RICHMOND (February 24, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today has joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general in sending a letter to Congressional leadership urging support for H.R. 1 and S. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021.” The bill is an omnibus package of democracy reforms designed to expand access to the ballot, protect elections from foreign interference, force disclosure of dark money in federal elections, and raise ethical standards for federal officials.
According to a Brennan Center report, in 2021 state legislative sessions to date, at least 165 bills in 33 states have been introduced to restrict voting access – four times the number of similar bills introduced last year. Despite confirmation that there was no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularity in the 2020 election, state legislators have seized upon baseless voter-fraud allegations to curtail mail-in voting options, impose stringent voter ID requirements, limit voter registration opportunities, and allow even more aggressive purging of voter rolls.
“There is absolutely no evidence that any kind of widespread voter fraud occurred during the 2020 election, and yet, elected officials across the country, including here in Virginia, continue to promulgate these rumors and misinformation,” said Attorney General Herring. “Over the past year, I worked hard to make sure that any Virginian who wanted to vote had the opportunity to safely and easily, despite the many different challenges that came our way. Too many Americans have been disenfranchised or cut out of this country’s democratic process for too long and it’s time for that to change.”
The Act includes several measures that would neutralize efforts to suppress the vote by making it easier to vote, reducing the influence of dark money in elections, and codifying ethical standards for public servants. The Act would improve and modernize access to the ballot by:
- requiring states to implement online registration;
- establishing automatic voter registration;
- prohibiting unnecessary purges of the voting rolls;
- requiring states to permit voters in federal elections to submit a sworn statement to meet ID requirements;
- expanding access to federal elections through early voting and mail-in voting;
- prohibiting the knowing dissemination of false information about elections and stiffening penalties for voter intimidation.
Additionally, the Act would close dark-money loopholes by requiring disclosure when wealthy donors give $10,000 or more to a group that spends money on elections and addresses the problem of partisan gerrymandering by putting redistricting in the hands of independent commissions.
Finally, the Act seeks to close legal loopholes that allow the President and certain federal officials to evade accountability for personally profiting from their office by:
- heightening disclosure requirements applicable to the president;
- requiring the holder of the Office of the President to divest from financial interests that pose a conflict of interest;
- providing the Office of Government Ethics with enhanced enforcement powers; and,
- prohibiting members of Congress from serving on the board of directors of for-profit entities during their terms in office and requiring the Judicial Conference to develop a code of ethics applicable to Supreme Court Justices.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Herring worked with Virginia’s elections officials to find solutions to make sure Virginians can vote safely and easily. These solutions provided voters with safe alternatives to in-person voting, so that they are not putting the health and safety of themselves or that of their loved ones at risk. He and his team negotiated options to promote safe, secure voting for folks who cannot or do not want to risk their health to vote in person. For the November election he reached an agreement that waived the witness requirement for absentee ballots for Virginians who believe they may not safely have a witness present when completing their ballot, and another agreement that makes it easier for Virginians with print disabilities to participate in the election safely at home. Attorney General Herring also reached an agreement to extend the voter registration deadline by two days, following a registration system outage that lasted several hours, preventing Virginians from registering to vote on the final day before the original deadline.
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.