House Republicans unveil 'election integrity' bill

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WASHINGTON — House Republicans unveiled voting legislation Monday they say would make elections more secure, fulfilling a campaign promise that Democrats immediately criticized as being rooted in former President Donald Trump's election denial.

The House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal elections, chose Atlanta as a backdrop to introduce the bill, the American Confidence in Elections, or ACE, Act, and hold a hearing as it weighs in on a battle over access to the polls that has largely been playing out at the state level in recent years.

The committee chose Atlanta as a nod to Georgia’s 2021 voting law, which added additional ID requirements for mail-in ballots, limited ballot drop boxes and barred people from taking food and water to voters waiting in lines, among other changes. The bill drew a lawsuit from the Justice Department and national controversy, including a decision by Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

Critics said the Georgia law would make it harder to vote and disproportionately disenfranchise people of color. On Monday, the sponsor of the new bill, Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said that was a false narrative, because voter turnout increased from 2020 to 2022. An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law found that while overall voter turnout increased, so did the gap between white and nonwhite turnout. Nonwhite voter turnout declined from the 2018 to the 2022 midterm elections, it found.

The House GOP bill would make certain federal changes to assist states with election administration, including mandating that the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration give states access to voter data, free of charge, so they could remove noncitizens and dead people from voter rolls. It would also reform the REAL ID Act to require that people’s citizenship status be printed on identification documents like driver's licenses for the purposes of checking citizenship status at the polls. The bill also seeks to remove incentives for states to allow noncitizens to vote in local and state elections by reducing their eligibility for grants under the Help America Vote Act.

“This legislation is the most substantive and conservative election integrity legislation that will come before the House in over a generation,” Steil said.

Lawmakers also took advantage of Congress’ control over Washington, D.C., to propose a host of changes in the bill to the city’s elections, seeking to make it an example of effective election administration. The legislation would establish photo ID requirements, require signature verification for mail ballots and ban same-day voter registration and mailing ballots to anyone other than those who request them in the nation's capital. The bill would also repeal the city’s new law that allows noncitizens to vote in local elections.

Rep. Joe Morelle of New York, the top Democrat on the committee, criticized Republicans for holding up Georgia’s SB 202 voting law as a model, saying it was enacted only because former Trump lost Georgia in 2020.

“The Big Lie origins of SB 202 mirror the Big Lie origins of the majority’s ACE Act. And the damaging effects of SB 202 on Georgia voters will be imposed upon all Americans if the ACE Act is enacted nationally,” he said.

Other sections of the bill would make it easier for nonprofit organizations engaged in politics to keep their donor lists private and remove some campaign finance regulations.

Even if it passes the House, the GOP legislation is all but certain to go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Democrats have also struggled to pass their own version of voting rights legislation, which they say would expand voter access in the face of a filibuster by Senate Republicans.

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