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Thune: Democrats’ Partisan Election “Reform” Bill a Thinly Veiled Power Grab

“Passing a huge, federal election ‘reform’ measure on a partisan basis would completely undermine one of the main purposes of election reform legislation, which is enhancing confidence in the integrity of our system.”

May 13, 2021

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed S. 1, a partisan election “reform” bill, which amounts to a thinly veiled power grab by Democrats to increase their chances of winning elections. The Democrats’ bill would, among other things, overturn popular voter ID laws in the states, make the federal election watchdog partisan, and spend taxpayer dollars on political campaigns.  

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, on Tuesday the Senate Rules Committee conducted its markup of S. 1 – the Senate version of Democrats’ election bill designed to increase Democrats’ chances of maintaining their currently tenuous hold on power.

“We’re told that passing this bill is urgent.

“We were told that in the last Congress too when Democrats first proposed this legislation.

“There were serious election problems, they said, and we needed to pass this legislation to address them.

“Then, of course, we had the 2020 elections – which Democrats won, and which featured record voter turnout.

“So it became just a little difficult for Democrats to argue that there were grave problems with our electoral system.

“But they still really, really want to pass this bill – a bill that contains what one respected legal scholar has called “some of the most blatantly partisan, most obviously unconstitutional, and most unwise provisions ever passed by a chamber of Congress.” 

“So they’ve had to come up with a new rationale for trying to jam through this legislation.

“And now we’re being warned about a new crisis: States are debating election administration measures that will return our nation to the Jim Crow era, and so we have to pass S. 1 to prevent the damage these states are going to do.

“The only problem, of course, is that this crisis is as manufactured as the last one.

“Take Georgia.

“Democrats have made Georgia a poster child for the need to pass election legislation.

“‘Georgia's new voting law,’ the Senate Democrat whip asserted, ‘is a deliberate effort to suppress voters, particularly voters of color.’

“The president feverishly described the Georgia law as “Jim Crow on steroids.”

“The only problem with that argument, Mr. President?

“‘[T]he law does not put up roadblocks to Black Americans registering to vote.’

“Those aren’t my words.

“Those are the words of the Washington Post Fact Checker.

“But Democrats haven’t allowed facts or reason to intrude when it comes to their characterizations of Georgia’s election law.

“The Democrat whip has come down to the floor and claimed that the Georgia law makes it a crime to give water to voters in line.

“In fact, while the law does place restrictions on activists and candidates handing out water and other items – an obvious conflict – it explicitly permits neutral election officials to offer voters water.

“The president has repeatedly claimed that the law is designed to keep working Americans from voting.

“Except it’s not.

“The Post gave the president four Pinocchios – a rating the Post reserves for, quote, ‘whoppers’ – for that claim. 

“In fact, as the Post’s Fact Checker piece makes clear, there’s reason to think that the law might actually – wait for it – expand access to early voting.

“A fair-minded piece in the New York Times – hardly a newspaper that carries water for Republicans – concluded that the voting provisions of the Georgia law are, quote, “unlikely to significantly affect turnout or Democratic chances.”  

“Georgia’s voting laws are actually in some ways more permissive than voting laws in some Democrat-led states.

“Georgia allows more early voting than both the president and the Democrat leader’s home states.  

“And unlike Georgia, neither Delaware nor New York offers any no-excuse absentee voting.

“I look forward to seeing the president and the Democrat leader talk about how their home states are promoting voter suppression.

“Mr. President, the fact of the matter is, Georgia’s new election law is squarely in the mainstream when it comes to state election laws.

“The Georgia bill would likely have been barely a blip in the news cycle if Democrats hadn’t seen an opportunity to distort this bill to advance their electoral agenda.

“But I want to talk about the actual substance of Democrats’ bill – and why every member of Congress should be opposing it.

“Mr. President, we’re supposed to believe that this is an election integrity bill.

“In fact, it’s the complete opposite.

“This bill would undermine election integrity in this country.

“It would do everything from making our election system more susceptible to fraud to undermining voter faith in our electoral system by politicizing election law.

“Let me just highlight a handful of the bill’s worst provisions.

