Posted by 11 March 2019
On a party line vote of 234-193, the House of Representatives on Friday passed a major overhaul of election and campaign finance law.
H.R. 1, cosponsored by 236 House Democrats, would make numerous changes to U.S. election procedure and place new restrictions on organizations that engage in political speech. Among other things, it would:
- Mandate that certain nonprofit corporations engaging in political speech report their donors to the government
- Mandate that social media companies report the names of those who pay for political ads to the government
- Require members of Congress to use personal funds to settle employment discrimination suits
- Require states to implement automatic, online and same-day voter registration
- Mandate how states remove ineligible voters from the rolls
- Establish a pilot program to provide government funding for citizens to contribute to candidates
This legislation was part of the Democrats pledge during the 2018 election to reduce what they perceive as barriers to voting and combat what they call “dark money” in elections. Their argument was that states are discouraging people from voting by making it more difficult, so the federal government has a responsibility to step in and standardize how states run elections. They also contended that some nonprofit corporations are engaged in electioneering when they talk about public policy issues, so this spending should be more heavily controlled by the government.
Republicans pushed back against this bill, saying that many of its provisions violated free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union also raised these free speech concerns, saying that parts of H.R. 1 were an unconstitutional restriction on speaking freely. Some members of Congress also objected to the federal government removing much of the ability of states to run elections.
While no Republican voted in favor of the bill, some did offer amendments. One amendment would have expressed the sense of Congress that free speech, including contributing to political speech, was a fundamental right. Republicans also attempted to return the bill to the Judiciary Committee with the instruction to add language expressing disapproval of illegal aliens voting (some localities, such as San Francisco, allow residents to vote in some local elections regardless of citizenship status). None of these Republican attempts was successful. A Democratic amendment to lower the voting age to 16 also failed with broad bipartisan opposition.
The legislation now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will almost certainly not schedule a vote.
Do you think that nonprofits that engage in political speech should report their donors to the government? Should voter registration be automatic? Should 16-year-olds be able to vote? Are you concerned about cities allowing illegal aliens to vote in local elections, such as for school board?