One of the biggest political battles this year is going to be over voting and elections. Democrats are pushing House Resolution 1 (H.R. 1), a big piece of legislation also known as the "For the People Act." The resolution would make it standard for states to have about two weeks of early voting, automatic voter registration and no-excuse mail-in voting, It would also crack down on gerrymandering, a practice in which state legislatures create congressional districts that are distorted and disfigured in an attempt to give their party an advantage. The House has already passed this proposal, and the Senate is beginning to take it up through the committee process. Yahoo News Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward explains what’s ahead and why finding a bipartisan solution may be an uphill battle.
JON WARD: One of the biggest political battles this year is going to be over voting and elections. Now, we've seen some of this playing out for years. One side says current election laws are too restrictive and keep people from voting. The other says that our system is vulnerable to wide scale cheating and we need to impose additional security measures.
So here's where things stand now.
- House Democrats are rethinking the entire US voting system.
- A landmark bill that would expand voting rights.
- Supporters say that H.R. 1 expands voting rights, reduces the influence of money in politics, and limits partisan gerrymandering.
JON WARD: Democrats are pushing House Resolution 1, a big piece of legislation also called "For the People Act," or H.R. 1 for short. The resolution would make it standard for states to have about two weeks of early voting, automatic voter registration and no-excuse mail-in voting. H.R. 1 would also crack down on gerrymandering, which is when state legislatures create congressional districts that are distorted and disfigured in an attempt to give their party an advantage. The House has already passed this proposal, and the Senate is now beginning to take it up through the committee process.
Now, you would think that most people would agree that we should try to make voting secure and accessible, that we should have confidence in the results, and that we should make it possible for as many people to cast a ballot as we can. However, while H.R. 1 is debated at the federal level, Republicans increasingly are seeking to make it harder to vote in individual states.
Not all these obstacles are crazy. There's a reasonable debate to be had over things like voter ID, which sound like common sense to a lot of people. But when Republicans in Texas require ID and then make it acceptable to use a gun license but not a student ID, as they did several years ago, that sends a message that these efforts may not really be so much about preventing cheating and may have more to do with gaining a political advantage. And then when you really dig into the issues of voting and election security, you realize that voter ID is a solution for a problem that largely does not exist.
BENJAMIN GINSBERG: We've been looking for fraud, and I know what evidence is available, and there's not anything like enough evidence to make the bold assertion that our elections are rigged and fraudulent.
JON WARD: But for two decades, Republicans have used claims of fraud and cheating to justify erecting obstacles to voting, starting with the Bush administration in the early 2000s, and then really accelerating after the Supreme Court removed a key component of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 in their Shelby versus Holder decision.
- At issue was a provision in the act that singled out states with a history of discrimination in voting, mostly in the South, and required them to get preclearance approval from the federal government before changing voting procedures.
JON WARD: Then, of course, came Trump and the fiction that the 2020 election was stolen.
DONALD TRUMP: We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.
We won this election and we won it by a landslide.
JON WARD: Which ultimately led to the January 6th assault on the US Capitol.
- Fight for Trump!
- Go! Up the stairs!
- They stole the election. They stopped the count and stole the election.
JON WARD: So now, many in the GOP, rather than telling voters the truth about the election, are using the confusion and concern generated by Trump's lies to try to shape elections in a way that they think will help them win in the future. And here's the thing. There's a lot of evidence that getting more people to vote doesn't actually favor one party over the other.
YUVAL LEVIN: Even the 2020 election, which Republicans feel like they didn't win, that's an election where it turned out there were 10 million more Republican voters than Republicans thought there were. Letting more people vote brings out more Republicans and Democrats.
JON WARD: And that brings us back to H.R. 1. The fact that it federalizes election laws is one of the main objections for a lot of conservatives. And with current filibuster rules, it can't pass in the Senate without 10 votes from Republicans. It doesn't look likely, however, that there are 50 Senate Democrats who will support abolishing the filibuster. Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California have all said they're opposed.
The larger question, though, is whether there's any hope of a bipartisan effort on making voting more secure and more accessible together at the same time. Democracy experts worry that even if it's the right thing to do to pass most of the reforms in H.R. 1, if only one party supports it, that will make democracy itself a political issue-- to which Democrats and some other democracy experts respond, it already is a political issue. Were you not watching on January 6th?
So we are in a tough position here. We need both parties to engage in good faith work on strengthening democracy, but good faith Republicans have been conditioned by their party to be inherently skeptical of making it easier to vote. And then there is an increasing amount of complete cynicism and dishonesty from Republicans following the Trump model.
YUVAL LEVIN: Republicans are in a bad place, because I think they find themselves arguing, in essence, that there ought to be fewer voters, which is, in my view wrong, and also, the wrong place to be as a political matter.
JON WARD: We can make our elections secure and accessible. The question is whether our politicians can work together to do so. And right now most, but not all, of the burden is on the GOP.