H.R.1 and S.1, the House and Senate legislation misnamed as the “For the People Act,” is portrayed by congressional Democrats as a reform of unfair, discriminatory election laws. In reality, it is nothing less than an assault on the accepted democratic norms of free and fair elections, codifying a federal takeover of the states’ constitutionally defined right to regulate elections.
Make no mistake: This is an attempt at a Blue Coup that favors Democrats. Yet, much more worryingly, it would undermine our election rules and processes in ways that affect every American’s faith in the system, not simply the electoral fate of Republicans. It is a glaring example of the kind of dangerous overreach that can occur when one party controls Washington — and when Washington exerts unchecked authority over the states.
Here is what the For the People legislation is not:
- It is not reform.It simply codifies everything that one party — in this case, the Democrats — needs in order to win close races.
- It is not bipartisan. The last election reform passed 20 years ago with GOP support. This legislation has zero GOP support. The only thing that is bipartisan this time is the opposition to it.
- It is not constitutional. The constitutionally mandated role of states in elections would be eliminated in favor of edicts issued by Washington.
- It is not more secure. Instead, it makes it easier for illegal votes to be cast by eliminating state safeguards such as checking a voter’s ID or the validity of signatures, requiring common-sense limitations on same-day voter registration, banning or at least restricting the process known as “ballot harvesting”and sensibly limiting the use of unrestricted mail-in voting.
Here is what it will do:
- Increase fraud by limiting the ability of states to clear out, update and improve voter registration databases. It also would require states to register as voters virtually anyone who interacts with government — including those who have come into the country illegally and are not citizens.
- Increase criminal voting by eliminating the ability of individual states to determine whether formerly incarcerated felons can vote and, instead, impose a federalized rule enabling all former felons to cast ballots.
- Increase unverified mail-in votingby eliminating individual states’ ID and postmark requirements to request or submit mail-in ballots.
- Lengthen the duration of Election Dayby extending mail-in voting to a federally mandated 60-day window.
Finally, it would give us less of what we need:
- It would destroy the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by turning it into a partisan organization governed by a simple majority.
- More regulations, less free speech.The FEC would appoint a free-speech czar who would play a large role in funding campaigns and determining what speech is acceptable. It also would risk reprising the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to target conservative organizations and donors with mandated public disclosures.
As is the case with almost everything in Washington today, all of this is being done under the guise of eliminating and correcting racism. It is true that one of America’s most shameful chapters was denying Blacks and women their right to vote in the past. But Democrats shamelessly ignore their party’s central role in that history, particularly the Jim Crow era with its racist laws, enacted starting in the late 19th century and enforced until the mid-1960s in some Democratic-controlled southern states. In fairness, too many Republican leaders also failed to send a clear message in the 1960s and ’70s that racism had no standing in the GOP and that race should not be used to divide America — so neither party has clean hands. But, today, Democrats continue to divide America racially, all while ignoring their leading role in past racism.
Whenever one party controls all of the levers of power, particularly in Washington, there is a danger that its appetite for control will expand to match its unrestricted authority. This might seem like a good thing to that party’s followers at the time — but it surely will seem much less so when the opposing party eventually wins control and takes advantage of the unfair rules imposed previously, or responds with its own one-sided regulations. That’s why our electoral system is strongest and at its best when it relies on bipartisan regulations and compromise, and allows states to play their lead role. A bipartisan approach that honors federalism will lead to solutions that are fair to all sides, and guarantee the rights of all legal voters. regardless of race.
If we want to unify this country, it starts with everyone having confidence in how we run elections. That can happen, but only if both parties have a seat at the table and if the primary objective is to increase the opportunity to vote legally while shutting down all avenues of election fraud — not simply skewing the election process to the advantage of a single party. Nationalizing our election laws, especially by the fiat of one party as in H.R.1 and S.1, is not “reform.”
Matt Schlapp is the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).