Commentary: H.R.1 is not for the people; it is against the people

H.R.1, derisively entitled the “For the People Act,” is an aggressive federal takeover of the administration of all elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi/Facebook

The 117th Congress has openly declared war on the right of the People of the United States to determine how we elect our representatives and ultimately how we will be governed. The House passed H.R.1  on March 3, 2021; it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top priority, and it should be every American’s top target for defeat. If H.R.1  becomes the law of the land, self-governance and America’s already low confidence in election results will simultaneously come to an abrupt end.

H.R.1, derisively entitled the “For the People Act,” is an aggressive federal takeover of the administration of all elections and, among other things, directs how states redraw congressional district lines following the census. H.R.1 had its first Senate hearing March 24, so it is time to get very active as a citizen if you value your vote and your freedom.

H.R.1 opens the door to government-sanctioned opportunities for voter fraud; it is even worse than the already wildly negligent approach taken by Minnesota: it effectively prohibits voter ID (a sworn statement is good enough); requires 15 days of early voting and the use of drop boxes; forces states to offer vote by mail; criminalizes attempts by election officials to determine a voter’s eligibility while allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register and automatically registering individuals in government databases without confirming citizenship; allows felons to vote who have completed “any part” of their sentence; forces states to accept ballots arriving 10 days after election day, and much, much more.

Under the Constitution, all fifty states could adopt most of the provisions in H.R.1 right now. But Congress does not have that authority.

One of the reasons the states ratified the U.S. Constitution back in 1789 is that it struck a power-sharing deal: while Congress reserved the right to intervene, state legislatures were entrusted with the administration of not just their own elections, but also elections for federal offices. (State legislatures were also empowered to choose the president through the electoral college, and until the 17th amendment passed, selected U.S. senators.)

That states would be in charge of running local and state elections was never up for debate in 1787; the colonies already ran their own elections independent of parliament. It would have been inconceivable to any self-respecting colonist that the new Congress would be given that kind of power over the People and the states. But Alexander Hamilton and others worried that the states might refuse to hold elections for federal offices; he successfully argued that while states could administer their own and federal elections, the Constitution had to reserve some power to Congress. The states eventually agreed and ratified Article 1, Section 4, which reads:

“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations ….” 

Since the start of the Republic, Congress has asked the states to ratify amendments to the Constitution (e.g., Civil War amendment confirming the right of all black men to vote; women’s suffrage in 1920; lowering voting age to 18 in 1970). Congress has also passed important civil rights legislation to reinforce the voting rights of all eligible citizens, no matter their race or sex. The courts have also intervened when states fail to honor the voting rights of citizens.

But Congress has largely left the routine administration of elections to the People at the state level — until now.

By passing H.R.1, the House has expressed utter contempt for the Constitution and the idea that the People are competent to choose representatives at the local and state level, who are then entrusted with the authority to determine election laws.

If the Senate passes H.R.1, President Joe Biden says he will sign it into law. That will set off litigation; some state attorneys general (no, not Keith Ellison) have already said they would refuse to comply. Good for them. Would that save the day, at least for states that have leaders who will fight back? Not if Congress is ultimately found to have “pre-empted” the administration of elections and the courts failed to strike this down.

Which brings me to another point: H.R.1 tries to control how states and other litigants challenge the new law, requiring that cases be brought to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and appeals to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is arguably a liberal-leaning court (and will be more so with new Biden picks).

The point being it could be a long, arduous, and disappointing journey to the U.S. Supreme Court — a court that has refused to hear any recent election law cases of any consequence. A victory is never certain, and even less so with the high court under the constant threat of “court-packing” if Congress and Biden are not allowed to have their way with We the People.

As if the integrity of election laws and uncertain relief in the courts was not enough to motivate you to act, there is more at stake here: the radical leftists running the 117th Congress are so intent on securing a permanent majority, and passing other radical legislation like the Equality Act, that the Senate is seriously considering changing the filibuster rule that requires the majority to reach across the aisle to secure the agreement of at least 60 senators.

This is all truly awful, and you many be tempted to just give up. But please resist that temptation.

Minnesotans are in a unique position to influence this national crisis. Though Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar support stripping Minnesotans of the right to pass our own state election laws, Klobuchar chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee.

Please ask Sen. Klobuchar to be a leader instead of just following the leftist pack, and encourage her Democratic colleagues to back away from ending the filibuster. And ask both senators to turn back this congressional assault on state legislatures. Minnesota election laws are a national disgrace, but they are better than H.R.1, and who knows, maybe someday we could change them for the better.