AMAC Exclusive Aaron Kliegman
Conservatives have rightly criticized Democrat attempts to federalize elections as nothing more than a thinly veiled effort to secure liberal majorities in all future elections. But more than just undermining election integrity, the left’s “voting reforms” would fundamentally corrupt the American constitutional order, harkening back to an era of corruption in the British government that helped spark the movement for independence in this country.
The fight against HR 1, the Democrats’ flagship election reform bill, as well as various other leftist attempts to usurp the power of states to conduct their own elections, is a constitutional matter that strikes at the heart of our system. The Framers of the Constitution wisely feared that Congress would scheme to control presidential elections, which is why, according to South Carolina’s Charles Pinckney, a delegate who signed the Constitution, “great care was used to provide for the election of the president of the United States independently of Congress; to take the business as far as possible out of their hands.” Congress, he added, “had no right to meddle with it at all.”
Hence the Constitution gives state legislatures the power to determine how the President is chosen and how to conduct their own elections. In other words, Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress have no right to determine election procedures in every precinct across America.
Indeed, the Founders had a term for what the Democrats are currently trying to do to our elections: corruption. By “corruption” they meant something much deeper than the dictionary definition of simple dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically to enrich themselves — although that applies here as well.
As scholar Gordon Wood explains in the Creation of the American Republic, when the Founders spoke of corruption in England before the revolution, they meant “a pervasive corruption, not only dissolving the original political principles by which the constitution was balanced, but, more alarming, sapping the very spirit of the people by which the constitution was ultimately sustained.”
In centuries past, to quote Founding Father John Dickinson, no people had ever been “so constantly watchful of their liberty, and so successful in their struggles for it, as the English.” Or, as Thomas Jefferson explained, the English fought to restore “that ancient constitution, of which our ancestors had been defrauded” of freedom and representative institutions. Like today’s Republican Party, the British initially instituted safeguards against corruption.
By the 1770s, however, to quote Gordon Wood, “the metaphors describing England’s course were all despairing … Internal decay was the most common image. A poison had entered the nation and was turning the people and the government into ‘one mass of corruption.’” On the eve of the Revolution, the colonists believed England was “sunk in corruption.”
What changed? The Founders despaired as King George III tore up the British constitution — not by circumventing the law, but through the force of law (as Democrats are doing now with election reforms), unbalancing England’s separation of powers and checks and balances. As the Americans concluded, “The ancient form is preserved, but the spirit of the constitution is evaporated.”
We risk a similar development in America today if the Democrats can corrupt our constitutional system as the British Crown did to the English system.
One of the chief threats to our constitutional order is HR 1, alternatively known in the Senate as S1, the Democrats’ wish list of election reforms. Deceptively titled the “For the People Act,” this bill would undermine the constitutionally granted power of the states to conduct their own elections by compelling state and local election boards to abide by rules set by the federal government. These rules would not only destroy the integrity of elections but also eviscerate the balance of power between states and the national government outlined in the Constitution — leading to the type of corruption that Wood describes.
The bill, which passed the House in March, would end state voter ID requirements and mandate same-day voter registration. This means the federal government would force states to allow anyone who shows up on Election Day, registered or not, to vote as long as they sign a form saying they are who they say they are.
HR 1 would also compel states to legalize ballot harvesting, which allows third parties (read: partisan political operatives) to collect voters’ absentee ballots and bring them to polling stations, require states to allow online voter registration, and prevent states from cleaning up and maintaining the accuracy of their voter rolls, which are often full of ineligible voters.
Not to mention Democrats want to force states to allow felons to vote after they’re released from jail, despite the 14th Amendment giving this power to states, and to hand over the redrawing of congressional districts to unaccountable government commissions — also another power granted to the states under the Constitution.
One could go on, but the point is clear: States, and therefore voters, would have no power to ensure the integrity of their own elections, or even to control how they are conducted. Under HR 1, they would be forced to submit to new federal rules that invite electoral cheating and irregularities.
All this clearly goes against the spirit — and in some cases the letter — of the Constitution, corrupting a system that grants the states most tasks of government to prevent too much power from being centralized in Washington, DC. The left’s election reforms would also give Congress unprecedented power over the electoral process, subjecting our sacred separation of powers and checks and balances to the whims of whichever political party happens to hold a majority.
In short, criticisms of the Democrats’ election reform agenda are hardly partisan and are, as the historical record shows, thoroughly American. In fact, Republican opposition to what the Democrats are now up to has a rich pedigree rooted in the foundational American understanding of the dangers of concentrated power and institutional corruption.