H.R. 1 seeks to root out corruption in campaigns, but Republicans — many of whom expressed concerns about 'election integrity' — voted against it.
The House on Wednesday passed H.R. 1, a sweeping "pro-democracy" bill meant to address voter suppression and corruption in elections. Among its provisions, the bill would require states to set up automatic voter registration for federal elections, expand access to early and absentee voting, end partisan gerrymandering, and prevent voter roll purges.
The bill passed the House 220 to 210.
Meanwhile, every single House Republican voted against the legislation — including the 139 GOP lawmakers who acquiesced to the violent Donald Trump-supporting insurrectionists on Jan. 6 as they voted to overturn the free and fair election President Joe Biden won.
Republicans claimed the bill would actually dampen confidence in elections, rather than promote election integrity.
"H.R. 1 destroys election integrity," Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN), brother of Mike Pence, tweeted on Wednesday. He said he opposes the bill's expanded access to absentee voting— which Republicans have vilified with lies about it being more prone to fraud — as well as provisions to implement automatic voter registration. Those provisions, however, are supported by voting rights groups, who say automatic voter registration helps more people register and increases turnout.
Other Republicans justified their vote against the bill with lies about what the bill does, falsely claiming that the bill restricts free speech, creates openings for undocumented immigrants to vote illegally, and makes foreign interference in elections more likely.
There is no evidence to support any of these claims.
Instead, the bill would require super PACs to disclose their high-dollar donors to root out attempts at pay for play; requires campaigns to disclose any contacts from foreign persons or governments seeking to influence an American election; and protect lower-income, minority, and young voters by banning states from implementing overly restrictive voter ID laws.
"It's wild to see House Members who voted to overturn a free and fair election stand up on the House floor and complain about HR1," Adam Smith, who works for the voting rights organization Let America Vote, tweeted.
H.R. 1 — titled the For the People Act — already passed the House in 2019, with every single Democrat voting in favor and every single Republican voting against it.
It seeks to cut down on long lines at polls that disenfranchise voters — particularly voters of color — by expanding access to absentee ballots, as well as mandating early voting periods to give voters more days to cast their ballot.
Democrats put it up for a vote again in 2021 after then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the bill from passage two years ago by refusing to put it on the floor.
House Democrats prioritized passing the bill again following Donald Trump's lies of a stolen election, which other GOP leaders have also helped spread.
Based on those lies, Republicans are now pressing for passage of bills that seek to limit who can vote absentee, cut the number of early voting days, and lower the number of hours voters have to cast ballots on Election Day.
Voting rights experts call the GOP effort the biggest attempt to scale back voting rights since the Jim Crow era, when Black Americans were systematically prevented from voting using racist poll taxes, as well as gerrymandered out of power.
That's why those same rights activists say it's imperative that the bill is signed into law now to combat the onslaught of voter suppression tactics GOP lawmakers in states across the country are working to pass.
"Instead of erecting new barriers to voting, we should be working to build a democracy that is truly of, by and for the people, where all eligible Americans can vote and make their voices heard. That’s why Congress must pass, and President Joe Biden must sign into law, the For the People Act," Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at the watchdog group Common Cause, wrote in an op-ed published in Roll Call.
H.R. 1 now heads to the Senate, where Democrats have the barest of majorities.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will put the bill up for a vote.
However, it is still unlikely to pass the chamber, as it needs 10 Republicans to vote in favor to overcome the filibuster.
That's why a number of Democrats are urging fellow Democrats in the Senate to ditch the filibuster in order to pass this pro-democracy legislation.
"The filibuster was never in the constitution, originated mostly by accident, and has historically been used to block civil rights," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted on Feb. 25. "No legislatures on earth have a supermajority requirement because that’s stupid and paralyzing. It's time to trash the Jim Crow filibuster."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.