Voting Rights Legislation

Table of Contents

  1. How a Political Party can Subvert Democracy
  2. HR 1, For the People Act of 2021
    1. HR 1 vs Gerrymandering
    2. HR 1 vs Voter Suppression
    3. HR1 vs Politicizing Election Administration
    4. HR 1 vs Congressional Rejection of Electoral Votes
    5. Other Provisions of HR 1
  3. H.R.4 – John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021
  4. Freedom to Vote Act, 2021
  5. Georgia’s Voting Law
How a Political Party can Subvert Democracy
  • Representation
    • A party can increase its Congressional representation by drawing district boundaries that “crack and pack” voters of the opposition party.
  • Suffrage
    • A political party can limit who can vote.
  • Voting
    • A party can pass legislation making it more difficult or impossible for certain groups to vote.
  • Determining the Winner
    • A party can install partisan election officials to subvert the administration of elections.
  • Certifying the Results
    • A party controlling both houses of Congress can perhaps change an election’s outcome by voting against certifying enough electoral votes.
HR 1, For the People Act of 2021
  • Fact Checks
    • Fact check: Breaking down 10 claims about the Democrats’ elections bill CNN FF
    • TV Ad Distorts Facts on Federal Voting Rights Bill, factcheck
    • Claims about HR 1 keep pouring in. Here are all of our fact-checks in one place Politifact
HR 1 vs Gerrymandering
HR 1 vs Voter Suppression
HR1 vs Politicizing Election Administration
  • Wait, isn’t voting rights legislation missing something? Jennifer Rubin WaPo
    • President Biden has pointed out in virtually all his remarks on voting rights that the problem is not limited to efforts by state legislatures to impede voting by certain communities. “It’s no longer just about who gets to vote or making it easier for eligible voters to vote,” he said in his voting rights speech last week. “It’s about who gets to count the vote. … It’s about moving from independent election administrators who work for the people to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties.” He added, “It’s the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.”
    • The problem is not addressed in either the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act. That is a mistake, as voting rights activists around the country have figured out. Democrats should listen to them.
HR 1 vs Congressional Rejection of Electoral Votes
  • HR 1 does not deal with this possibility.
Other Provisions of HR 1
H.R.4 – John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021
  • H.R.4 – John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021
      • This bill establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices in these areas may take effect.
        • Preclearance is the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights.
    • Strengthening the Voting Rights Act Brennan Center
Freedom to Vote Act, 2021
  • Once again, the GOP’s answer is ‘no.’ Democrats should take it and run. Rubin WaPo
    • This is a scaled-down version of the House’s For the People Act focused directly on the avalanche of voter suppression and subversion that Republicans passed in many states.
    • The Democrats’ bill contains a raft of measures designed to support access to the ballot, including
      • automatic voter registration and
      • online registration;
      • designating Election Day as a federal holiday;
      • same-day registration;
      • at least 15 days of early voting;
      • uniform standards for voting by mail and for drop boxes;
      • rules for voter-roll purges;
      • requirements for counting provisional ballots in whatever precinct they are cast;
      • voter-ID standards;
      • the enfranchisement of former nonviolent felons after they have served their time; and
      • new rules to ensure access for voters with disabilities.
    • On redistricting, the bill does not require independent commissions. Instead, as voting expert Michael McDonald of University of Florida points out, the bill attempts to set up criteria that are enforceable in court. It is a real question whether it is possible to implement these now in time for 2022 elections.
    • The most important provisions, however, have to do with preventing vote-counting shenanigans, phony election “fraudits” and the partisan takeover of election administration. These parts of the Democrats’ bill are aimed at preventing not only post-election chaos but also overt attempts to steal elections. These would protect
      • the integrity and security of ballots and voting machines (in response to Arizona’s disastrous phony audit);
      • require paper-ballot backups;
      • set standards for professional post-election audits and for the recruitment and training of poll workers; and
      • mandate cybersecurity protections and “a reporting requirement for federal campaigns to disclose certain foreign contacts” (in response to the 2016 numerous interactions with Russian officials by Trump campaign officials).
  • Democrats propose a compromise bill on voting rights.NYT
    • The new bill, called the Freedom to Vote Act, drops some contentious elements of the initial bill, such as restructuring the Federal Election Commission and publicly financing congressional elections on a wide scale — a proposal ridiculed by Republicans. But it retains provisions to establish nationwide standards for ballot access, a response to voting restrictions that Republican legislatures have enacted around the country since the 2020 elections.
    • It would create a voter identification requirement, something that many Democrats have vehemently opposed. But the requirement would be far less onerous than the ones some states have tried to impose, allowing voters to present a variety of identification cards and documents in paper and digital forms. 
    • The revised measure would also require that states allow at minimum 15 consecutive days of early voting, including two weekends; ensure that all voters can request to vote by mail; establish new automatic voter registration programs; and make Election Day a national holiday.
    • It would mandate that states follow specific criteria when drawing new congressional districting lines to reduce partisan gerrymandering and would force disclosure of donors to so-called dark money groups. It would also establish new federal protections from partisan interference for state and local election administrators.
