The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass H.R 1, the For the People Act, by a party-line 234 to 193 vote. The bill represents a federal takeover of elections that pose a number of constitutional concerns. Iowa’s three Democratic members in the House – Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer, and Dave Loebsack – were co-sponsors of and voted for the bill.
“I’m proud to have cosponsored this important legislation. I came to Congress to give Iowans a seat at the table. And what I’ve heard from folks across my district—Democrats, Republicans, Independents—is that they’re sick and tired of politics as usual. We need to stop political corruption and clean up our government so that it works for the people. That means holding our leaders accountable with strong ethics reforms, keeping our elections secure and free, and taking dark money out of politics because our American values are not for sale,” Finkenauer said in a released statement.
“I came to Washington to fight on behalf of hardworking Iowans and I strongly believe that those elected should be responsible actors and put the needs of hardworking Iowans ahead of the special interests that are running Washington,” said Loebsack. “I am pleased that the first major piece of legislation that is being advanced this Congress is a reform package that returns our government to the people. This legislation brings needed reforms to our campaign finance system, begins to restore our democracy and holds members of Congress accountable to the people who elected them. I have long worked to change the culture of Washington and this bill marks a historic turning point in our nation towards putting government back in the hands of the people.”
Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) voted against the bill. “Speaker Pelosi’s House Democrats have gotten a taste of power, and to ensure they never lose it they have made their top priority in Congress the introduction of a sweeping bill that rigs future elections in their favor,” said King. “H.R. 1 not only forces taxpayers to fund political campaigns,
The Heritage Foundation noted several problems with the bill in a recent report. There are three primary areas of concern:
The For the People Act Puts Election Security at Risk
There are election security concerns by mandating same-day registration, automatic voter registration, and no-fault absentee ballots. They weaken different state’s voter ID laws by allowing individuals to vote without an ID. H.R. 1 also mandates that states count ballots cast by voters outside of their districts.
The For the People Act of 2019 also prevents state officials from checking the eligibility and qualifications of voters and remove ineligible voters. H.R. 1 restricts access to the U.S. Postal Service’s national change-of-address system to verify the address of registered voters. The bill also restricts state programs that compare voter registration lists to detect individuals registered in multiple states. It also prevents the removal of registrants due to a failure to vote no matter how long ago they cast their last ballot.
The bill also mandates online voter registration but does not tie it to an existing state’s record or driver’s license. This change would make our elections susceptible to hackers.
The For the People Act Ignores State Sovereignty
The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “powers not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The Constitution guarantees the right to vote, but it is up to the states to run the elections. Elections have always been the purview of the states.
By mandating early voting, same-day registrations, automatic voter registration, and no-fault absentee ballots, as well as, rendering voter ID laws ineffective, the House Democrats ignore state sovereignty over elections.
They are also attempting to override a Constitutional Amendment by statute. Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution gives states the constitutional authority to decide when felons who committed crimes against their fellow citizens may vote again. H.R. 1 requires states to restore felon voting rights once they leave prison. Whether you agree or disagree with restoring felon voting rights does not matter, the federal government can’t tell states to do that unless we amend the Constitution to repeal that language.
H.R. 1 also transfers the right to draw congressional districts from state legislatures to “independent” commissions whose members are unaccountable to voters. To make matters worse, H.R. 1 also requires the inclusion of the immigrant population, both legal and illegal, in all redistricting.
The For the People Act Tramples the First Amendment
In their report, the Heritage Foundation states that even though federal law already prohibits voter intimidation and interference, H.R. 1 adds “an additional provision to prevent interference with registering or voting that is so vague that it could easily interfere with free speech and other lawful activity.”
The bill also expands the regulation and censorship of campaigns and political activity that includes online and policy-related speech.
“H.R. 1 imposes onerous legal and administrative compliance burdens and costs on candidates, citizens, civic groups, unions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations,” the report states.
Photo credit: Tom Arthur (CC-By-SA 2.0)