As AMAC has reported in recent weeks, Republicans and Democrats alike have spent the early months of the new Congress focused on H.R. 1, which the GOP has dubbed the “Corrupt Politicians Act.” The House of Representatives passed the bill on March 3 without a single Republican vote, and it is now being considered by the Senate.
With so much discussion of this controversial legislation on both sides of the aisle, it’s important to take a moment to examine the provisions and understand what all the fuss is about.
The bill proposes a sweeping power grab of control over American elections. Critics say that it would undermine election integrity for generations to come.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) called H.R. 1 an attempt to “forcibly rewrite all state election laws from here in Washington” and institute “unpopular and absurd practices like ballot harvesting.” Senator Ted Cruz (R – TX) has said the legislation would “corrupt the election process permanently… keeping Democrats in power for 100 years.”
Much of the scrutiny surrounding H.R. 1 revolves around the voting law provisions in the bill, including mandates that every state offer universal mail-in balloting, provide for same-day voter registration, and accept ballots up to 10 days after Election Day.
H.R. 1 also calls for the implementation of so-called “ballot harvesting” practices in every state, which would allow third-party political operatives to go door-to-door collecting ballots from individual homes, and deposit them at polling places by the thousands without the oversight from election officials.
Of particular concern to Republican lawmakers is H.R. 1’s ban on voter ID requirements–in other words, it would be illegal for any state to require a photo ID at polling locations. Instead, voters would only have to sign a statement affirming that they are who they say they are, with no means of verification whatsoever.
Republicans have also pushed back on a radical transformation of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) outlined in H.R. 1. Currently, the FEC consists of 6 commissioners, 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats. This means that changes to campaign finance rules must be agreed upon by a bipartisan group, requiring at least one Republican or one Democrat to agree with the other side. However, if H.R. 1 becomes law, the number of commissioners will be reduced to 5, with the deciding member appointed by the President. Functionally, this would mean the FEC could act as a partisan prosecutor of Republican candidates and campaign groups.
H.R. 1 also poses a serious threat to freedom of speech, as it would require many nonprofit groups and political action committees to disclose the identity of their donors. Republicans say that Democrats and left-wing media outlets would weaponize this information to harass or intimidate conservatives who donate to Republican groups or candidates.
Many Republicans and even some Democrats have also spoken out against the matching program outlined in H.R. 1 that would institute public funding for elections. Under the program, small-dollar donations up to $200 would be matched 6 to 1 with public funds. For example, a Senate candidate who receives a $200 donation would also receive $1,200 from the government. This would greatly magnify the advantage already enjoyed by incumbent officeholders–since they generally have a far easier time raising money.
Partisan divisions over the bill were on full display on March 24th during a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee, which featured testimony from several election law experts.
Republican witnesses argued that H.R. 1 would place undue regulatory burdens on states and decrease voter confidence in the legitimacy of elections. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, one of at least 20 state Attorneys General who have denounced the legislation, said that “the proposed changes [in H.R. 1] will open our elections up to increased fraud and irregularities.”
H.R. 1 will now move to a markup in the Senate Rules Committee, where committee chair Amy Klobuchar (D. – MN) has stated her intention to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in the coming weeks.
As with most controversial legislation in an evenly divided Senate, the future of H.R. 1 may rest in the hands of centrist Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has so far not publicly expressed support for ending the filibuster. Mr. Manchin is the only Senate Democrat who has not signed on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 1, with the Wall Street Journal recently reporting that the Senator has received pressure from his home state to oppose the legislation. However, with President Biden endorsing drastic changes to the filibuster, it is unclear whether Manchin will be able to resist pressure from his own party indefinitely.