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‘Hotwire Our Democracy Itself’: McConnell Attacks Dems ‘For The People’ Voting Bill
WASHINGTON, D C , UNITED STATES - 2019/06/27: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaking at a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Tuesday, in a speech before the Senate Rules Committee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the so-called “For the People Act,” snapping that the Democrats’ actions were an attempt to “hotwire our democracy itself without a single vote from the other side.”

McConnell began, “We’ll hear a lot of flowery language today, including my friend and colleague the Majority Leader, but we all learned early in life if you can write the rules, you can win the game.”

“If you can write the rules, you can win the game,” he repeated. “For multiple years now, not just this year, but for multiple years now, Democrats have called this sweeping bill their top priority. You just heard the Majority Leader make a totally partisan speech about it. There’s nothing bipartisan about this: this was cooked up at the Democratic National Committee and designed to advantage one side to the disadvantage of the other. The substance of the legislation actually hasn’t changed over the years, but the supposed rationales have changed constantly.”

McConnell then pointed out that the attempt to institute sweeping voting changes empowering Democrats began after former President Trump’s election in 2016.

“In 2016, American voters made a presidential decision the Democrats didn’t like,” he said. “This legislation was cooked up at that particular point and presented as a massive overhaul, an emergency repair job for a broken democracy. That’s what it was back then. Last autumn voters made a decision Democrats liked a lot better. Suddenly their side stopped calling our democracy broken. Now our democracy was beyond reproach.”

“But curiously enough, the Democrats want the exact same sweeping bill just as desperately,” McConnell continued. “The truth is quite simple: our democracy is not in crisis and we aren’t going to let one party take over democracy over the false pretense of saving it. Voter turnout in November blew 2016 and 2018 out of the water. The 2020 election saw the highest turnout in decades. The hysterical attacks the political Left has thrown at the new election law in Georgia, for example, have been thoroughly debunked by fact-checkers. African-American turnout last fall was twice as high in Mississippi as it was in Massachusetts.”

“None of the shifting, made-up rationales for this sweeping set of changes hold any water at all,” McConnell charged. “So why are our friends on the other side so desperate to push it through? Why are Democrats so hell bent on doing whatever it takes to rewire our democracy on a thoroughly partisan basis?”

McConnell then got specific about the “partisan” nature of the bill and the “ludicrous practices” it enshrined:

Let’s take a look at the bill. This legislation would let Washington Democrats dictate the terms of their own reelection races by rewriting all 50 states’ election laws. Popular safeguards, like voter ID, would be neutered. Ludicrous practices, like ballot harvesting, would be mandatory coast-to-coast. Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate, but they want to make themselves the board of elections for every county and state in America?

But voting regulations are just the start; this legislation would deliberately turn the Federal Elections Commission into a partisan Democratic panel. They want their own side enforcing election law on their own unilaterally. They would authorize federal bureaucrats to poke around in a much broader slice of private citizens’ free speech. They would attack Americans’ privacy right so such an extreme degree that even the liberal ACLU is sounding alarm bells about this bill. It would have the federal government take public money and send it directly to political campaigns so Americans can subsidize robocalls, junk mail, and TV ads for candidates they disagree with.

“So the market has changed constantly; this has gone from an election security bill to an ethics bill to a racial justice bill,” McConnell noted. “Who knows what it will be labeled tomorrow? But what doesn’t change is the substance because the intention doesn’t change. The Democratic Party, on its own, wants to rewrite the ground rules of American politics for their benefit.”

“We all know that’s what this is about,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine anything that would erode public confidence in our democracy more drastically. This bill has purely partisan support in the House; it had bipartisan opposition. It’s one thing to make fiscal policy that way, to use reconciliation to tax and to spend; it’s very different to try to hotwire our democracy itself without a single vote from the other side.”

McConnell pointed out that decades before, Democrats and Republicans worked together on voting issues.

“These are issues we’ve tackled together in the past; I was first chair and ranking member with Chris Dodd in 2001 and 2002. We passed a Help America Vote Act with 90 votes. The slogan then was ‘Make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.’ On a bipartisan basis we resisted the pleas of some to federalize every aspect of how we handle elections. We set up the Federal Election Administration Act; we provided money to help states upgrade their equipment; but we deliberately did not seek to dictate how they handle elections.”

He concluded, “That’s how you pass a bill related to how the two parties compete: together, not on a totally partisan basis. That’s how you strengthen our democracy. If this bill were to pass nobody would have any confidence in it, none whatsoever. Let’s call it what it is; put aside the flowery language. This is a partisan effort to take over how you conduct elections in our country.”

In early March, former Vice President Mike Pence published an op-ed for the Heritage Foundation in which he likewise strongly criticized the bill:

The bill would force states to adopt universal mail-in ballots, early voting, same-day voter registration, online voter registration, and automatic voter registration for any individual listed in state and federal government databases, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and welfare offices, ensuring duplicate registrations and that millions of illegal immigrants are quickly registered to vote.

States would be required to count every mail-in vote that arrives up to 10 days after Election Day. States must also allow ballot harvesting—where paid political operatives collect absentee ballots from places such as nursing homes—exposing our most vulnerable voters to coercion and increasing the risk that their ballots will be tampered with.

At the same time, state and local election officials would be stripped of their ability to maintain the accuracy of voter rolls, barred from verifying voter eligibility, and voter ID would be banned from coast to coast.

Congressional districts would be redrawn by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. Illegal immigrants and law-abiding American citizens would receive equal representation in Congress. Felons would be able to vote the moment they set foot out of prison.

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