Opinion: H.R. 1 Would Undermine The Rule Of LAw And Free Speech In The U.S.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill they are calling the ‘For the People Act,’ or H.R. 1. The bill has circulated since 2019 and has yet to make a Senate appearance. This legislation is an attempt to bar restrictions against access to voting.
The 791-page Act contains a proposed reform to the existing guidelines for campaign finance, but the primary focus (and the reason there is so much controversy) of this Act would take the intended rights of the people given under the Constitution for voting legislation into the hands of the federal government, undermining the nation’s rule of law.
While good reform could come out of this exhaustive bill, it would only come in extremely narrow ways.
Voting functions as a whole were constitutionally devised in a way that would give power to the people to vote without any discrimination, per the 15th Amendment among others. Those in the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, vocalizing that it would fight restrictions set in place by the GOP to narrow access to ballots, according to the Washington Post.
There seems to be an ever-increasing tension between the Democratic party and its counterpart. In the case of voting, the Republican party trends toward restricting certain access to mail-in ballots and other impromptu forms of voting that became popular in the 2020 Presidential Election as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Opposition is officially found in the heavily Democratic H.R. 1, which, according to the Washington Post, may in part be a direct response to Donald Trump and his opposition to releasing his tax returns during the Presidential race.
The ‘For the People Act’ masks itself as one that would improve diversity and lessen discrimination. Under Section 1094, integration of mail-in and early ballots will become more popular as well as the introduction of a younger voting acceptance age, which Fox News Reports would be 16 years old. Thus, this act may feel somewhat ‘for the people,’ while inadvertently adding many additional motives that will be harmful to the election process exercised by ‘we the people.’
It is no wonder, however, that within a 791-page article, there are actually some policies that make sense and would be good for the election process. The most notable seems to be that of campaign finance improvements.
With the ‘For the People Act,’ more accountability for taxes and campaign spending will be introduced to the president, vice president, and presidential nominees. Under subtitle B, the ‘Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending In Elections,’ or the ‘DISCLOSE Act,’ this reform will require them to disclose their tax records, both personal and business.
However, these good things do not outweigh the detrimental harm that it could cause as well. As Republicans have made clear, this mammoth introduction to federalized elections is more of an attempt to cement Democratic power than anything, as stated by ABC News. Encased in what could either be good intentions or a major conspiracy is the attempt to make the voting process less influenced by the people and more uniformly determined by the government.
So, what is the harm in an election process federally controlled as opposed to its current function of being legislated by the state?
Under the Constitution, the United States voting process has always been one done by the people. Even passing bills and amendments requires motions from both parties and double-approval (in some cases) of the House and Senate. On March 17, 2021, Mike Lee, a Republican Senator from Utah wrote for USA Today, arguing that the first amendment to the Constitution is not one made for governing authorities, but for the governed. He adds that the Constitution gives the people the strength to hold political leaders accountable.
When the voices of the American people are removed, the pathway to the presidency becomes too easy. When the ability for the American people to mitigate decisions about the elections is removed, freedom of speech is compromised. If not dissipated, the power of America’s foundational freedoms would be minimized to somewhat of a courtesy from the government. Their speech would be heard, no doubt, but it would not provide influence on the election.
In the (very) long-term, this could lead to a completely different government. This, of course, would utterly ruin bipartisanship in the United States. There would be no sway from differing parties and certainly no balance in the United States government.
H.R. 1 is an act that could, over time, turn America into a uniform, one-party nation run more by the government than the people. Elections could change. Campaigns could change. The power of the singular American vote could be minimized to a feeble shout in a crowd of thousands.
Justin Bower is an Opinion Writer.