Once a year, dignitaries gather in Selma, Alabama for the annual commemoration of 1965’s “Bloody Sunday” Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing.
During election cycles, many of those dignitaries are Democratic Party politicians, and even some seeking the highest office in the land, the United States presidency.
Last Sunday’s march was such an occasion. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) participated in the event, all of which have dabbled in the arena of presidential politics. If there was a takeaway from the occasion, Democrats are looking to make voter suppression and voting rights one of the main issues of the campaign.
“[T]here is no more fundamental right than the right to vote,” Clinton said to Selma marchers last Sunday. “It is under attack. It is under fire. It has got to be protected. No matter what else you care about, there is nothing more important than standing up and fighting for the right to vote right now.”
It is also on the agenda of this Democrat-controlled Congress. Right out of the gate, Democrats filed H.R. 1, titled as the For the People Act of 2019. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), includes a number of initiatives Democrats have long advocated.
Among those items included in the nearly 600-page bill are internet, automatic and same-day voter registration, restriction on removing or purging names from voter rolls,
“H.R. 1 is a nothing but a liberal wish list and massive government overreach forcing states into a one-size-fits-all approach to administering elections,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said to Breitbart News. “This partisan power grab was written behind closed doors by special interests aligned with the Democratic Party.”
Last month, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill testified before Rogers’ committee, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) about the integrity of the American voting system. Merrill, who has registered 1,211,906 new voters since taking office in 2015 (817,108 electronically), which raised the state’s tally of registered to voters to a total of 3,468, 747, questioned the Democrats’ universal approach.
“United States Senators and Members of Congress that are unwilling or unable to consider the fact that each state has unique laws and circumstances with different levels of resources must understand that the passage of H.R. 1 would create an ineffective system that will create additional hardships for the entities responsible for administering and conducting elections in their state, and potentially cause unnecessary damage to the credibility and security of our electoral process,” Merrill said to Breitbart News. “State leaders must be given the opportunity to build their system around their state’s laws and citizens regarding elections as is indicated in the United States Constitution.”
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, raised questions about the bill’s infringement on constitutionally protected free speech.
“HR 1 is one of the worst bills introduced in Congress in recent memory,” von Spakovsky said to The Daily Signal. “Many parts of it are unconstitutional and it is full of bad and unwise provisions that will restrict free speech and grassroots political activity, as well as hamper the ability of state government to ensure the security and integrity of the election process.”
Should H.R. 1 pass the House, it is not expected to be taken up by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
McConnell referred to the bill as “the Democrat Politician Protection Act” shortly after House Democrats unveiled it.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor