HR-1 Guts Free Speech, Fair Elections, States’ Rights

By Robert B. CharlesFebruary 11, 2021

The first piece of Democrat legislation – H.R. 1 – is ponderous, a stunning attempt to curtail Americans’ 1st Amendment rights, institutionalize potential election fraud, and clip states’ rights. Here is how.

Democrats want to redefine free speech and the electoral process, Constitution notwithstanding.  H.R. 1 would restrict, monitor, and intimidate political speech, including non-profits and conservative donors, while institutionalizing potential fraud by banning voter ID laws, forcing mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, same-day and online registration, and one-party FEC (Federal Election Commission) control.

The bill is a breathtaking gambit, and Democrats hope to pass it before America wakes up.  The goal is to lock-in one-party control while they have it.  Can you imagine anything more anti-constitutional, anti-democratic, or anti-American? Yet a thoughtful reading of HR 1 is all the proof anyone should need – that enormous mischief is afoot, with terrible downstream effects for election transparency, electoral integrity, America’s two-party system, and public trust in the franchise, that is, the sanctity of our vote.

Title by title, this bill is a legal abomination, an end-run around the US Constitution and two centuries of caselaw.  While Americans are admittedly exhausted, frustrated with politics, many sad, mad, under the weather, and plain pooped – this is not the time to falter.  Key rights are trampled under this bill.  Few Americans realize, even now, this is happening – which is why free speech needs to be used.

Ironically, tracking 2020 election practices, talking about ethics and voter participation, Democrats are angling to force passage through the Senate in 2021, having already pushed passage through the House in 2020.  The outcome would be a shocking and fundamental change in how Americans speak and vote.

For starters, the bill would seek to make permanent – using federal preemption – many practices used in 2020 contested states, including mass mail-in ballots (no reason required), ballot harvesting (third-party collection and deposit of ballots), same-day voter registration (permitting last minute registration in multiple venues, no check on duplication, longer lines, higher costs), automatic registration on school and DMV records (triggering ineligible registrations), mandatory early voting (preempting many state constitutions and cycle completion), online registration (again fraught with fraud potential), criminalizing state actions that inhibit online registration, making election day a federal holiday (again preempting state practice), authorize 16-year-olds to register (with amendments to allow 16-year-olds to vote), restrict removal of suspect names by states (barring it entirely for any reason six months before election), give voting rights to felons (violating many state norms), and create a “task force” to push voting in remote locations.

The bill would saddle American taxpayers with “public campaign financing” (details TBD), force political action committees to disclose names of donors (in an age of threats, intimidation, doxing, cancelling, firings, and social media removal), force one-party control on the FEC (to stop “gridlock”), expressly seeks to overturn Supreme Court precedent defending free political speech, and requires new financial disclosure for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and restrictions on inaugural committees.

Ominously, the bill pushes new (undetermined) ethics rules on the Supreme Court, creates statehood for DC – possibly Puerto Rico by amendment, and federalizes drawing congressional districts, ending (largely Republican) state control, and mandating districts get set with “no dilution of minorities’ electoral influence,” special focus on “communities of interest” – whatever these terms mean.

The FEC is then reduced to five members, creating a one-party advantage, and further directed to focus on digital options (i.e., Democrat measures associated with possible fraud), revealing political contributors (conflicting with constitutional law), and targeted enforcement (which would obviously disfavor the outnumbered party).

Not surprisingly, a wide swath of anti-conservative organizations support the effort, while virtually every civic organization tied to States’ rights, individual liberty, defense of Bill of Rights, and two-party parity oppose it.

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board, acutely focused on long term effects of partisanship, describe the bill as “designed to auto-enroll likely Democratic voters, enhance Democratic turnout, with no concern for ballot integrity.” Even the American Civil Liberties Union, no bastion of liberalism, argued it contains “provisions that unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations” including mandatory release of the names and addresses of donors to political organizations.

As these two diverse defenders of the Constitution point out, this bill is an overt attempt to game the electoral process for one party, by creating a one-party FEC, preempting and federalizing traditional States’ rights, intimidating voters, political organizations, and politically active contributors, implicitly threatening them with doxing, cancelling, embarrassment, and – in this moment – likely violence.

It is also an attempt to upend constitutional law relating to free speech and election procedure, creating a partisan, anti-democratic power grab, trying to force provisions on states and voters that would never pass muster at the Supreme Court, in most State courts, and for any rule of law conservatives.

In short, this amalgam of partisan prejudice is a constitutional abomination – a push to make permanent one-party rule, with no legitimate defense, no matter how you dress it up as reform.  It should be soundly rejected – while free speech and state control of elections still exists.