This blog post was written by LWVUS Lobby Corps Chair, Jackie Coolidge.
The LWVUS Volunteer Lobby Corps had a very active spring this year. The first few months were focused primarily on the For the People Act which passed the U.S. House of Representatives (as H.R. 1) on a party-line vote on March 8. The Lobby Corps, as usual, attempted to persuade potential swing voters, in this case many moderate Republicans (since all or a great majority of Democratic representatives were already in favor of the bill), but there was a lot of opposition from Republicans against the idea of a new small-donor matching fund for public financing of federal political campaigns. Most also voiced objection to a new Federal holiday for Election Day (which was deleted from the Senate version of the bill), and seemed unenthusiastic about other LWV priorities, such as same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and greater transparency in campaign finance (the “DISCLOSE” Act, which LWV has supported for several years). A few Republicans voiced support for independent redistricting commissions, and many said they would support enhanced “election security” to protect against foreign interference.
The Republican Senators we met with as we attempted to encourage at least a hearing for the bill expressed mostly the same views as those in the House of Representatives. The Senate version of the bill has been assigned to the Finance Committee (because of the campaign finance provisions) and some of the moderate Republicans volunteered that they supported the provisions for “election security” but probably little else. Unfortunately, even that element has been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from coming up for a hearing.
We also lobbied strenuously for the Voting Rights Advancement Act in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4), which focuses specifically on the sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (i.e., those requiring some states and jurisdictions with a history of voting rights violations to obtain “pre-clearance” from the U.S. Justice Department before making new changes to voter registration or election procedures) that had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. In the past, re-authorization of the VRA was overwhelmingly bi-partisan, without any significant opposition whatsoever.
This bill was carved out of H.R. 1 to give more time for in-depth research to address the Supreme Court’s concern that the bill was out of date (especially regarding which states or jurisdictions still had relatively recent violations that might warrant pre-clearance). Lobby Corps members again focused primarily on Republican representatives, but did not hear a strong commitment from them to support the new bill. We even heard a number of Republican offices object to the bill on the basis of “state’s rights” to oversee elections without any involvement from the Federal authorities except after a court order (which can be extremely slow).
The Lobby Corps will continue to press members of Congress on both the For the People Act and Voting Rights Advancement Act, but did manage to include an easier assignment to lobby in favor of the Women's History commemorative coin program (H.R. 1923).
We all remember the U.S. Mint’s state quarters and the series on National Parks—this new bill would create a new set of state quarters with the theme of women’s history and commemorating the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment for women’s suffrage. Every state would get its own quarter, with the Governor allowed to nominate a woman from the state to be featured. In most cases, we expect Governors will establish a commission and encourage essay contests and graphic design contests that will become a great forum for discussion of women’s history, historic women of interest in each state, and an inspiration for young people and history buffs around the country. Our lobbying visits for this bill have so far been overwhelmingly positive, with both sides of the aisle hailing it as an “easy ask!”