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With Biden in office and Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, they are feeling empowered to pass signature legislation. One of their biggest priorities, HR 1, or the so-called For the People Act, was reintroduced on the House floor in early January and receives a vote today.
Unfortunately, one of their biggest priorities is also one of their worst ideas yet.
According to its text, the For the People Act aims to “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”
We shouldn’t let the pretty language of the bill fool us. If passed, HR 1 would entirely overhaul the electoral system as it currently exists and have a crippling effect on free speech and political activism.
Expanding “access to the ballot box” is a nice way to say that Democrats want to nationalize elections and limit the scope of states to run their elections in the ways that work for them. Under HR 1, the feds would make one-size-fits-all laws about voting that they would expect all states to adopt. This means that states could no longer enforce their own election regulations, including but not limited to things like voter registration and voter ID rules. HR 1 would also create a three judge panel at the U.S. District Court in DC to redraw congressional district lines across the country instead of leaving that up to state legislatures.
Both of these provisions violate Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution, which invests states with the power to decide their own election laws: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof…”
In order to “reduce the influence of big money in politics,” Democrats would first have to devastate free speech and the right to petition the government. The bill contains a provision that would force “all organizations involved in political activity” to disclose their donors. This would open the door for the left to intimidate, threaten, and dox organizations as well as private citizens who take part in the political process — all under the cloak of “transparency.”
According to its sections on stopping “Super PAC-Candidate coordination” and its broad definition of what exactly political “coordination” entails, HR 1 would effectively ban nonprofits from contacting a member of Congress about any policy issue. Another provision would provide certain candidates with a 6-to-1 taxpayer-funded subsidy for small-dollar campaign contributions. This essentially means that taxpayers would end up paying for advertising they don’t agree with .
As far as strengthening “ethics rules for public servants” and implementing “other anti-corruption measures” goes, the Democrats’ solution is to get federal employees to work the polls and make sure they get paid for it. Of course, this cannot be done without expanding and giving more power to the central government.
There’s good reason this bill never quite gained the momentum that Democrats had anticipated the first time it was introduced. Back in March of 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union voiced objection to HR 1 when it issued a letter stating that it posed far too great a threat to free speech to justify a “yes” vote. The ACLU has been quiet about the bill this time around, however, which is suspect, considering that the bill’s threats to free speech remain the same.
If the ACLU, along with plenty of other leaders and political groups that claim to care about defending free speech, won’t take a stand against this bill, then it’s up to the people — the same people whom HR 1 is allegedly for — to make sure that our opposition to it is heard loud and clear. The federal government doesn’t need to expand its grip on elections.
Parissa Sedghi is an Executive Vice President at FreedomWorks.