- H.R. 1, For the People Act of 2021, was recently passed by the House of Representatives.
- Critics believe this legislation will change how our elections are conducted permanently.
- Democrats believe they are acting in the people’s best interest by introducing the H.R. 1.
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) has led an initiative over several years crafting legislation to change how our elections are conducted permanently. H.R. 1, For the People Act of 2021, was recently passed by the House of Representatives on March 3, 2021. It was a party-line split off 220 to 210, yeas to nays. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) was the lone Democrat who voted nay, leaving no Republican voting for the legislation.
The next hurdle is the senate, as a simple majority vote will not pass the legislation. The senate is a 50-50 split with the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President. They would need a 60 vote majority to pass H.R. 1 (S. 1. in the senate) and escape the filibuster. Rep. Sarbanes (D-MD) has expressed his fears saying, “I’m not optimistic on the Senate side.”
Voter Registration and Voting Reform
The Democrats are alleging that Republican state legislatures are passing new laws designed to restrict voting access. The Brennan Center for Justice is tracking what they view as “253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states” as of February 19, 2021.
Therefore, the Democrats believe they are acting in the people’s best interest by introducing the H.R. 1 legislation. It would essentially centralize with one standard our elections nationally. Meaning the new law would override multitudes of existing state law and prevent the states from overseeing most aspects of their voting mechanisms.
The bill itself (roughly 791 pages) includes massive reforms to voter registration and processes of voting. It would empower the U.S. Election Assistance Program to spearhead all the new initiatives and reporting.
Perhaps the most profound change would be the “automatic voting registration” for all American citizens. Instead of having to register, once enacted, you would have to opt-out if you didn’t want to be registered to vote.
It would direct every state to set up and maintain an online voting registration system accessible to the public. H.R. 1 also overrides states that require voter ID proof; people would have to complete a sworn statement attesting that they are who they say they are when going to vote—additionally requiring individuals only to supply their last 4-digits of their social security number.
The bill also seeks to drastically engage minors by modifying secondary schools’ curriculums in the states “to promote civic engagement.” Particularly students in the 12th-grade would be targeted. Also enticement for grants of any states applying, “to promote the use of pre-registration process.”
In section 1400 of the bill titled Democracy Restoration outlines how convicted felons are disenfranchised to vote. It also outlines how this specific disenfranchisement affects minorities. Effectively, the bill would restore all felons’ voting rights who served their sentence in the United States, totaling an estimated 5.2 million citizens.
In subtitle section F, there is an amendment concerning paper ballots that reads:
“(III) The voting system shall not preserve the voter-verified paper ballots in any manner that makes it possible, at any time after the ballot has been cast, to associate a voter with the record of the voter’s vote without the voter’s consent.”
This particular clause would make it very difficult to conduct a thorough audit. The purpose of such an audit is to check ballots that they originated from a lawful citizen eligible to vote.
We would also see the absentee voting system essentially become a permanent vote by mail mechanism for anyone wishing to mail in their ballot. There would be no special requirements or reasons having to be given to vote by mail. The bill will set up a universal tracking system of such ballots.
Ultimately Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), in an interview with CNN, said, “When you look at what Republicans are doing across the country in statehouses to roll back access to the ballot box, we need to do what we can to establish baseline standards and best practices that allow people to register and vote in America without it being an obstacle course for them.”
The Democrats are describing this bill essentially as anti-corruption legislation that expands voting access and improves accountability.
Campaign Financing: Changing the Flow of Money
The lone nay vote of Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS) was in the spirit of representing his constituents. He chooses to stand with the people of his district rather than capitulate to party lines.
Specifically, he said, “My constituents opposed the redistricting portion of the bill as well as the section on public finances,” in a statement to Fox News. “I always listen and vote in the interest of my constituents.”
H.R. 1 seeks to shift campaign financing from big business and special interest groups to a public funding initiative. Targeting congressional and presidential races financing the new law would set up a 6:1 small-dollar matching system in the public forum.
This system would apply only to donations of $200 or less, including vouchers. Candidates would only be eligible only if they have raised at least $50,000 in small-dollar contributions from at least 1,000 donors.
The idea being congressional candidates would focus on garnering relationships with the people, allowing them to engage with their finances politically with a greater return.
The public funds would be derived from a new 4.75% surcharge on criminal and civil penalties corporations pay to the U.S. Government. The fund is called the Freedom From Influence Fund. It will also fund a new pilot program that would incentivize voters to make campaign contributions.
Its name, the My Voice Voucher Pilot Program, would be in three states giving vouchers worth $25 to donate to candidates. The states would be reimbursed 10 million dollars from the federal government for participating in the voucher program.
Another big-ticket item of the Democrats is the establishment of independent commissions for redistricting electoral districts. H.R. 1 would require all states to comply using these commissions. Anyone who has held a public office will not be allowed to serve considered disqualified.
A much-heated issue of alleged gerrymandering, the Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that federal judges have no jurisdiction over partisan gerrymandering. If things remain the way they are, Republicans will have the sole power to redistrict 181 seats in the 435-seat U.S. House, Democrats only 49 seats.
Lastly, the H.R. 1 bill outlines the declaration of Washington D.C. residents the right to vote and become a state. A Democrats wet dream that the 51st state would permanently provide two democratic senate seats, shifting the senate’s power once and for all and adding additional seats in the House. Party affiliation in Washington would suggest as much. The argument for statehood is a long and arduous one and now is the closest democrats have ever been to succeed.
Why This Matters
The 791 pages of H.R. 1 briefly described in this article do not scratch the surface of all the issues contained within this legislation. It is so full crammed with Democrat wish list items to consolidate power within the federal government and tip the scales of elections in their favor.
The growing animosity towards the filibuster in the senate is reaching a breaking point. Will the Democrats in power end the sacred safeguards that protect us from tyranny and one-party rule?
This legislation must be rejected because it is entirely one-sided and born of one political ideology that does not reflect all Americans but a minority.
Within H.R. 1, you will also find reforms to impose ethical standards onto the Supreme Court, imposing new ethical requirements on presidential transitions and the executive as a whole, and various securities to clamp down foreign influence.
The legislation would bring online political advertising oversight to sweeping changes in communications that would restrict free speech. Even the far-left ACLU has criticized the bill for fear of limiting free speech held sacred by the First Amendment.
It also includes a mandate that all future presidents and vice presidents must disclose their tax returns. In short, this legislation will benefit one party. We must demand that our representatives and senators take after Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS). The bravery he showed in actually representing the will of the people deserves great applause.
The Democrat Party does not fully represent America; they do not speak for all of us. It will be a tragedy if this piece of legislation becomes law.
Keefer is passionate about America and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. His writings focus on the intersectionality of faith and culture.