Campaign Finance and Election Reform

Campaign Finance and Election Reform

“The right to vote is the most fundamental right in any democracy, since it is the right from which all others meaningfully derive. Deny someone the right to vote, and you may deny them the right to speak, to associate with whom they choose or to freely exercise their faith – for if these other rights are infringed, how may we seek redress but at the ballot box. Not even the courts can secure our rights in the absence of an effective franchise. Congress established the inferior courts and Congress may abolish them; the right to vote alone is foundation to all of the others.”

– Rep. Adam Schiff

Protecting the Right to Vote

Every day, the right to vote is being diminished and eroded in many states across our nation. New state laws have been enacted that restrict voter registration drives, eliminate same-day voter registration, reduce the early voting period, and require photo identification and proof of citizenship to vote. In total, thirty-four states have passed laws now requiring voters to show some kind of identification at the polls. These laws disproportionately impact young, elderly, minority, low-income, and disabled voters. The backward movement on voting rights is not confined to the states; the Supreme Court has also made it more difficult to ensure adequate protection from disenfranchisement.

Rep. Adam Schiff is a strong believer that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been enormously important in ensuring the right of Americans to vote. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required that nine states and many other counties and municipalities around the country with histories of voter discrimination obtain federal pre-clearance before changing voting laws. However, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder ruled that the formula to determine which jurisdictions must get pre-clearance is out of date. Immediately thereafter, Texas announced that a previously blocked voter identification law would go into effect and that redistricting maps would no longer need federal approval – actions that could seriously undermine minority voting rights in that state.

In January 2014, the Voting Rights Amendment Act was introduced to restore and strengthen protections of the VRA that were dismantled by the Supreme Court. This bill was introduced by Congressman John Conyers and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, demonstrating the bipartisan support for restoring a crowning achievement of the Civil Rights movement. Schiff is a cosponsor of the Voting Rights Amendment Act, and is encouraged that members of both parties see the need for this legislation.

Stopping the Flood of Unregulated Spending

Rep. Adam Schiff was elected to Congress in 2000 after a race that was, at the time, one of the most expensive in the history of the House. This personal experience helped inform Schiff’s strong belief that reform is desperately needed to tackle election spending by corporations and wealthy individuals and eliminate this threat to free and fair elections. The first bill Schiff co-sponsored in Congress was the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, which was passed and signed into law.

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which freed corporations to spend unlimited funds to run campaign ads and struck down decades of restrictions on corporate spending in electoral campaigns. Campaign finance reform efforts took another step back on April 23, 2014 when the Supreme Court struck down limits on overall federal campaign contributions in its McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission decision.

After watching hundreds of millions of dollars pour into campaigns as a result of these decisions – a flood wave that has been unabated and done in increasingly anonymous fashion – Schiff concluded that a constitutional amendment was necessary to remedy this threat to our democracy.

For that reason, Schiff introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to set reasonable limits on campaign contributions and independent expenditures and would allow – but not require – states to enact their own public financing laws. Schiff will keep fighting to address our broken campaign finance system and to reform and strengthen the election system to empower voters and protect one of our most fundamental rights.