If you thought the 2020 election ran like a finely oiled machine, you’ll love what Democrats plan next. The Senate and House reserved their first bills, H.R.1 and S.1, for voting changes that would make mail balloting in a plague year seem buttoned up. We’ve gone through some details already, but it’s worth another word as the House prepares to vote this week.
Advocates present the legislation as a good-government reform that won’t favor either party. But H.R.1 is packed with provisions that would federalize election rules to dubious result; unsettle longstanding practices; end security measures that local officials think prudent; undermine public confidence; and increase the odds of contested outcomes.
Start with permanent pandemic rules. H.R.1 would create a federal right to a mail ballot, no excuse necessary. Registered voters couldn’t be made to submit “any form of identification as a condition of obtaining an absentee ballot,” except a signature or “affirmation.” State laws requiring mail votes to be notarized or signed by witnesses would be trumped. Late-arriving ballots, if postmarked on time, would be valid nationwide for 10 days after Election Day.
In other words, the bill would entrench last year’s emergency experiment, further turning Election Day into Election Quarter. H.R.1 would give Americans endless opportunities to relive the fun in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, which didn’t have a victor for 97 days. Out of Pennsylvania’s 10,097 late-arriving ballots last year, an alarming 6.6% did not have legible postmarks. A state Senate seat outside Pittsburgh turned on whether or not to count mail ballots that voters neglected to date. One county tallied them. The county next door did not. What if the White House were in the balance?
H.R.1 would overrule state laws against ballot harvesting, letting Americans nationwide “designate any person” to return a vote, provided the carrier “does not receive any form of compensation based on the number of ballots.” Also, states “may not put any limit on how many voted and sealed absentee ballots any designated person can return.” Yes, paid partisan operatives could go door to door, amassing thousands of votes, as long as they billed by the hour.