A Healthy Democracy Leads to a Healthy Environment
“We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile.”
- President Joe Biden
In order to make progress protecting our environment, safeguarding public health and combating climate change, we need a working democracy. That’s why we’re supporting crucial reforms to our system of governance.
The first step we took is backing the For the People Act, which has been introduced in both the House and Senate. The Brennan Center noted that, “If enacted, it would be the most significant voting rights and democracy reform in more than half a century.”
So what’s in this comprehensive package and how does it impact environmental progress? We’ll break it down for you.
On the issue of voting and voter suppression, everyone should be able to use their voice at the ballot box to vote for candidates who represent their values and priorities, including when it comes to climate progress and environmental justice. That’s why it’s so important that every person be able to cast a ballot, and why we’re advocating for easier access to the polls for everyone. This is especially critical because communities who face the biggest voting barriers are also much more likely to live near Superfund sites and face severe environmental hazards such as air and water pollution. Residents of these neighborhoods need adequate political representation in order to protect their health, and they cannot achieve that without unhindered access to the polls.
This legislation will do just that. It will modernize our voter registration system by setting up same-day and automatic voter registration, strengthen mail-in voting options and institute early voting guidelines nationwide. These concepts are not new. In fact, many states already have same-day and/or automatic voter registration, including Nevada, which enjoys both, and has resulted in the registration of tens of thousands of new voters in the state. Now, this won’t replace the need to restore the Voting Rights Act, but it will significantly open up access to the polls, reduce obstacles to registration and make it harder for states to purge the voter rolls.
The legislation also significantly bolsters our election security by requiring states to replace unsecure paperless voting systems, promoting robust audits and imposing new requirements for private election system vendors.
Last, it tackles redistricting, requiring states to use independent redistricting commissions to draw maps, free of partisan influence.
For far too long, money has played an outsized role in Washington, giving too much power to those who profit from polluting sources of energy and oppose bold action on climate change. But by curbing the influence of money in politics, we can ensure that the environmental concerns in every community are not only heard, but legislative action is taken to solve these crucial environmental problems.
This legislation has some long-overdue ethics reforms, including starting to reign in the “revolving door,” which is a common practice of former lawmakers and their staff, moving back and forth between government and private industry to influence policy. The bill also provides new transparency requirements and gives more power to small dollar donors. Specifically, on small donor public financing, this bill elevates the grassroots donations that candidates raise by setting up a public fund to match small dollar donations, which in turn, gives Americans a bigger voice in our electoral process and helps to support more climate champions.
The truth is most voters are worried about climate change and support comprehensive action to tackle the challenge head on, but without the kind of democracy reforms found in the For the People Act, it will be harder for people to use their collective voice, and elect candidates who will fight for pro-environment legislation. Climate progress depends not only on a working democracy but a thriving one. That’s why the For the People Act is the first critical step toward fixing our democracy and ultimately safeguarding our health and protecting our planet for generations to come.