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Q: What’s wrong with For the People Act?

 

A: The House of Representatives passed an 800-page bill along a party-line vote under pretext of preventing election irregularities after we were told this was the most secure and fair election in history. Unfortunately, H.R. 1, For the People Act, is a purely partisan exercise. What’s worse, it would make elections less secure and further undermine faith in our electoral process. That’s bad for America. The cornerstone of America’s democratic republic is upholding the sanctity of the ballot box. As we approach 245 years of self-rule and the birth of our nation, let’s remember what makes Independence Day worth celebrating. The legacy of our individual liberty and economic freedom rests on the idea that government is derived “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The public trust is safeguarded by the ballot box. On July 4, 1776, the nation’s founders listed 27 grievances against the British monarchy, specifically, against King George III for among other complaints, cutting off trade, imposing taxes, curbing representation and preventing fair trials. Exercising the right to vote is one of the most fundamental civic freedoms in our free society. Throughout history, suffrage and civil rights movements have enfranchised voters through constitutional amendments and voting laws to ensure the ballot box reflects the different views of all Americans. However, what the Democratic Majority in the House of Representatives is trying to do with passage of H.R. 1 – For the People Act – boils down to politicizing voting systems, which should be nonpartisan.

 

After two successive presidential elections where the losing side questioned the legitimacy of the election, restoring faith in our electoral process is essential to restoring trust in representative government. It’s more important than ever to restore faith in our elections. Don’t forget, the 2020 elections had historic turnout with more than 158 million ballots cast. That shows our participatory democracy and civic engagement are thriving. However, if enacted, H.R. 1 would drastically change the American electoral system. Instead of campaigns funded by voluntary donations from individuals, most funding for those nasty political ads would come from the government using the American people’s money. The U.S. Constitution gives states primary authority to regulate and run elections, including management of voter registration, absentee, advance and in-person voting. The so-called For the People Act prescribes political remedies for partisan outcomes. It would mandate the Federal Election Commission be controlled by a partisan majority instead of the current requirement for a 50-50 split; dictate scores of duplicative unfunded mandates to state and local governments; and omit critical reforms most Americans agree are needed, such as common sense voter identification requirements standard in most democracies. In a nutshell, the proposed changes would make elections less secure, ban states from cleaning up outdated voter registration files that include ineligible voters who have moved out of state, and set unreasonable deadlines to implement unfunded mandates. The ballot box holds office holders accountable to the voters. The so-called For the People Act turns this covenant on its head and would make the ballot box beholden to office holders. That’s why some are saying this should be called For the Politician’s Act.

 

Q: Why is misinformation about state voting reforms dangerous to representative government?

 

A: It’s duplicitous for political leaders, including President Biden, to keep repeating falsehoods about voting reform laws. It’s remarkably incongruent with the president’s call for healing and unity in his Inaugural Address. Racially-charged hyperbole and mistruths breed more divisions in an already polarized society. Now we have major corporations and Major League Baseball taking the partisan bait and kowtowing to a reckless cancel culture. Spreading false information about voting reform laws enacted by state legislatures erodes credibility in one of the most sacred civic trusts of citizenship: the ballot box. Facts matter. For example, the recently enacted Georgia voting reform laws expand early voting, including requiring two Saturdays with optional Sundays, and it does not prohibit voters from being able to get a drink of water while waiting in line as partisans have falsely claimed. In fact, it requires more voting infrastructure in places that had long lines in the past. Evidence-free allegations of widespread voter suppression are as damaging as ones about widespread fraud. American elections are free and fair. False claims to the contrary denigrate American democracy and allow for adversaries like Russia and China to make a false equivalence with their own repressive regimes.

 

Over the Easter break, I held two dozen Q&A’s where I was able to talk with Iowans in their places of work, schools, hospitals and local communities. Holding county meetings holds me accountable to my constituents and keeps me informed on what’s on their minds so I can bring their ideas to the policy tables. Many people shared concerns that H.R. 1 would federalize our electoral process and allow the federal government to dictate how Iowa and other states run their elections.

 

The American people elect representatives to advocate and make policy for the public good on their behalf. That’s how our system of representative government works. Americans want accountable elections they can count on to ensure their vote counts. After every election, routine checks find voters who voted twice or other improper votes, but the secret ballot makes it impossible to know how those vote were cast and difficult to prove fraud so such cases are rarely prosecuted. Widespread fraud like in the heyday of machine politics is not common, but as we saw in Iowa’s second congressional district, even a few votes can make the difference. It makes no sense to remove even the most basic safeguards to prevent fraudulent votes being cast. Voters want zero fraud, they don’t want their votes zeroed out by fraud. Distortions and falsehoods about voting reform laws are further alienating voters and undermining the public trust. For the sake of our republic, it needs to stop.

Author: Charles Grassley

Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.