The fluid Republican concept of “states’ rights” has struck again in the House, this time on voting rights, or to be more precise, restricting voting rights in the name of election “reform.” As with abortion policy, Republicans want to limit a state’s right to set its own laws, subject to their approval.
To that end, they’ve modeled legislation on Georgia’s voter suppression laws passed in 2021. The American Confidence in Elections Act was approved by the House Administration committee last week. It would ban federal election funding to states that don’t revise their voting laws to require copies of voter ID with applications for absentee and mail-in voting. All states rely heavily on federal funding to support elections, so this would add a nationwide burden on one of the most efficient, accurate, and safest voting practices.
The Republicans want to ban third-party ballot assistance, which they label “ballot harvesting,” again cutting off funds to states that allow it. That would harm Native American, rural, elderly, and low-income voters, who rely on people to help them vote by turning in their ballots for them. The bill would also prevent states from using any federal funding to partner with outside groups, like the League of Women Voters, to conduct voter registration drives or voter mobilization. That includes “registering voters or providing any person with voter registration materials, absentee or vote-by-mail ballot applications, voting instructions, or candidate-related information, on the property or website of the agency.”
The bill includes a complete takeover of Washington, D.C.’s elections, barring many ballot drop box locations, ending same-day voter registration, and restricting the district’s conducting of local elections—the only elections in which residents really have a say since their federal representative doesn’t get a vote in Congress and they don’t have any senators.
It would also remove fundraising limits on political party organizations, allowing even more dark money to flow into campaigns. It would eliminate some of the few disclosures that outside organizations and issue groups that aren’t registered as PACs have to make when they run political ads.
Republicans introduced the first version of this bill last year, their response to Democrats’ Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Saying they wrote this bill in response is not precisely accurate; they looked at the provisions in these bills and then wrote the opposite, taking malign inspiration from Democrats’ efforts to expand voting. Republican leadership is bringing it back now that they have a small majority, and it is likely to pass in the House. It won’t, however, pass in the Senate, and won’t become law. Not as long as Democrats keep either the Senate or White House.
The Democrats are answering by reintroducing the Freedom to Vote Act, which would make it easier to vote, provide more support for election workers, include some campaign finance reform, and ban partisan gerrymandering. This is the bill Sens. Joe Manchin and Amy Klobuchar wrote after Manchin refused to support the House-passed the For the People Act, consisting of sweeping voting rights and elections reforms. Manchin was the sole Democrat refusing to sign on, instead insisting that he would find “10 good” Republicans to work with him on his version.
He didn’t find them, but it’s just as well because the results made up a very good bill. There’s no word on whether he’s taking time out from his No Label’s stunt work to be there for the reintroduction. Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries are headlining the reintroduction. The Democrats are also going to follow up by reintroducing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act later this year.
There couldn’t be a more stark contrast between the parties ahead of 2024. The Republicans aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they intend to prevent as many people who would vote for Democrats from casting their ballots as they can. Democrats know that there’s no danger to them in making voting as easy, safe, and efficient as possible. In the marketplace of ideas, Republicans have to cheat to win.
Georgia's 2021 elections show why voting rights legislation is an emergency
The Supreme Court and the filibuster both have to change if our democracy is going to be saved
Rep. Terri Sewell announces John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act at the Edmund Pettus Bridge