Congress Blog

H.R. 1 isn't for the people, it's for the politicians

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Later today, Congress will vote on H.R. 1, the so-called "For the People Act."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is touting this sweeping legislation as a win for transparency and election integrity. But that could not be farther from the truth.

In fact, the worst kept secret in Washington right now is that H.R. 1 isn't for the people at all, it's for the politicians. House Democrats are leveraging legitimate concerns about election integrity to rush this dangerous bill through Congress. It won't make our elections safer, instead it will give House Democrats an advantage in future elections by eliminating nearly every institutional guardrail that preserves the sanctity of the ballot box today. Pelosi is opening the floodgates for almost anyone to submit a ballot, or even multiple ballots, regardless of eligibility.

It is a new partisan low, even by Washington standards.

At a time when we need to restore faith in our elections, H.R. 1 is an unconstitutional federal power grab that will pave the way for a system rife with errors and abuse. Here's how.

First, H.R. 1 would prevent election officials from maintaining accurate voter lists and make it harder for them to determine if voters are registered in multiple jurisdictions. This increases the likelihood that voter rolls are outdated and inaccurate or contain ineligible voters.

Second, the bill would dramatically expand automatic voter registration. People who never even provide their consent could be added to voter rolls. H.R. 1 goes so far as designating colleges as automatic voter registration agencies and making it easier to harvest ballots.

Third, H.R. 1 would make same-day voter registration the national standard. Ballots would be cast and counted before officials even have time to verify a voter is eligible or the information provided by them is accurate. The majority of states do not have same-day voter registration, but H.R. 1 would overrule them and mandate it anyway.

The bill would also prohibit commonsense voter ID rules, require no-excuse absentee and early voting, permit felons to vote, and allow people to vote at the wrong polling place.

H.R. 1 is a recipe for disaster. I would know, having prevailed recently in the race for New York's 22nd District after an exhaustive count that went on for nearly 100 days. In the run up to the 2020 election, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rushed through a series of executive orders that mirrored some of the exact policies now proposed in H.R. 1. The result in the 22nd District was one of the most poorly run elections in the country.

New York's election debacle reveals H.R. 1's real-world consequences. If you weaken election oversight, fail to protect ballot integrity, and force unfunded mandates on our communities like this bill does, the errors exposed in my race won't be the exception, they will become the new norm. Republicans and Democrats alike have concluded that the mistakes made in New York's 22nd District likely replicated themselves in contests throughout the state. If H.R. 1 had been law, more mistakes would have been made in this and other races. The new bureaucratic nightmare created by H.R. 1 would have made fair and transparent counts impossible. 

It is clear we need reforms to increase transparency and restore confidence in our elections, but what Democrats are proposing would move us in the wrong direction. Election reforms must be targeted and respect the primary role of states in administering elections. Most of all, unlike H.R. 1, they must be fair and not deliberately benefit one party. The American people are demanding a commonsense framework for election reform that strengthens security without compromising integrity. H.R. 1 is focused on protecting House Democrats, not our sacred democratic principles.

Tenney represents New York's 22nd District.

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