Commentary: The For the People Act of 2021 and election integrity
(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Election integrity comprises more than just ensuring the person who votes is who he says he is.
The For the People Act is a comprehensive bill that would, among other things, prevent states from making it harder for people to vote and drawing congressional districts to the benefit of one or the other party. It would also overhaul campaign finance laws.
The proposed bill has been misrepresented by Republicans. Claiming the need for “election integrity” after President Biden’s lawful election, some states have passed laws making it more difficult to vote.
- The Act is not an attempt to ensure “federal takeover of elections.” The Constitution already says while the “time, place and manner” of elections shall be set by states, “Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations . . . .“ The Act sets only baseline standards for federal elections.
- The Act will not permit noncitizens or anyone under the age of 18 to vote. It does contain automatic registration provisions like online and same-day registration, which already exist in some states. People will still be required to prove their eligibility to register to vote.
- In no way does the Act open the door to voter fraud; in fact, there has never been widespread voter fraud in any election, including 2020, which has been described as the “most secure election in American history.”
- The For the People Act is not a “power grab” by any particular party. The right to vote is not partisan. The recommended changes are already the practice in red, blue and purple states. Years ago the Republican Party successfully encouraged its voters to avail themselves of early voting, and now it is popular in both parties.
- Similarly, campaign finance reforms would affect both parties. In fact, in the last election cycle Democrats benefited more than Republicans from secret campaign spending. Some politicians claim incorrectly that taxpayer money will be diverted to politicians and foment political extremism. Rather, the Act would create a voluntary small donor matching system, which would remove candidates’ reliance on wealthy donors and special interests. The matching funds would come from a surcharge imposed on corporate lawbreakers. Small donors are no more ideologically extreme than large donors who already have agendas.
- Voter-verified paper-ballots are already in place in some Tennessee counties. Knox County conducted two 2020 elections, including the presidential election, using paper ballots fed into a scanner by the voter so obviously paper-backed voting machines exist. Voters commented favorably and said this method was faster. The Act would mandate the use of paper ballots (something already done in many TN Counties). This would help reduce voter fraud. For example, Oregon has sent out approximately 100 million mail ballots since 2000 and documented only about a dozen cases of fraud, 0.00001 percent. Voter fraud can carry jail time. About the 2020 election, the U.S. attorney general stated there was no election fraud; judges decided only one of 60 voter-fraud lawsuits had any merit, and it was a technicality. Finally, states audited election results, and nothing was found that would have affected the outcome.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn is doing her best to misrepresent the For the People Act. She says the Act forces local governments to register people who appear “on other state databases.” She cites a conservative think tank which claims same-day registration will “not only lead to multiple registrations . . . in the same and multiple states, . . .” Some people move just before an election and still possess a driver’s license or voter registration from the state they just left. This is not fraud and will be fixed with time.
Blackburn claims that, after the 2020 election, “there is no denying” voting changes are needed, but she never says why. She says voter ID would be “replaced” by preventing states from asking for forms of identification.
In fact, the Act adds types of acceptable identification.
Blackburn says the Act “puts cancel culture on steroids.” Huh? The Act does not mention cancel culture. She is using that to distract and scare people from a legitimate expansion of non-partisan voting rights. These words appear nowhere in the Act. Likewise, Blackburn says Democrats want to “crush” local governments to further their own agenda. Again, I don’t know what she’s talking about.
In Knox County—and other Tennessee counties—strict measures are taken to ensure registered voters have ready access to the polls. Voters provide ID to confirm who they are. They privately complete ballots and feed them into a scanner, which tallies the votes. At the end of the 2020 election, the precinct in which I work had a perfectly balanced count of applications for ballots and votes counted. The Act will ensure more eligible voters’ ballots will be cast and counted in the same safe and secure way.
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