House Democrats passed a sweeping “voting rights” bill called H.R. 1, or “For the People Act,” that seeks to implement automatic voter registration among other election reforms, as well as adding reforms to campaign finance.
Conservatives have warned that the bill would be disastrous for election integrity and effectively chill speech by expanding the definition of “political speech.”
Vox outlined Wednesday some of the election reforms found in the massive 800-page bill:
- Creates new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out rather than opt in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Requires chief state election officials to automatically register eligible unregistered citizens.
- Requires each state to put online options for voter registration, correction, cancellation, or designating party affiliation.
- Requires at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections; early voting sites would be open for at least 10 hours per day. The bill also prohibits states from restricting a person’s ability to vote by mail, and requires states to prepay postage on return envelopes for mail-in voting.
- Establish independent redistricting commissions in states as a way to draw new congressional districts and end partisan gerrymandering in federal elections.
- Prohibits voter roll purging and bans the use of non-forwardable mail being used as a way to remove voters from rolls.
- Restores voting rights to people convicted of felonies who have completed their sentences; however, the bill doesn’t restore rights to felons currently serving sentences in a correctional facility.
In the campaign finance portion of the bill, the federal government “would provide a voluntary 6-1 match for candidates for president and Congress, which means for every dollar a candidate raises from small donations, the federal government would match it six times over.” The program would be paid for by “adding a 2.75 percent fee on criminal and civil fines, fees, penalties, or settlements with banks and corporations that commit corporate malfeasance,” according to Vox.
Citizens United would be ended via amendment, and the “Disclose Act” would mandate super PACs and so-called “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nonprofit that defends religious liberty, warned that the bill, filled with “convoluted text,” “tramples on the free speech and free association rights of American citizens.”
“Throughout its nearly 800 pages of complex and convoluted text, H.R. 1 imposes unworkable and invasive regulations on the ability of individual Americans and groups of citizens to discuss vital policy issues with elected officials or the public and to exercise constitutionally protected freedoms,” ADF asserted. “The bill intrudes upon the private financial decisions made by everyday citizens, subjecting them to harassment and intimidation simply for giving to causes they care about.”
Despite Democrats dubbing the bill the “For the People Act,” ADF warns the legislation “is anything but that.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’ We hope the Senate will see through this façade and reject this misleading and deeply flawed bill,” the organization added.
Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) focused in on the voting regulations, warning, “If Speaker Pelosi has her way, the problems we saw in a few states during the 2020 election will become the norm across America. Taxpayer funded campaigns, a ban on voter ID laws, and nationwide ballot harvesting – these are radical ideas specifically designed to reelect Democrats.”
GOP-aligned nonprofit American Action Network claimed the “corrupt campaign finance legislation” “would allow Members of Congress to shovel $7.2 million in public funding into their campaign accounts.”
“Members of Congress should be embarrassed for passing legislation this corrupt under the guise of good governance,” said Dan Conston, President of American Action Network. “Public funding should be used to help Americans recover from the devastation of COVID-19, not to fund bailouts for liberal politicians’ desperate re-election efforts.”
Conservative and libertarian activist group FreedomWorks said in a statement: “The bipartisan vote against H.R. 1 reflects what we know to be true — This bill is NOT ‘For the People.’ The American people do not want it, and evidently, the full House Democratic conference doesn’t even want it either. Certainly, it’s beyond clear that the left’s continual calls for ‘unity’ are a sham.”
“This bill seeks to entirely upend the electoral system as it currently exists by stripping states of their constitutional authority to dictate their own election laws and giving that power to the federal government,” FreedomWorks blasted. “Furthermore, with its overhaul of campaign finance laws, H.R. 1 poses a chilling threat to political activists and their ability to petition the government. At its core, H.R. 1 is nothing more than a thinly veiled power grab that is highly dangerous, blatantly unconstitutional, and overt in its goal of giving Democrats disproportionate influence over elections.”
“We commend those Members of Congress who voted against this bill and urge Republicans and Democrats alike in the Senate to vote against it when the time comes. They also must keep their eyes peeled for inevitable efforts to pass this bill piecemeal. After the tumultuous 2020 election, the last thing Americans need are policies that would cripple election integrity and further weaken Americans’ faith in our elections. The ramifications of writing these policies into law are far too great to be ignored, let alone justify a ‘yes’ vote.”
H.R. 1 passed the House two years ago and is expected to have a tough time in the Senate despite the Democrats’ Senate majority because of the filibuster.
“If Mitch McConnell is not willing to provide 10 Republicans to support this landmark reform, I think Democrats are going to step back and reevaluate the situation,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the author of H.R. 1. “There’s all manner of ways you could redesign the filibuster so [the bill] would have a path forward.”
Vox noted: “One path that’s being discussed is partially amending Senate filibuster rules to allow democracy reform legislation like HR 1 to advance on a simple majority vote and therefore potentially be able to pass on a party-line vote. That would be different from fully blowing up the filibuster, but it still could get pushback from Senate institutionalists even in the Democratic Party like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a staunch advocate of keeping the filibuster in place.”