With an impending vote on S. 1 — A.K.A. the “For the People Act” — scheduled for Tuesday thanks to Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Democrats are in disarray as they’re forced to move forward with a vote on the massive election reform overhaul that is doomed to fail.
Crucial swing vote Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has pledged his vote against the legislation, penning an op-ed in a hometown paper where he excoriated the bill, saying “partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy.”
Instead, Manchin is supporting a separate piece of voting legislation, H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, with support from moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.).
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to oppose that legislation as well, calling it “unnecessary.”
The entirety of New Hampshire’s all-Democrat congressional delegation is expected to back both pieces of legislation. Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster have both voted for H.R. 1/S. 1 in the House, and Sens. Hassan and Shaheen have pledged their support.
Under H.R. 1/S.1, federal law would ban states like New Hampshire from:
—Requiring voter ID.
–Requiring ID in order to register to vote.
–Requiring mail-in ballots to be witnessed; or
–Prohibiting or restrict “ballot harvesting,” the practice of campaign or party workers collecting ballots from voters and turning them in.
Conservatives have criticized both pieces of legislation, and in the case of the H.R. 4, say it “would give liberal bureaucrats in the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to veto changes of polling place locations, voter ID and registration requirements, and the boundary lines in redistricting in every single state.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is looking forward to the bill’s likely defeat.
“S.1, the Corrupt Politicians Act, is an assault on local control of elections and could cost New Hampshire its First-In-The-Nation primary status. It’s also a Washington bailout for the campaigns of Democrats like Maggie Hassan, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” NRSC Spokesman T.W. Arrighi told NHJournal. “Yet, Hassan co-sponsored this bill, ignoring warnings from officials in her own party like Secretary of State Bill Gardner. Should S.1 pass and be signed into law, New Hampshire’s elections will be severely damaged, and Maggie Hassan will be to blame.”
So what are the differences between The For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act?
As NHJournal has reported, the For the People Act would effectively ban states from requiring voter ID across the country.
This is a perplexing position when so many Americans are in favor of voter ID laws. According to a new Monmouth poll released late Monday, 80 percent of Americans support requiring some form of identification to be eligible to cast a ballot. The same poll found that only 18 percent of the public is in opposition to that statute.
The John Lewis bill does not outright ban voter identification, but conservatives say it undermines reasonable ID efforts.
Now that Manchin has signaled his support for the John Lewis Act, and S. 1 seems poised to fail, Democrats are scrambling to pretend they have always supported voter ID provisions.
Last week, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) told NBC News he has “never been opposed” to such laws. According to an investigation from Fox News, Warnock has been opposed to them for years. In fact, just hours after the NBC News interview aired, Warnock sent out a fundraising email that asked respondents to signal their support for “repealing strict and burdensome voter ID laws.”
The For the People Act would take redistricting power away from the states, and instead cede it to the federal government. The bill would establish an election commission in Washington that would decide what New Hampshire and other state’s legislative maps look like. Currently, each state has the power to draw its own legislative maps under the U.S. Constitution and many scholars believe this provision of the law is unconstitutional.
New Hampshire’s long-serving secretary of state, Bill Gardner, has been vocal about his opposition to measures like this.
“It would just be a federal takeover of the election process in New Hampshire. So instead of the New Hampshire legislature, the state House and Senate, deciding how our elections should be here, this is going to be a federal decision,” Gardner said.
Similar to voter ID, H.R. 4 does not outright ban states from drawing their own district boundaries, but it does give the Department of Justice a veto pen over state voting laws.
As NHJournal has reported, the For the People Act would force American taxpayers to foot the bill for political campaigns, everything from attack ads to expensive hotel rooms for candidates for federal office. The legislation offers $6 for every $1 a candidate raises in small-dollar contributions, meaning that if Pappas should raise $3 million from small-dollar donors, taxpayers would be writing an $18 million check to his campaign.
Manchin has signaled his disdain for taxpayer-funded elections, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act has no such provisions in it.
On Monday, the Republican National Committee held a protest in front of Hassan’s office saying “Protect NH, Reject S. 1” and “Protect Voter ID” to pressure the embattled Senator to oppose the legislation.
Neither Hassan nor Shaheen responded to multiple NHJournal requests for comment on their support of the For the People Act, or their position on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, or whether they support eliminating the filibuster in order to pass those pieces of legislation.