With their “For the People Act,” or H.R. 1, U.S. House Democrats hope to “fix” many things they simply don’t like about current election rules in the United States. Although this effort is doomed to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate, it is illustrative nonetheless.
We have written more than once about some of the problems with H.R. 1, which was approved by the House last week. These include an effort to crack down on campaign contributions. As even the American Civil Liberties Union has noted, the bill would effectively trample on the First Amendment’s right to free speech.
Among other things in the bill, it requires groups that run political ads to provide the names of donors who give more than $10,000. Political groups would be forced, the ACLU noted, “to make a choice: their speech or their donors. Whichever they choose, the First Amendment loses.”
Bradley A. Smith, who heads the Institute for Free Speech, has complained that H.R. 1 would “place sweeping new limitations on speech” and do so “in a very complex, vague and unintuitive manner.” Many of the proposed limits would serve as “a total ban on speech” for advocacy groups, unions and others, Smith says.
The bill also includes provisions that have prompted concern from Oklahoma’s election board secretary, Paul Ziriax. These include automatic voter registration and expanded early voting for at least 15 days — two chestnuts of many on the left. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., argued last week that “arbitrary obstacles” had impeded access to the ballot box, and that H.R. 1 would help to remove those.
Yet as Ziriax noted in a recent letter to Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, which The Oklahoman’s Chris Casteel reported on, 15 consecutive days of early voting is “simply not feasible given the small budgets and staffing levels of the 77 county election boards.”
Ziriax said same-day registration would produce logistical headaches related to printing ballots and assigning workers. A requirement to count provisional ballots, even if they’re cast in the wrong county, wouldn’t mesh with the state’s current election security features. Having to accept absentee ballots postmarked on the day of the election would potentially leave officials counting ballots for weeks “and would take away a critical security feature of our election system.”
Election laws and practices should be the purview of each state, not the federal government. Oklahoma’s ability to mind its own shop has resulted in smooth and mostly trouble-free elections, unlike in some states that have been beset by problems with voting machines and other issues.