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Lingering 2020 bitterness inflames debate as Democrats push massive election reform bill

Lingering 2020 bitterness inflames debate as Democrats push massive election reform bill

by Emily Brooks | Washington Examiner  |  Published on March 2, 2021

Lingering bitterness over the 2020 election is making debate over Democrats’ massive H.R. 1 election overhaul bill particularly heated as they push forward the “For the People Act,” with a House vote on the legislation expected this week.

“This is a bill that is about preserving the present Democratic majority. It is a bill by the majority, for the majority and is intended to entrench the majority in power for years to come,” House Rules Committee ranking member Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said in a statement on Monday.

Republicans railed against the bill for creating a “one-size-fits-all voter registration system” — it would require states to use automatic voter registration for federal elections and allow same-day voter registration, among other measures — and mandating redistricting systems.

Also at issue are what Republicans say are measures that would hinder free speech. H.R. 1 would require certain politically active groups, including 401(c)3 “dark money” nonprofit organizations, to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more, and it would expand the definition of election-related communication and reduce the influence of independent expenditure-only “super PACs,” among other measures.

A version of the bill passed the House in the last Congress and is set to do so again this week. Every House Democrat has signed on to being a co-sponsor of the bill.

Republican opposition to the massive bill is fueled by leftover concerns about election laws, such as mail-in voting changes that they believe may have helped tilt the election toward now-President Biden in key swing states. As former President Donald Trump continues to insist falsely that he won the 2020 election, the conservative activist base is highly in tune with the issue: “Election integrity” was the top issue of importance for attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference who took a straw poll.

But when it comes to H.R. 1, the fallout from the 2020 election is equally inflammatory and motivating for Democrats, who are still reeling over the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol building by Trump supporters as dozens of Republicans objected to accepting the Electoral College results from key swing states where Trump narrowly lost.

“Don’t get on the high horse and object to nationalizing elections when the big lie promulgated by Donald Trump and his henchmen was perpetuated by the votes to decertify Pennsylvania’s election and Arizona’s election,” Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado said in Monday’s Rules Committee.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois had a heated debate over redistricting measures in the bill, as well as speech issues created by the disclosure requirement.

“You’re speaking to somebody who’s actually gotten the annual award of the ACLU for standing up to free speech,” Raskin said.

“I’m glad you got the award from the ACLU. You might not get it this year for your support of H.R. 1,” Davis responded.

Republicans in the House and Senate have signed on to an alternative to the Democrats’ bill with the “Save Democracy Act,” a proposal crafted in the House Republican Study Committee that has versions introduced in both the House and the Senate.

That bill would tighten, rather than loosen, requirements to vote, largely proposing the opposite of measures in Democrats’ H.R. 1: It would require people who register to vote to provide their social security number and to have identification when voting, and it would prohibit automatic voter registration.

H.R.1, should it pass the House, faces roadblocks in the Senate, although Democrats have a narrow majority in the chamber and can bring the legislation for a vote.

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