There is a reason Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called her 791-page bill, stuffed as it is with her favorite election-related changes, House of Representatives Bill Number 1 or HR 1. It’s that important to her. She has convinced or pressured every single House Democrat to co-sponsor it as it comes up for a vote this week.
That means it will likely pass narrowly given that Democrats have a 219 to 211 majority. It faces more debate and a tougher road in the Senate, which is split 50 to 50 between the parties with Vice President Kamala Harris as tiebreaker. It can be stopped. It must be stopped. It is the worst piece of legislation I have even seen in my 40 years reporting from Washington.
HR 1 would cement all of the worst changes in election law made in blue states in 2020 and nationalize them. Federal control of elections would be the norm. States would be relegated to colonial outposts that carry out Washington DC’s mandates. ‘Democracies die when one party seizes control of the elections process, eliminates the safeguards that have protected the integrity of the ballot, places restrictions on free speech, and seizes the earnings of individual citizens to promote candidates they may abhor,’ says Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican. ‘Democracies die by suicide, and we are now face to face with such an instrument.’
Does HR 1 justify such apocalyptic rhetoric? Sadly, yes. Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, says that while the Constitution does allow Congress to override the power of states to decide ‘the time, manner and place’ of federal elections nothing on the massive scale of HR 1 has ever been attempted.
He consulted other former members and assembled a short summary of the worst provisions of HR 1:
• H.R. 1 would make fraud easier by forcing states to implement early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online voter registration and no-fault absentee balloting
• Degrade the accuracy of registration lists by requiring states to automatically register all individuals on state and federal databases. This would include many ineligible voters, including aliens
• It would require states to allow 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds to register. Combined with a ban on voter ID, this would allow underage individuals to vote
• Require states to count ballots cast by voters outside of their assigned precincts, a recipe for election fraud
• Mandate no-fault absentee ballots, which are the tool of choice for vote thieves, force states to accept absentee ballots received up to 10 days after Election Day and force states allow ‘ballot harvesting’
• Prevent election officials from checking the eligibility and qualifications of voters and removing ineligible voters
• Ban state-voter ID laws by forcing states to allow individuals to vote without an ID and merely signing a statement in which they claim they are who they say they are
• Create vague and broad language that could be used to criminally charge someone who questions the eligibility of a voter
• Destroy the bipartisan composition of the Federal Election Commission and places a partisan majority in control of every aspect of our federal elections
• Require states to restore the ability of felons to vote the moment they are out of prison
• Force disclosure of names of Americans who donate to nonprofit organizations — thus subjecting them to political harassment
• Declare statehood for Washington DC to be ‘constitutional’ despite evidence it is not
• And finally, HR 1 would effectively ban nonprofits from contacting a member of Congress or their staff about pending legislation — a direct assault on the right of Americans to petition their government
The chief author of HR 1 is Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat. He insists with a straight face that outside of Congress ‘these aren’t controversial reforms’. Stacey Abrams, the civil rights activist who narrowly and bitterly lost her 2018 race for Georgia governor, claims that under HR 1 minority voters will ‘have a right to take our seat at the table and our place at the ballot box’.
Should the power grab masquerading as HR 1 become law it will represent only the latest distortion of democracy. It will undermine confidence in the system far more than anything Donald Trump attempted.
‘When reforms don’t work as advertised, or politicians make end runs around them, Americans get cynical,’ write David Primo and Jeffrey Milyo, the co-authors of the book Campaign Finance and American Democracy: What the Public Really Thinks and Why It Matters. Should HR 1 pass, its so-called ‘reforms’ would likely send that cynicism to levels that make America increasingly resemble a banana republic.