On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives passed an 800-page federal election reform package dubbed the For The People Act of 2021.
Sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the bill seeks to impose federal control over elections, subverting individual states’ laws on issues such as voter identification, mail-in voting, and absentee ballots.
The constitutional justification of such sweeping reforms is dubious. Article I of the United States Constitution states that “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.” As the Heritage Foundation details, the nation’s founding document grants state legislatures primary jurisdiction over elections and only presents the United States Congress with secondary control.
In an attempt to justify tightening the federal government’s grip over American elections, the bill invokes the notion of “structural racism” several times. For example, the introduction states that “voting restrictions, redistricting, and other electoral practices and processes continue to disproportionately impact communities of color in the United States and do so as a result of both intentional racial discrimination, structural racism, and the ongoing structural socioeconomic effects of historical racial discrimination.”
The For The People Act would undermine election integrity and drastically shift power over elections to the federal government — largely to the benefit of the Democratic Party.
Eliminating Voter ID Provisions
The For The People Act seeks to eliminate many voter identification provisions.
The bill alleges that “states and localities have eroded access to the right to vote through restrictions on the right to vote including excessively onerous voter identification requirements.” It therefore dictates that a state “may not require an individual to provide any form of identification as a condition of obtaining an absentee ballot.”
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) explained in a Fox News op-ed that his home state has “been able to offer solicited absentee voting with proper safeguards such as signature verification, requiring voter I.D., and maintaining up-to-date voter rolls to ensure that the only ballots are from eligible citizens.” He called House Democrats’ attempt to roll back such safeguards “a blatant assault on the Constitution.”
Following the reforms enacted by Florida, many states — including Georgia, which dealt with a vote recount before falling into President Biden’s column by a razor-thin margin — are pushing for stricter absentee ballot security in the first weeks of their new legislative sessions.
Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson noted that the bill’s loosening of election security measures could lead to massive ballot harvesting schemes.
“Under H.R. 1, [people] could freely go house to house and apartment to apartment collecting unknown thousands of ballots and then dump them all in a ballot dropbox,” commented Carlson on January 25. “No one would have any idea if those ballots had been tampered with at any point along the way or would there be any way to prove it if they had been tampered with.”
Despite the voter identification rollbacks in the Democrats’ legislation, polls reveal that an overwhelming majority of Americans desire election security measures. Gallup found in 2016 that 80% of Americans support requiring all voters to provide photo identification in order to cast a ballot.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many state governments allowed for the usage of mail-in voting to avoid the spread of the virus. The Democrats’ bill, however, would make such provisions permanent.
As the legislation claims, “Congress finds that it has the authority pursuant to section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the right to vote,” specifically by addressing “limited and unequal access to voting by mail.”
Again leveraging accusations of racism, the bill states that “minority communities wait longer in lines to vote, are more likely to have their mail ballots rejected, [and] continue to face intimidation at the polls.”
The legislation therefore amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 by mandating that “if an individual in a State is eligible to cast a vote in an election for Federal office, the State may not impose any additional conditions or requirements on the eligibility of the individual to cast the vote in such election by absentee ballot by mail.”
A state “may not refuse to accept or process” a mail-in ballot as long as it is postmarked before election day — a measure that could lead to additional elongated periods of vote counting similar to the one that followed the 2020 election.
Providing Federal Control Over Redistricting
In addition to subverting states’ abilities to determine their own election laws, the For The People Act seeks to assert control over determining Congressional districts.
“Congress finds that the right of suffrage has been so diluted and debased by means of gerrymandering of districts,” reads the legislation. “Congress finds that it has authority pursuant to section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to remedy this debasement.”
The bill mandates that states “comply with the United States Constitution” and “provide racial, ethnic, and language minorities with an equal opportunity to participate in the political process” in their redistricting.
Likewise, the legislation forces states to appoint “independent redistricting commissions” that ensure “diversity” with respect to “racial, ethnic, and language minorities.”
Paving Ground For D.C. Statehood
Democratic politicians — including President Biden — broadly support granting statehood to the nation’s capital city, as it would all but certainly grant two more Senate seats to the Democratic caucus. The For The People Act seeks to lay groundwork for such an endeavor.
As Rep. Donalds warns in his editorial, the bill “buries the politically polarizing maneuver to make Washington, D.C., a state — which speaks to this bill’s misguided and elitist motivations.”
Indeed, Rep. Sarbanes’ press release mentions that the legislation “commits Congress to deliver full congressional voting rights and self-government for the residents of the District of Columbia, which only statehood can provide.”
The For The People Act claims that “there are no constitutional, historical, fiscal, or economic reasons why the Americans who live in the District of Columbia should not be granted statehood.” It would establish a twelve-member “Congressional Task Force on Voting Rights” to investigate “political disenfranchisement of United States citizens in territories of the United States.”
The chair of the task force would be chosen by the Speaker of the House — a position currently occupied by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
In contrast to the Democrats’ assertions, founding father James Madison — who authored the Constitution — wrote in The Federalist Number 43 that “the indispensable necessity of compleat authority at the seat of Government carries its own evidence with it.”
He argued that without an independent capital city, “not only the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings be interrupted, with impunity; but a dependence of the members of the general Government, on the State comprehending the seat of the Government for protection in the exercise of their duty, might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the Government, and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.”
In other words, the existence of a “federal city” is meant to stop any one state from inhibiting the function of the national government.
Contemporary Americans largely agree with the founding fathers’ sentiment. A 2019 poll shows that 64% of Americans oppose granting statehood to Washington, D.C.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.