“Note that multiple amendments to address these concerns were voted down by Democrats at yesterday’s markup, which says a lot about the partisan nature of Democrats’ aims with this bill.

“First, this bill would make the Federal Election Commission into a partisan body.

“Let me just repeat that.

“This bill would make the Federal Election Commission – the primary enforcer of election law in this country – into a partisan body.

“Instead of an independent commission, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the FEC would become just a partisan arm of whatever president is in power.

“Tell me how that is supposed to enhance voter confidence in our system.

“Every single FEC ruling would be suspect.

“No Democrat voter would trust a Republican FEC, and no Republican voter would trust a Democrat one.

“Speaking of trust, let’s talk about election fraud.

“The bill takes aim at state voter ID laws – commonsense measures, strongly supported by the American people, to ensure that voters are who they say they are before they vote. 

“The Pew Research Center reports that 76 percent of Americans – including 61 percent of Democrats – support voter ID requirements.

“I’ve always been at a loss to understand congressional Democrats’ passionate opposition to requiring people to provide identification before voting.

“I haven’t heard Democrats spend a lot of time complaining about requiring people to have a photo ID to drive.  Or fly.  Or to go on a tour at the White House.

“But somehow asking people to provide an ID to vote is beyond the pale?

“Great Britain is actually planning to implement a voter ID requirement to prevent … you guessed it … electoral fraud.

“In fact, many European countries, including France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, require a form of identification to vote. 

“Canada requires a form of identification to vote.

“It’s difficult to understand Democrats’ fierce opposition to this commonsense fraud prevention measure.

“And while we’re on the subject of electoral fraud, let’s talk about ballot harvesting.

“In addition to effectively eliminating states’ voter ID requirements, S. 1 would also require that states allow ballot harvesting – the controversial practice of allowing political operatives to collect and submit ballots.

“Needless to say, ballot harvesting opens up a lot of questions about voter fraud and election integrity – to put it mildly.

“But the Democrats’ bill would not just permit states to allow it, it would require them to allow it.

“Mr. President, I could go on.  And on.  And on.

“S. 1 would allow unprecedented regulation of political speech and issue advocacy.

“It would impose disclosure requirements for organizations that would open up donors to retaliation and intimidation. 

“It would spend taxpayer dollars – possibly tens of millions of taxpayer dollars per candidate – on public financing of political campaigns.

“That’s right.

“With a soaring national debt and priorities like infrastructure to fund, the federal government could end up steering hundreds of millions of dollars to political campaigns.

“Mr. President, this legislation is not about voter integrity. 

“It’s not about preventing voter suppression. 

“It’s about permanently changing the electoral playing field to give Democrats a permanent electoral advantage.

“It’s the same reason Democrats want to pack the Supreme Court.

“Or admit D.C. as a state.

“Democrats want to use whatever political power they have to secure a permanent advantage for Democrat candidates and Democrat policies.

“Mr. President, if Democrats were serious about protecting the integrity of our election system, they would be working with Republicans to develop bipartisan legislation – not pushing a bill that is unlikely to get a single Republican vote.

“Passing a huge, federal election “reform” measure on a partisan basis would completely undermine one of the main purposes of election reform legislation, which is enhancing confidence in the integrity of our system.  

“I can assure Democrats that S. 1 would do nothing to enhance Republican voters’ confidence in the integrity of elections.

“And I suspect there are a number of Democrat voters and independent voters who will also see this bill for what it is – a partisan takeover of our electoral system.

“Mr. President, we are fortunate that our electoral system by and large seems to be operating well – see the record voter turnout in 2020.

“But there are certainly measures we could take up to further enhance election integrity.

“Not S. 1, which would do nothing to further election integrity.

“But there are other measures we could take up.

“But in order to have any degree of legitimacy, any election reform measures we consider should be taken up on a bipartisan basis.

“And if Democrats really wanted to enhance voter confidence and protect the integrity of our system, that’s what they would be doing – taking up bipartisan legislation on a bipartisan basis.

“It’s unfortunate that their aims are more partisan than public-spirited.

“S. 1 is a solution in search of a problem that would result in the unprecedented politicization of our electoral system.

“For the good of our country, every member of Congress should oppose it.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”