Repairing the wheels of democracy



March 6, 2019 - 10:35 AM

HR 1, the legislation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced in the first hours of the 116th Congress, is ambitious and remarkably wide-ranging. It proposes numerous electoral and public-ethics reforms. In most cases, these changes are both needed and long overdue. The vast scope of this law is itself an indictment of the corrosion afflicting the machinery of American government.

The bill isn’t headed for the statute book — not with this Congress and this president — but this or something like it certainly ought to be. The 571-page omnibus promises to make voting easier, strengthen ethics laws for government officials, and reduce the influence of money in politics. The last of those would need the cooperation of the U.S. Supreme Court, but a competent and responsible legislature and executive could do most of the rest if they chose to.

After Russia’s activities in 2016, there shouldn’t be any dispute about the need for security upgrades to the nation’s patchwork voting systems. The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to designate election infrastructure as “critical” and to make threat assessments before elections. It provides grants for improving and maintaining electoral systems, and requires all state voting systems to produce a paper trail of votes that can be audited after an election.

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