by Justin Riemer
Much ink has been spilled warning of the ramifications should Democrats pass their election “reform” package, HR1 — and for good reason, given how the bill would upend our nation’s electoral system. Democrats claim HR1 is aimed at maximizing voter participation and ending corruption in our election systems, but the truth is that the legislation would do neither. Instead, it will only serve to open up our states’ elections to fraud and public mistrust at a time when we need to bolster voter confidence. Let’s look at just a few of the many areas where HR1 would nationalize elections and cancel out state integrity and confidence-building measures.
First, the measure voids dozens of longstanding state voting procedures, many of which are relatively non-controversial and serve to give voters confidence in the accuracy and integrity of our elections process. HR1 would invalidate photo ID requirements — such as those in Indiana — that the Supreme Court have found constitutional and important confidence builders. These laws are popular with large majorities of Americans, and despite critics’ fearmongering they have not negatively impacted voter participation.
HR1 would also force states to allow ballot harvesting, a practice where third parties, usually political operatives, collect and return marked mail ballots. Laws restricting harvesting, which are also popular, deter fraud because they preserve a marked-ballot chain of custody and prevent coercion and undue influence on the elderly and other voters. Yet Democrats want to override these laws and normalize harvesting.
Just last week we saw additional criminal charges against candidates in an all-mail city council election in Paterson, N.J., for vote fraud related to harvesting and tampering with ballots. The fraud was so pervasive that a local judge voided the election and ordered a new one. There was also the infamous congressional race in North Carolina in 2018, when the election had to be thrown out because of fraud initiated through ballot harvesting. The good news is that ballot harvesting bans help prevent and detect these exact types of crimes. But if Congress nationalizes ballot harvesting through HR1, these stories may go from being cautionary tales to the new norm.
To date, the Republican National Committee has been successful in beating the Democrats in court challenges to harvesting bans and has been vocal about the need for bans. And they are not inherently partisan since many states, both blue and red, either prohibit harvesting or severely restrict it. Now, after losing in the courts, Democrats seek to impose the practice from Washington, D.C., with the arrogant belief that they know better than state legislatures about the election integrity measures their states require.
HR1 will also further restrict states from cleaning up their voter rolls. Under current federal law, a state must stop programs that remove ineligible voters from the rolls within 90 days before a federal election. This blackout period already significantly limits a state’s ability to remove voters who may have moved away, died, or are otherwise ineligible to vote because it applies to periods before both primaries and general elections. The Democrats propose expanding that blackout period for many programs to six months before any federal election. Not only will this prevent states from cleaning up their rolls in a federal election year, it will expand that period for many states into the off years.
Voter roll maintenance not only enhances election integrity by ensuring only eligible voters can cast ballots, it also promotes access by ensuring voters are properly registered when they do go to vote, thus preventing lines and provisional ballots that may not count. No wonder both parties have historically agreed on the importance of voter registration list upkeep. HR1’s restrictions make Democrats’ intentions clear: They have abandoned any pretense that they still care about this issue that was once welcomed as reasonable and routine.
Cynics say that Republicans oppose this legislation because we want to restrict people from voting. This could not be further from the truth. The reality is that we want all eligible voters to be able to vote and vote easily — but voters must also have confidence that our elections systems have safeguards to prevent fraud and ensure accuracy. Previous federal election legislation such as the NVRA and HAVA made some attempt to balance the interests of voter integrity and access. But HR1 eliminates any pretense altogether by invaliding states’ reasonable ID requirements, mandating ballot harvesting, and enacting obstacles to critical voter roll maintenance.
The American people do not want a Washington takeover of their elections at the hands of congressional Democrats. They want election transparency and confidence in their future elections restored. These motives are exactly what the RNC will continue to fight for, both in the lead-up to the critical midterms and ahead of all elections to come.
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Justin Riemer is the chief counsel of the Republican National Committee.