Elections are a state matter—not a federal one.
The 10th Amendment to our U.S. Constitution wisely states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Elections fall under this, as was made even more clear by the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 2002 Help America Vote Act.
But that seems to have been lost on many on Capitol Hill, following the unsettled period we predicted from Nov. 6, 2020 to Jan. 20, 2021 in our “79 Days to Inauguration Simulation.” While 74 million Americans don’t trust in the results of the election, and while even a significant number of the winning party concede that the election may not have been honest, we won’t restore trust in our elections or achieve any sort of unity through federal overreach.
Yet overreach is exactly what the federal election omnibus bill is aiming for. H.R.1 contains plank after plank of bad policy, reflecting the “shadow campaign” that changed the rules of the game in the 2020 election mid-stream, legalizing many practices that had previously been illegal.
H.R. 1 brushes aside states’ authority by loosening everything from voter ID standards to voter roll maintenance (already protected by HAVA), and eligibility for mail in ballots. Roll in the usual chestnut of “dark money,” despite major injections of cash by the Center for Tech and Civic life in dense urban progressive centers in 2020 and the third rail of election administration redistricting or “gerrymandering,” and you have a colossal bill that purports to stamp out election fraud but does little to address the real problems that far predated COVID 19.
It also raises donor privacy issues and significant free speech concerns, leaving Americans to be mercilessly bullied by the media-enabled cancel culture that currently prevails.
What’s more, even experts can be dubbed conspiracy theorists or accused of fomenting insurrection if they point out, as we have, legitimate instances of voter fraud. A brief look at the Heritage Foundation’s database, or our own Attorney General Ken Paxton’s website reveals a plethora of information the so called “fact checkers” always seem to miss.
And hyperbole is alive and well in framing this massive package of bad ideas. This terrible legislation is titled the “For the People Act.”
There is some hope—but as usual, it comes from the states, not Washington D.C. My organization, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is working with members of Congress to help reform elections, while respecting the Tenth Amendment and proper separation of powers.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has rightly designated restoring trust and confidence in the integrity of our elections as an “emergency” agenda item for the 87th Texas Legislature this year. Our Secure and Free Elections Agenda, and forthcoming research our project has produced, point to a number of effective policies that can address the broken chain of custody and fraud in mail-in ballots, the inaccurate and outdated voter rolls that enable ballot harvesters and fraudsters to ply their craft, as well as ensuring the Secretary of State holds counties to account if they are deficient in their duties of administering elections.
Even small changes such as modifying state law to allow poll watchers and election staff to work in a location outside their county would help to ensure equal and more impartial representation at the polls and central counting.
We have an opportunity here to ensure that the voices of all Texan count. And if the Lone Star State leads by example, all Americans can feel their votes matter If, that is, policymakers have the courage to both do the right things, and not do the wrong ones.