Wicker: Defending Election Laws from Federal Takeover

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2021

From the desk of Sen. Roger Wicker

S.1 a Raw Power Grab to Benefit One Party

This past week, Senate Democrats continued their headlong push for S.1, a sweeping bill that would upend the way our nation runs elections. The Senate Rules Committee, of which I am a member, held an all-day meeting that featured vigorous debate and allowed Republicans to offer amendments to remove the bill’s worst provisions. Unfortunately, Democrats blocked these amendments and are trying to pass the bill without any Republican votes. Yet the bill’s supporters face an uphill battle in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin has recently declared his opposition to the bill.

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Elections Would Be Less Secure

It is hard to overstate the damage S.1 would do if it ever became law. The bill, which is misleadingly named the “For the People Act,” would take the most irresponsible election policies from states like California and force them on all 50 states. Such a heavy-handed takeover from Washington would make our elections less secure and hurt public trust in the ballot box.

S.1 contains a litany of bad ideas. For starters, it would remove basic election security measures like photo ID requirements and witness signature verification for absentee ballots. It would force states to allow no-excuse mail-in voting, Election Day registration, and ballot harvesting – a practice in which paid operatives can deliver bundles of other people’s ballots to a polling station with little or no oversight. In addition, the bill would transform the bipartisan Federal Election Commission (FEC) into a partisan body controlled by the President. In a recent letter to congressional leaders, nine former FEC Commissioners warned that such a disastrous move would likely “destroy confidence in the fairness of American elections.”

This legislation would also shift the authority to redraw congressional maps from the states to “independent” federal commissions. The timing of this idea is suspect, given that congressional districts are set to be redrawn this year by state legislatures. Having failed to win control of any new legislatures in the 2020 election, liberal politicians are likely searching for a way to prevent elected Republicans from being involved in the congressional redistricting process.


Far-Left Lawmakers Trample First Amendment

S.1 has met resistance even from some liberal groups because of its blatant attacks on the First Amendment. The bill would send millions in tax dollars to political campaigns, forcing taxpayers to finance political messages they may oppose. It would also force nonprofit groups to publish the names of their donors, raising concerns about donor privacy and opening the door to intimidation of private citizens. These direct attacks on the First Amendment led the liberal ACLU to come out strongly against S.1.


Americans Support Election Integrity

Recent polls show that S.1 is clearly out of step with public opinion. Last month, a Pew poll showed that 76 percent of Americans support photo ID requirements to vote, including 65 percent of African-Americans and 61 percent of Democrats. Another poll showed that most Americans are concerned about ballot harvesting, most oppose tax dollars going toward campaigns, and most believe elections should be run by the states and not the federal government. Republicans stand with the American people on election security and state governance of our elections. I will continue doing everything I can to help build consensus in the Senate against this terrible bill.