  • Revised Democratic voting bill drops controversial provisions, tweaks others as pressure for action mountsWaPo
    • Some of the changes gut significant portions of the For the People Act: A public financing system for congressional campaigns that would match small donations with federal funds on a 6-to-1 basis has been scaled back to an optional program for House campaigns only, requiring states to choose whether to participate. State and local election officials would have a freer hand to purge voter rolls than under the initial bill, and a provision to change the makeup of the Federal Election Commission, moving from an even split between the parties to an odd number of members in a bid to break partisan gridlock, has been omitted from the revised bill.
    • While the original bill mandated that states use nonpartisan commissions to draw congressional district lines to prevent gerrymandering, the revised bill does not require commissions. It instead creates federal criteria for mapmaking, gives courts the power to enforce them, and allows states to choose how to comply, whether by using a commission or another method.
    • The new legislation also adds some new elements, including provisions meant to thwart state-level efforts in GOP-controlled states that some are warning could allow officials to override election results. Sections aimed at so-called election subversion would create federal protections for elections officials and create standards for the handing of election equipment and records that could forestall partisan audits such as the review of the 2020 presidential election results ordered by the Arizona Senate.
    • The Freedom to Vote Act does not include one controversial proposal that Manchin floated in June — a national voter identification mandate. Instead, the bill would create a national standard for the states that choose to require voter ID, allowing them to accept a range of documents as proof of identification, without requiring it in other states.
Georgia’s Voting Law
  • Georgia’s restrictive new voting law, explained Vox
    • Under current law, key issues in election management — including decisions on disqualifying ballots and voter eligibility — are made by county boards of election. The new law allows the State Board of Elections to determine that these county boards are performing poorly, replacing the entire board with an administrator chosen at the state level.
    • At the same time, the bill enhances the General Assembly’s control over the state board.
    • It removes Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who famously stood up to Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results in Georgia, from his role as both chair and voting member of the board. The new chair would be appointed by the legislature, which already appoints two members of the five-person board — meaning that a full majority of the board will now be appointed by the Republican-dominated body.
  • Georgia’s New Law, and the Risk of Election Subversion, Nate Cohn, NYT Upshot
    • But trying to reverse an election result without credible evidence of widespread fraud is an act of a different magnitude than narrowing access. A successful effort to subvert an election would pose grave and fundamental risks to democracy, risking political violence and secessionism.
    • Beyond any provisions on voting itself, the new Georgia election law risks making election subversion easier. It creates new avenues for partisan interference in election administration. This includes allowing the state elections board, now newly controlled by appointees of the Republican State Legislature, to appoint a single person to take control of typically bipartisan county election boards, which have important power over vote counting and voter eligibility.
    • The law also gives the Legislature the authority to appoint the chair of the state election board and two more of its five voting members, allowing it to appoint a majority of the board. It strips the secretary of state of the chair and a vote.
    • Even without this law, there would still be a risk of election subversion: Election officials and administrators all over the country possess important powers, including certification of election results, that could be abused in pursuit of partisan gain. And it’s a risk that H.R. 1, the reform bill congressional Democrats are pushing, does relatively little to address.
  • What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does  NYT
    • The New York Times analyzed the state’s new 98-page voting law and identified 16 key provisions that will limit ballot access, potentially confuse voters and give more power to Republican lawmakers.
    • Voters will now have less time to request absentee ballots.
    • There are strict new ID requirements for absentee ballots.
    • It’s now illegal for election officials to mail out absentee ballot applications to all voters.
    • Drop boxes still exist … but barely.
    • Mobile voting centers (think an R.V. where you can vote) are essentially banned.
    • Early voting is expanded in a lot of small counties, but probably not in more populous ones.
    • Offering food or water to voters waiting in line now risks misdemeanor charges.
    • If you go to the wrong polling place, it will be (even) harder to vote.
    • If election problems arise, a common occurrence, it is now more difficult to extend voting hours.
    • With a mix of changes to vote-counting, high-turnout elections will probably mean a long wait for results.
    • Election officials can no longer accept third-party funding (a measure that nods to right-wing conspiracy theories).
    • With an eye toward voter fraud, the state attorney general will manage an election hotline.
    • The Republican-controlled legislature has more control over the State Election Board.
    • The secretary of state is removed as a voting member of the State Election Board.
    • The G.O.P.-led legislature is empowered to suspend county election officials.
    • Runoff elections will happen faster — and could become harder to manage.
  • Articles on the Georgia Law:
    • Yes, the Georgia election law is that bad Vox
    • FactChecking Claims About the Georgia Voting Law, factcheck
    • Georgia’s New Law, and the Risk of Election Subversion, Cohn, NYT Upshot
    • Expand access? A historic restriction? What the Georgia voting law really does. WaPo
    • Georgia’s Election Law, and Why Turnout Isn’t Easy to Turn Off Cohn NYT Upshot
    • At least 45 states have seen bills aimed at voter suppression. Here’s why CNN
    • Fact check: What the new Georgia elections law actually does, CNN FF
    • Fact check: Biden and Kemp misleadingly describe parts of Georgia elections law, CNN FF
    • What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does NYT
    • Georgia’s restrictive new voting law, explained Vox
    • Biden falsely claims the new Georgia law ‘ends voting hours early’ WaPo FC
    • Fact check: What the new Georgia elections law actually does CNN
    • What Does Georgia’s New Voting Law SB 202 Do? GPB
    • Georgia Election Board Orders Review of Fulton County ElectionsWSJ