’s website also lists phone numbers for his offices in Garden City, Hays, Manhattan, Olathe, Pittsburg and Wichita).
Unlike most federal legislation that doesn’t affect us personally, if at all, S.1. would positively change the future of elections, campaign finance, elected officials’ ethics and ultimately, the very core of our democracy. It would go down as one of “only a small minority” of bills that will have “a profound impact on American life.” And our Kansas senators — if they care — could become part of that history.
Please let our senators know that you, and your vote for them, are depending on their “yes” votes. At the same time, talk to your neighbors about the For the People Act. Encourage them to tell their neighbors. The more Kansans who are informed, the more Kansans who contact our senators, the better chance it has of passing.
And if our senators don’t care about the fairness of our elections, if they vote “no”? We will remember in 2022 when Jerry Moran is up for re-election. And, yes, Roger Marshall, our memories are long: We will also remember in 2028.
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