DC’s Election Takeover Is Unconstitutional And Impractical – Leave It To The States

In the minds of American voters, Election Day is our nation’s electoral Super Bowl. Hear me out on this — the vast majority of Americans’ lives do not revolve around politics, but most of us make an effort to engage as a voter and accept the final results. Similarly, even those who are not fans of professional football know when the big game will air and at least tune in for the halftime show and commercials. And of course, we all make sure we know the final score before heading into work the next morning. Being a part of the big game makes us feel connected — whether as a Super Bowl party host or just a conversation starter at the water cooler.  

The only thing that will overshadow the winning team’s headlines on Monday morning is a terrible, game-changing call by the referees. Regardless of whether our home team is in the championship game, we all want to see a good game — a fair game. We all want — no, we expect a fair election. Ensuring a good game on Election Day means keeping our voter rolls up to date, registering as many new eligible voters as possible, and maintaining the security of our election system so that regardless of whether or not your candidate won our nation can trust the headlines the next morning. 

When our new Congressional majority leaders renewed their push of a massive bill package to federalize our election system as their number one priority, I think common sense Americans widely assumed that this effort would involve working across the aisle to ensure success. Surely a serious push to upend all of the game rules, player eligibility requirements, and referee guidelines would call for support from all sides. But it quickly became apparent that bipartisanship was not part of the success strategy as we watched the House majority rush their nearly 800-page bill through committee and a floor vote without even considering just one of the 25 amendments offered by Republicans. 

Senators Blunt (R-MO), Hagerty (R-TN), and the rest of our Constitution-protecting lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee laid bare the terrible policies established in S.1. If DC lawmakers move forward with this unconstitutional takeover of our election system, then we will have our taxpayer dollars funding campaigns — meaning, candidates will be able to take a salary that is supported by public funds prior to being elected. 

Many states, like Tennessee, Indiana, New York and Wisconsin, will have their voter ID laws totally undermined. Unelected “redistricting commissions” will be given the power to redraw a state’s congressional district lines, without having to answer to the state’s constituents. We will be required to allow ballot harvesting and install unsecured drop boxes. Online speech will be fettered more generally, and a fence will be built between constituents and their elected officials. 

On Election Day, voters will be allowed to register in their state for the first time. What’s to prevent a citizen from voting early in Tennessee and then deciding to make their “home” in another state on election day, only to then change their mind and return to the original home state after the election? 

Taking all of the bad policy aside, this massive election overhaul proposal is impractical. If the DC-based drafters of HR/S1 would have taken the time to gather input from those of us who would actually be responsible for implementing these extensive changes, then they would have found consistent feedback on at least one thing: carrying out the mandates of this bill would be a nightmare. 

One would imagine we had already learned our lesson when it comes to nationalizing authorities or systems that belong to the states — DC can’t handle it. We can look to recent history and the “Affordable” Care Act. The process of transforming a state-based system into a nationwide one has failed time and time again. Lest we forget the disastrous rollout of the federal health care insurance website. That experience alone gives me little hope in DC bureaucrats’ ability to design a system that allows federal and state agencies to connect and communicate sensitive voter registration information — a necessity to fulfill one of the HR/S1 provisions requiring automatic voter registration of any citizen who simply interacts with an agency to utilize government services. Apart from the complexities involved with fulfilling this provision, it would also establish a mechanism to capture and register ineligible individuals in the voter rolls. 

In one attempt to ensure credibility in our election system, this bill includes a provision requiring states to purchase paper-backed voting machines. These machines must meet newly released standards from the Election Assistance Commission and states must purchase them by either the beginning of 2022 or the general election in November, 2024 (the bill text is unclear). While Tennessee’s counties continue to make the transition to paper-based election equipment, the timeline established by bill drafters completely disregards reality. Even if the deadline discrepancy is cleared up, these new EAC certified machines are still being developed and tested, meaning they probably won’t be widely available to states until 2025. 

If DC moves forward with this federal overhaul of our election system, then they are knowingly setting up states for failure. Taking into account the topline provisions of HR/S1, this bill changes well over 200 election laws and completely upends how we do elections. It is unconstitutional, and Tennesseans should not be told how to run our elections by New York and California. Politicians in Washington need to stay in their own lane and stop trying to control how we select our government officials. 

I have spent the past 12 years working to ensure that all Tennesseans’ voices are heard at the ballot box. Striving to preserve the integrity of a fair and free election is a laudable and necessary goal, but HR/S1 does not get the job done. Instead, we must keep our voting process secure and keep states in control.

Tre Hargett has served as Tennessee’s 37th Secretary of State since 2009. He previously served for ten years in the Tennessee House of Representatives and was twice elected Republican Leader.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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