Americans don’t want a federal takeover of elections
- BY Sarah Coffey
When it comes to bureaucrats in D.C. taking over elections, Americans are saying no thanks.
After a failed attempt at ramming through the widely unpopular (and poorly named) For the People Act, Democrats in Congress have turned their attention to forcefully pushing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act through the Senate.
Under the guise of “protecting civil rights,” this bill would dramatically grow the federal government’s role in local elections at the expense of state and local control over elections.
The Left claims that this legislation is necessary for the “advancement” of civil rights, but let’s consider three reasons why that’s not the case…
1. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act will seize local and state control of elections from voters.
Bureaucrats in Washington don’t know how to run an election in Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, or elsewhere better than the people who live and vote in those states. The John Lewis Act takes power from state legislatures and allows the federal government to make decisions that should be made at the state and local level.
The result: Voters will lose their say in how local and state elections are conducted.
The bill would give the federal government control over local and state elections by requiring certain jurisdictions to get preapproval from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before enacting election laws.
After concerns about fraud and a lack of transparency in elections, many states have passed election reform laws to prohibit third-party funding of elections, require voter ID for absentee and in-person ballots, clean up voter rolls, prevent ballot harvesting, and more. In other words, even though Joan, an elderly voter in St. Louis, voted along with her community in favor of a law preventing ballot harvesting, the state would still need permission from the federal government to pass such a law.
The John Lewis Act would require federal permission for individual states to make laws like these for their own elections.
2. It’s a power grab.
The John Lewis Act dredges up a decades-old preclearance formula that was part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 as being outdated now that racial disparities in voter turnouts that had once justified the formula were simply no longer at play.
The preclearance formula was never meant to be permanent. The Heritage Foundation points out that it’s outdated and no longer relevant, as “the registration and turnout rates of black voters were on par with or even exceeded those of white voters in many of the covered states” by 2006.
The preclearance formula would require that certain targeted jurisdictions would have to first prove to the DOJ that any election reform law is not racist or discriminatory. This treats only certain jurisdictions as guilty until proven otherwise.
So why bring back the preclearance formula now, for only some states—most of them Southern states with Republican legislatures? Requiring federal approval for laws passed in a state is a blatant attempt to undermine election reforms passed at the state level that the current majority party doesn’t like.
If Missouri fell under this preclearance formula, it wouldn’t matter what reforms Joan’s state representatives passed in the legislature to secure elections. Her state would still have to prove its reforms were not discriminatory, and their ability to pass election reforms would be at the mercy of the DOJ.
This would even extend to such minute details as polling location addresses. A bureaucrat in the Beltway could decide where to locate the polling place of Danielle, a single mom living outside of Springfield. It’s not about “progress”—it’s about power.
3. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act empowers litigious activists and special interest groups, not voters.
The John Lewis Act isn’t about the ballot box—it’s about taking power from the states and from the legislatures that voters elected to office. The bill doesn’t empower or protect voters. Instead, it opens the door of opportunity for litigious activists, giving them the power to interfere with state election legislation.
The bill would allow activist groups to simply raise a “serious question” about an election law to obtain a court order preventing the law from going into effect. This would give activists and out-of-state groups more say in state laws than legislatures and the voters that elected them.
In effect, even though Joan and her neighbors, retired Air Force veterans Jim and Lisa, supported their legislature’s law to require voter ID, a Washington, D.C. lawyer could put a halt to an election reform that the legislature passed.
Does this sound like protecting voting rights? Most voters don’t think so: 57 percent of all voters say they’d be less likely to support the John Lewis Act when they know it would help special interest groups get what they want by engaging in costly lawsuits.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is bad for America
The bill isn’t about protecting voters, and Americans see that. More than half of all voters say they’d be less likely to support the legislation when they know it could allow federal officials to target certain states and override the will of the voters. And 63 percent of all voters say they’d be less likely to support it when the know it encourages special interest groups and elected officials to conspire together to weaken voting safeguards.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 already prohibits discrimination. The John Lewis Act does nothing to strengthen it. The bill is simply bad for America and for voters—it federalizes and further bureaucratizes a process that should be left to the states. Voters elect representatives to govern them—but the federal government is attempting to render that process null and void when it comes to election reforms, thereby disenfranchising every voter who casts a ballot.