Congressional Gridlock Necessitates Inclusion of Sponsorship & Co-Sponsorship in Common Cause’s Democracy Scorecard for the Second Time in Our 48-Year History

With Election Day now less than two months away, Common Cause released its 2018 Democracy Scorecard to chart the positions of every Member of Congress on issues vital to the health of our democracy. The reforms in question range from legislation to create a small donor matching fund system and increased disclosure requirements for outside political groups to bills to curb gerrymandering and strengthen the protections in the Voting Rights Act.

Unfortunately, partisan gridlock and intransigent Republican leadership have meant that common sense reform measures like those in the Scorecard very rarely come to a vote, so sponsorships and co-sponsorships of bills were instead included.

“Hardworking Americans who can’t make a big campaign contribution or start a super PAC have a right to have their voices heard and votes counted,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “Americans overwhelmingly support reform of the current political system, but unfortunately, nearly all of the reforms included on our list were never even allowed a vote. The Scorecard is a tool we hope voters will find useful to see where their elected representatives in Washington stand on a variety of democracy reforms.”

“Our democracy is out of balance. Corporate special interests have a megaphone in politics, many states are enacting barriers to voting, and the current administration ignores the rule of law on a near-daily basis,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause. “Reforms included in our Scorecard are tested solutions to the most serious problems facing our democracy, and Congress must act so that all Americans, not just the wealthy and politically-connected, can have their voices heard.”

While co-sponsorship is an imperfect metric, this Scorecard can provide useful guidance to citizens concerned about the health of our democracy. The bills included in the Democracy Scorecard reflect a comprehensive reform agenda that public opinion research indicates has consistently high levels of support across the ideological spectrum. Americans tired of waiting for Congress to act and have enacted similar reform measures at the state and local level across the country. With strong public support for these policies and voters prioritizing them as important in the 2018 election, there is a growing national movement emerging this year.

Common Cause sent each congressional office four letters throughout the spring and summer listing the bills included in the Scorecard to make sure every Member of Congress knew which legislation he or she was being evaluated on. Common Cause never endorses or opposes candidates for elected office. We publish this Scorecard as a guide so concerned citizens can evalu­ate the records of their Members of Congress on key democracy reform issues and build support for these solutions. Since we sent the Scorecard letters to congressional offices, a combined total of more than 250 cosponsors have been added to these bills.

It spotlights the sponsors and co-sponsors of legislation that would elevate the voices of everyday Americans in government, make voting more accessible, promote high ethical standards for elected and appointed officials, and end partisan gerrymandering so that every American has a reasonable chance to elect representatives of their choice.

The Scorecard includes:

  • HR 20/S 1640, which would create a small donor matching fund system to lessen congres­sional candidates’ dependence on special interest and lobbyist money and instead raise small in-state donations
  • HR 1134/HR 6239 and S 1585/S 3150, which would strengthen disclosure requirements, bringing political spending by corporations, unions, super PACs and other groups into the open so voters can see who is trying to influence their votes and to whom candidates are beholden
  • HR 2978/HR 3239 and S 1419, which would modernize the Vot­ing Rights Act pre-clearance formula to ensure that states/localities with a history of discriminating against voters must get changes approved by the Justice Department
  • HR 371 and S 65, which would require disclosure of tax returns by the incumbent Pres­ident and presidential nominees of a major political party for the three most recent taxable years
  • HR 1102 and HR 712, which would create impartial citizens’ commissions to end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts so that politicians can’t cherry-pick their voters

While Congress has not acted on these democracy reforms, many of the proposals in our Democracy Scorecard are being debated and enacted at the state and local level, often with bipartisan support. In recent years, 14 states have created automatic voter registration systems; additionally, residents in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah are expected to vote on November ballot initiatives that could create independent citizen-led redistricting commissions.

With the Scorecard examining the current 115th Congress, Common Cause is also encouraging voters to look toward the 116th Congress to be sworn in on January 3, 2019, with our Democracy2018.org campaign. Voters can engage congressional candidates directly through email, social media, and in person to urge them to support critical democracy reforms. It is the people who have the power to constitute the next Congress, and voters can use this Scorecard, along with our Democracy2018.org tool, to decide who are the reformers in each party and who supports the status quo.

To view the Scorecard online, go to: DemocracyScorecard.org.