Let’s talk about H.R.1
BridgeND | Wednesday, March 17, 2021
In a recent opinion piece, Mike Pence wrote that “after a year in which our nation has endured a global pandemic, economic hardship and a contentious election, now is not the time to further inflame passion and division. It’s time for our nation’s leaders to help heal America.” No, he did not write this in response to the insurrection at the Capitol in January. Pence said this in response to a recently introduced bill, H.R.1, that would expand voting rights and accessibility for all Americans.
How did we get to this point that expanding access to voting is polarized?
The answer to this question is not one that can be answered just by the claims of fraud from Donald Trump and his team this past election cycle. He is not the first politician to make unfounded claims of voter fraud, nor will he be the last. In fact, claims of voter fraud to disenfranchise voters have been around since the 19th century when women gained the right to vote, and again during the Jim Crow era when 85% of a Louisiana city’s African American voters were purged from the voting list.
The problem with making widespread claims of voter fraud is that it works.
Injecting a fundamental distrust into our political system by spreading the idea that your vote is not safe and will be manipulated has led to states, mostly Republican governed, to attempt to seriously restrict voting access. For example, a bill in Georgia was recently introduced to prohibit voting on Sundays, a day that many Black voters go to the polls together after church. There was also a bill introduced in Georgia to repeal no-excuse absentee voting. Additionally, Wisconsin Republicans proposed a bill that would make it illegal for staff at assisted living facilities to remind their residents to vote.
The solution to these problems is H.R.1, a recent bill introduced in the House that would expand voting rights and protect against disenfranchisement.
This bill includes measures such as enacting automatic voter registration in every state as well as same day voter registration for both early voting and those going to the polls on election day. The bill also requires states to create independent redistricting committees made up of a bipartisan committee of individuals who aren’t lawmakers, similar to a proposal passed in Michigan in 2018. As someone from one of the most gerrymandered districts in Michigan, this point of the bill is especially important to me.
H.R.1 also addresses issues like campaign finance reform and ethics standards for elected officials and Supreme Court Justices. While this bill has a strong chance of failing in the Senate, it is important that the barriers people face to voting are addressed at a national level.
While the bill faces many criticisms from Republicans, including from Kevin McCarthy who claims the bill is “not designed to protect your vote. It’s designed to put a thumb on the scale of every election in America and keep the swamp swampy,” there is one argument against the bill in particular that needs to be addressed.
In the same op-ed as mentioned above, Mike Pence claims that “election reform is a national imperative, but under our Constitution, election reform must be undertaken at the state level.” I’m not here to argue against the Constitution; in fact, I do believe that in terms of administering elections, individual state mandates are the most effective way to ensure a smooth election. However, these national reforms are required when states are using the claims of Trump and Pence from the 2020 election to further disenfranchise (especially minority) voters.
At this point in time, when blatant voter suppression is happening right before our eyes, I do not think it is a stretch to say that any election reform measure, whether passed at the state or national level, is a step too far. To ensure that in 2022, and 2024, and for the next 100 years that all elections can be done efficiently and with confidence that anyone who wants to vote has the ability to, national reforms like H.R.1 are absolutely necessary.
Voter fraud is not a widespread problem, but voter suppression is. A bill like H.R.1 is needed to ensure that this problem is minimized before the 2022 midterms. Voting is not (should not) be a partisan issue; through expanding the right to vote, we are expanding our democratic principles.
Rachel Stockford is a sophomore living in Welsh Family Hall. She is the Director of Operations for BridgeND, a non-partisan political education and discussion group committed to bridging the partisan divide through honest, respectful and productive discourse. If you’re interested in discussing accessibility to voting alongside many other political topics, BridgeND meets weekly on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. You can contact the club at [email protected] on Twitter @bridge_ND.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.