The 2020 election was a pivotal moment for the United States and election security. The election exposed several concerning issues in both congressional races and the presidential election. My race for New York’s 22nd Congressional District was not certified for almost 100 days after New Yorkers cast their votes in November.
It’s clear that our nation needs commonsense reforms to ensure fair, accurate and transparent elections and restore confidence.
In March, House Democrats passed H.R. 1, the so-called For the People Act. This partisan bill is an unconstitutional power grab that would codify some of these worst policies from the 2020 election while also opening the floodgates for almost anyone, including ineligible votes, to be counted.
H.R. 1 would ban commonsense voter ID laws from being enacted, permit convicted non-citizens and felons to vote, give away taxpayer dollars to fund campaigns, and dramatically expand automatic voter registration – a giveaway to political operatives seeking to boost their ballot harvesting operations.
This bill would be a disaster for election integrity. H.R. 1 isn’t for the people, it’s for the politicians.
Fortunately, H.R. 1 has hit a wall in the Senate. Its passage depended on every Democrat supporting it, in addition to at least 10 Republicans. But just last week, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, announced he would oppose the bill, dealing it a final blow.
With H.R. 1’s prospects fading, Democrats, including Manchin, are shifting their attention to H.R.4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. But don’t be fooled, H.R. 4 is just as bad as the For the People Act.
This substitute legislation is yet another highly partisan bill. It masquerades as a cure to end racial discrimination, but instead, centralizes election control in the federal government and, in effect, enacts the worst aspects of H.R. 1.
The Democrats are attempting to pull a bait and switch on the American people. H.R. 4, like H.R. 1, would federalize our election system, give more power to unelected career bureaucrats in Washington, and unconstitutionally erode the ability of states to oversee and administer elections.
The Democrats’ attempt to pass H.R. 4 and overturn Shelby v. Holder is clearly unconstitutional and merely a justification for Democrats to claw back power from states.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would require states to seek permission from the federal government before making even minor changes to election rules. The smallest change, such as simply moving a polling place across the street, would require permission from career bureaucrats at the Department of Justice (DOJ). President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and unelected officials at the DOJ would have the power to overrule good-faith decisions made by state and local governments without any justification.
This would effect changes to voter ID laws, signature matching, absentee voting, maintenance of voter rolls, and the location of polling places.
Furthermore, H.R. 4 would create an even more onerous formula for determining discrimination in voting rights than the one employed by the original Voting Rights Act. The bill would attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder, which struck down the formula for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Section 5 was adopted in 1965, the year the Voting Rights Act became law. It required states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to receive pre-approval from the DOJ before making any changes to their election laws.
However, since the 1960s, states have made great progress eradicating inequities in election laws. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Section 5 was no longer necessary because of the reforms and elimination of race-based election laws.
Yet Democrats persist in claiming that our current system suppresses minority voters, and that new legislation is needed to provide the federal government veto power, as was outlined in the Voting Rights Act. But this is just false.
In April 2021, the Census Bureau concluded that the 2020 election attracted “the highest voter turnout of the 21st century.” The census also found that minority groups registered and turned out to vote in the highest numbers ever in our history.
The Democrats’ attempt to pass H.R. 4 and overturn Shelby v. Holder is clearly unconstitutional and merely a justification for Democrats to claw back power from states. This legislation violates the principles of federalism and exceeds the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution.
The pandemic last year magnified the irregularities experienced in elections across the nation. Commonsense reforms are needed to restore voter integrity and to ensure that every legal vote counts. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act would only aggravate the chaos of the 2020 elections and undermine the integrity of our election system.
That is why I will continue to work tirelessly as co-chair of the Congressional Election Integrity Caucus to foster meaningful discussions on election reforms and drive principled policy solutions that safeguard our sacred right to vote.