Representative Rosendale's Op-Ed On HR-1 "For The People Act"
March 10, 2021 | View PDF
As a country, we’ve just come through easily the worst election of my lifetime and one where obvious weaknesses in our system were exposed. Most Montanans I talk to are eager to put those passions behind them and get back to normal. Turning down the temperature is going to take work from us all, but one thing that is definitely needed is an election process everyone agrees is fair and transparent. We rely on elections to settle disputes over our most closely-held values.
We had an election where key states took days to call. Several states ignored their own election laws disregarding signature verification and deadline dates. We lacked understanding of basic information surrounding the vote, including how many votes were cast, a key protector against fraud. For example, if the overall number of votes cast is known quickly after the close of the polls, it becomes much more difficult to “find” batches of votes. The problems in the 2020 election led to millions of Americans lacking confidence in the results.
My colleagues in the other party have proposed H.R. 1, a bill they call the “For the People Act.” If the bill went into law it would provide taxpayer financing for campaigns, provide instant and automatic voter registration, dramatically expand mail-in voting, place major restrictions on cleaning nonvoters from registration rolls, and eliminate photo ID requirements to vote.
The impact of the bill would be to make it much, much easier to vote regardless, whether you were eligible or not, under the theory that higher turnout is beneficial to democracy. But this isn’t true. Voter turnout has skyrocketed, election after election since 2012. Many of the problems with low turnout in the last decades stemmed from wrong estimations of voter turnout and voter apathy. In 2020, 158 million Americans voted for president, up from 139 million in 2016, and 129 million in 2012. The voting eligible population is about 239 million, to put that into perspective.
One of the most basic civil rights I believe Americans ought to have is to be left alone. If you’re not hurting anyone, you ought not be forced into doing something you don’t want. This bill goes against that principle by forcing people to subsidize politicians with taxpayer dollars. I wouldn’t want to be forced to fund Nancy Pelosi’s political race, just as I am sure people would not want to be forced to fund mine.
Instead of a massive expansion of federal control of elections to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, let me lay out some of what I believe we need to do for common sense reform. Voting should be in person with a photo ID as much as possible to ensure you are whom you say. It should be as easy and convenient as possible. In particular I think Election Day should be a holiday. We should have plenty of secure, polling places, and paper ballots to ensure we have a clear trail of how people voted.
We should take steps to ensure we have elections with integrity by doing basic things like updating voter rolls on a regular basis. We should maintain and pay for a significant number of professional polling workers to supplement the volunteers that make elections possible, and we should mandate reporting quickly and accurately according to established procedures. The federal government should help pay for this with a large, easy-to-administer grant, with none of the numerous strings that come along with the current funding streams.
Bipartisan reform is not a pipe dream. This happened at the federal level in 2002 after the Florida fiasco in the presidential election of 2000 with the Help America Vote Act. Florida went from the worst state for election integrity to reporting cleanly, quickly and fairly. I believe if we all work together, the country can do the same.
Matt Rosendale (R-MT) is the United States Representative for the state of Montana.