Plan B: Doing Voting Rights through Reconciliation

Given that the For the People Act has stalled in the Senate because of the Republican filibuster, it is time to roll out a plan B in case it is needed. This would be to do as much as possible on voting rights through reconciliation. There will likely be a reconciliation bill later in 2021.

Here are some things that can be done through reconciliation:

A voting tax credit. Everyone who votes in a Federal election should receive a tax credit of $200. This is progressive and will motivate voters to turn out. Most voter suppression measures make it more difficult to vote, not impossible. Incentivizing voters to vote through a tax credit helps overcome those suppressive rules. (for details see https://vthuronyi.medium.com/a-voting-tax-credit-f480e197e572).

Funding for early voting. Congress could provide funding for the expenses that a State or county incurs in providing early voting. The funding could be conditioned on early voting being made available for a specified number of days and at specified hours (i.e. including some night shifts). The funding could also be conditioned on a minimum number of early voting facilities to be made available. It could also be conditioned on the state allowing same-day registration as part of early voting.

Postage for mail-in ballots. The Postal Service could be funded to mail for free applications for mail-in ballots and the ballots themselves.

Political contributions tax credit. There used to be a tax credit for political contributions. It should be revived and strengthened. (The previous credit was for 50% of the amount of the contribution, and was eliminated in 1986) This should be limited to a specific amount per voter, providing matching funds. For example, if someone contributes $10 to a candidate, they could be made eligible for a $10 tax credit. The total amount of credit could be capped at a specified amount, for example $100. This encourages small contributions by grassroots, rather than large donors. For a detailed proposal from the Brennan Center, see https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/Small%20Donor%20Tax%20Credit_0.pdf

Voter ID. Congress could fund the issuance of a free voter ID card to all registered voters. Conditions could be imposed to that the cards are issued in a way that is accessible to everyone. This is something that Republicans want. As long as ID cards are readily available to all, requiring ID to vote should not suppress voting (states would as now make the decision as to whether to require an ID to vote). A lot of people currently lack an ID card because they cannot afford it. Making the card free would remove this obstacle.

Etc. Any other provisions of the For the People Act that can be converted into spending provisions that will pass muster under the reconciliation rules, if I have missed any.

Plan B (as the name implies) is not the optimal solution. But it can go a long way to encouraging turnout and making it easier to vote. In some ways (such as the voting tax credit) it goes beyond what is currently in the For the People Act).