House Resolution 1 (HR1), otherwise named “For the People Act of 2019”, is the omnibus election law bill filed in the House of Representatives by its new liberal majority. The legislation is sweeping in nature, overturning the federalism foundation of the electoral process in the United States that has been in place for the past two centuries.
The 571-page bill includes over 30 significant new mandates placed on the states from the federal government, not including the dozens of other smaller requirements, policies, and centralized standards placed on the 50 states and over 8,000 local jurisdictions that administer elections in the nation. The far-reaching legislation would reverse the current decentralized nature of elections by preempting state laws across the country and placing the control of election and voting policy within the federal government. The bill takes the first steps to reinstating the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance requirements on states, which was struck down by the Supreme Court and required that any change in election law, regulation, or polling places be submitted to the federal government for approval.
The federal government is not designed or equipped to oversee elections in the thousands of communities that administer elections across the country. Yet, if the bill were ever to become law, every state in the nation would be required to significantly alter their means and methods of registration and voting. All states would be required to institute automatic voter registration, same day registration, online voter registration, and reduce the integrity of the registration system by restricting address list maintenance that ensures the accuracy of the voter rolls. All states would be required to implement no-excuse mail voting and two weeks of early voting, and state laws on felons voting in elections would be preempted. The Congress will not investigate and decide for Americans what methods of voting are best and then require them. Instead, the bill simply chooses everything on the menu.
The federal government would also establish new federal security and accuracy standards for voting equipment and voter registration databases and require annual certification in order to receive federal funding. The security of elections will be centralized despite the comments of President Barack Obama who said, “There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections, in part because they’re so decentralized, and the numbers of votes involved.”
Much of the legislation would be required to be implemented by the 2020 Presidential Election, and the states would certainly need billions of new dollars in appropriations over ten years in order for the new mandates to be properly implemented; otherwise this would be a significant unfunded mandate placed on the states. The legislation provides private rights of action to enforce various sections of the legislation, an act that would light the fuse for a round of voting wars and a litigation green light that would allow any person or third-party group to sue states to enforce the new requirements.
It is remarkable that a bill that fundamentally upends the current electoral infrastructure would be considered the new liberal majority’s number one priority in the 116th Congress with over 221 co-sponsors, even more important than addressing health care, immigration, or infrastructure spending. Voting and registration have never been easier, and the real pressing need in elections is upgrading state voting equipment and election technology infrastructure across the country. Despite the pressing needs of the nation, HR1 will likely be the first significant vote of the newly installed majority in the House of Representatives above all other legislation; yet it is doubtful that many of the members of Congress have read the bill or understand its ramifications.
Despite these facts, according to the new Speaker of the House, the omnibus legislation impacting elections, redistricting, campaign finance, and ethics may soon be voted out of committee and a final vote scheduled on the House floor. There is an urgency for the House of Representatives to vote on the bill despite the lack of committee hearings, congressional debate, or public discussion on the efficacy of the legislation. The legislation was drafted without the input and insight of state and local election officials who are responsible for administering elections in this country. It is wholly a political document that will be used for partisan purposes and not a serious attempt to gain bipartisan support for a way to address the real challenges to our election infrastructure.
LDF has produced a thorough analysis of HR1’s preemption of state laws and the numerous new federal mandates in election administration that will dramatically and negatively impact the voting process in the states. While the legislation also significantly impacts the free speech rights of Americans and campaign finance law, this paper will only address some of the election administration, voting, and redistricting provisions in the proposed bill.
Please click here to view and download the full analysis.
The Institute for Free Speech’s campaign finance experts have analyzed the campaign finance portions of HR 1 and its infringement on important First Amendment rights:
- Analysis of H.R. 1 (Part One) by Eric Wang
- Analysis of H.R. 1 (Part Two): Establishing a Campaign Speech Czar and Enabling Partisan Enforcement: An Altered FEC Structure Poses Risks to First Amendment Speech Rights by Bradley Smith
- Changes to Current Campaign Finance Laws Proposed by H.R. 1
- Letter to U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Citizens United and H.R. 1 from David Keating
H.R.1 is today before this Committee. This proposal would mark the largest transfer of power over elections from the states to the federal government in the history of the nation.
H.R. 1 interferes with the ability of states to determine the qualifications of their voters, to secure the integrity of the election process, and to determine the districts and boundary lines of their representatives. Overall, H.R. 1 is an attempt to federalize and micromanage the election process and impose unnecessary, unwise and in some cases unconstitutional mandates on the states, reversing the decentralization of the American election process that our Founders believed was essential to preserving liberty and freedom.
Op-ed by Christian Adams: Nancy Pelosi is trying to federalize California’s bad election laws:
While H.R. 1 is busy dirtying voter rolls with duplicate and incomplete data, it handcuffs registrars from identifying the problem cases and taking corrective action.
Op-ed by Christian Adams: H.R. 1: Democrats Act to Strip State Powers Over Elections:
Decentralization promotes individual liberty. When power over elections is centralized, it is easier for that power to be abused. When power over elections is decentralized, no single malevolent actor can exert improper control over the process.
Op-ed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Behold the Democrat Politician Protection Act:
Even more egregiously, the legislation dedicates hundreds of pages to federalizing the electoral process. It would make states mimic the practices that recently caused California to create 23,000 incorrect voter registrations. It would make it harder for states to fix inaccurate data in their voter rolls. Yet the legislation declines to address the sketchy “ballot harvesting” that upended the result in North Carolina’s 9th District — perhaps because the practice is perfectly legal in California, where Democrats made huge gains in 2018.
Conservative Action Project, Conservatives Oppose H.R. 1, the Ultimate Fantasy of the Left:
Conservatives are united in opposing H.R. 1, the attempt by House Democrats to fundamentally undermine the American electoral system.
While they cloak the bill in terms of “restoring democracy” and “preventing corruption,” the legislation has one goal: to protect incumbents, at the expense of the First Amendment, federalism, and individual voter integrity.
The Heritage Foundation, The Facts About H.R. 1—the For the People Act of 2019:
H.R. 1 federalizes and micromanages the election process administered by the states, imposing unnecessary, unwise, and unconstitutional mandates on the states and reversing the decentralization of the American election process—which is necessary for protecting our liberty and freedom.
The bill interferes with the ability of states and their citizens to determine qualifications for voters, to ensure the accuracy of voter registration rolls, to secure the integrity of elections, to participate in the political process, and to determine the district boundary lines for electing their representatives.