Congressman John Sarbanes

Representing the 3rd District of Maryland

States and Cities Have Already Shown Democrats’ Election Reforms Will Work

January 10, 2019
In The News

sweeping reform bill that House Democrats say will be their first priority after ending the partial government shutdown is filled with policies that would fundamentally alter the nation’s voting and campaign finance systems. These policies are not coming out of nowhere. Most of them have been implemented and tested in cities and states across the country. “Within the last five or six years, you just got more and more of these solutions happening at the state and local level,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the bill’s chief sponsor. “It’s not a unicorn. It’s not like we’re talking about something that exists in the atmosphere of Jupiter. This is happening in America.” Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, in a famous dissenting opinion from 1932, asserted the freedom of a state or local government to “serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” This “laboratories of democracy” concept holds that state and local governments are the proper place to test policies before they move to the national stage. That is exactly what has happened with the sweeping policies in Democrats’ H.R. 1, which they’re calling the For the People Act. The bill’s campaign finance provisions on public election financing, dark money disclosure and democracy vouchers have all been field tested. The same is true of automatic voter registration, felon re-enfranchisement and the use of independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.