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House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on HR 1

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House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on HR 1

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HR 1.  Hans von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation testified (internal citations omitted):

In summary, many of the provisions of H.R. 1 are clearly unconstitutional. Others are redundant and unnecessary, covering areas and issues where existing federal law is more than sufficient to protect voters. Many of the provisions are just bad policy that will neither help voters nor election officials in administering a fair and secure voter registration and election process.

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.

As the U.S. Supreme Court recently explained, the “allocation of authority” over elections between state governments and the federal government that is provided in the Constitution “sprang from the Framers’ aversion to concentrated power.” Existing federal laws such as the VRA, NVRA, HAVA and UOCAVA already provide the protection that Americans need to be able to easily practice their franchise without discrimination, intimidation, or fear. . . .

My testimony has only covered the portions of H.R. 1 under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. As I have explained, many of these provisions are clearly unconstitutional, redundant of federal laws already in place, and simply bad public policy. Many of the provisions I have not covered that affect federal campaign finance law seem intended to protect incumbents, discourage challengers, make it more difficult for the public to participate in politics by chilling political speech and activity, and impose onerous compliance costs. Other provisions on elections come at the expense of federalism and appear intended to nationalize and micromanage the election process, interfere with the right of states to administer elections and determine the qualifications of the electorate, and damage the integrity and security of the election system.


Christian Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation agreed (emphasis in original; internal citations omitted):

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. Regarding the proposal, we can certainly all agree on three things.

First, it has never been easier to register to vote and to vote in America than it is in 2019. In fact, it is difficult to avoid opportunities to register to vote. Not only is registration offered every single time you go to a motor vehicle office, Americans are offered registration in social service agencies, post offices, county courthouses, outside of grocery stores, county libraries, Marine Corp recruitment stations, in forward operating bases, in jails, online, in high school, in church, in mobile registration vans, on your front porch as part of a third party registration drive, at Lollapalooza, and pursuant to various settlements the Justice Department entered into in the last few years, even in drug treatment facilities and methadone clinics in Rhode Island. . . .

Second, we all know that no part of H.R.1 is going to become the law during this Congress. This is merely an exercise in educating the public about a variety of election process changes that one political party would like to implement because they believe they will benefit from them. On the other hand, H.R.1 presents an opportunity to also educate the public about how various provisions in H.R.1 that are already the laws of some states – like California – have injected vulnerabilities into the elections process.

Third, H.R.1 radically transforms the Constitutional relationship between states and the federal government. It strips power from states to run their own elections. Under the Constitution, states are strongly presumed to have the power to establish the rules that H.R.1 seeks to take away. There is a reason states were given power to run their own elections, namely, decentralization promotes freedom. The Constitution decentralized control over elections to the states because when power is centralized, a single malevolent actor can exert improper or dangerous control over the process. This is not wild speculation; this is a simple historical fact. Decentralized elections are more democratic because each state develops systems more suited the wishes of their own citizens.

LDF will soon release detailed analysis of the election administration provisions of HR 1.

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