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You might have heard Senator Mike Lee comment on what’s called the ‘For the People Act,’ or HB1 of the current session–and it’s a big bill.
There’s a lot in it, but I’ll try to summarize briefly:
It has three main sections – voting/elections, campaign finance and ethics. The first section deals with reducing barriers to elections, setting standards for elections and increasing funds for election security. The second section deals with improving transparency in spending and protecting against foreign interference. And the third–ethics, which focuses on lobbyist disclosure and preventing conflicts of interest by everyone from staffers all the way up to presidents.
Whew – that’s a lot.
When Fox News asked Senator Lee what his biggest problem was with the bill, he said, “I disagree with every single word of the bill including the words ‘but’, ‘and’ and ‘the’. Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. It’s as if the bill was written in hell by the devil himself.”
Hold the phone. That’s a lot to disagree with.
The interview didn’t get into everything, so let’s focus on one issue. The ‘For the People Act’ would implement automatic voter registration nationwide. The Fox host said to the senator: “We want everyone to vote, right?”
Senator Lee’s response was: “It is up to each and every state to decide how to register voters and how to maintain current lists of voters in each state.”
That’s when the bells started going off in my head.
Remember when some states used to charge a poll tax in order to register to vote, making it so only the ones who could afford to pay the tax could vote?
Some of you may be too young to remember these terrible times, so here is a little history. There were some states that used a literacy test before you could register, a scheme that disqualified far more Black Americans than white ones. Some states got creative and would only register you to vote if you had two registered voters who would vouch for you. That was a good one.
Should we really leave it entirely up to each state to decide how to register voters and maintain current lists of voters? Right now, some states allow you to vote absentee for any reason, and some states require you to convince them that you have a good enough reason, as defined by them. Some states let you register on the day of the election and some don’t. Some states restore the voting rights of American citizens who complete their sentence after being convicted of a felony, and some don’t, and some don’t only for certain kinds of felonies.
The right to vote in a federal election is a very different thing depending on where you live in America. Should such a basic American right be exercised so differently depending on whether you live in Alabama or Hawaii or Pennsylvania?
One of the goals of the ‘For the People Act’ would be to make the right to vote more consistent no matter where you live in the United States. You may or may not agree with the dozens of other things in the bill, but it’s pretty hard to argue with that one.
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