Republican Senator Mike Lee blasted a voting rights bill that seeks to reshape the nation’s electoral system by expanding automatic voter registration and restricting partisan gerrymandering as legislation “written in hell by the devil himself”.
Speaking with Fox News’ conservative morning show, the Utah lawmaker said he disagreed “with every single word” in the For the People Act, also known as HR1, introduced in 2019 after Democrats took control of the House. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had previously blocked the bill from receiving a vote under the Republican-controlled Senate, until Democrats won a majority in 2020.
“Everything about this bill is rotten to the core,” Mr Lee said. “This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself.”
Republicans have lambasted the historic proposal after it passed in the House earlier this month and advanced to the Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote. But Democrats have said the bill would guarantee free and fair elections by requiring states to offer same-day voter registration, as well as hold early voting for at least 15 days and create automatic voter registration for all eligible Americans.
Mr Lee, who stirred controversy last year on Twitter when he suggested that “Democracy isn’t the objective” in the US, claimed the bill “takes all sorts of decisions that the federal government really has no business making” away from the states.
However, asked to elaborate on whether he was against specific components of the bill, Mr Lee appeared less clear in his conviction.
When a Fox News host asked him about automatic voter registration and added, “We want everyone to vote, right? What’s wrong with that?” the senator agreed: “We want everyone to vote.”
He then argued that “it’s up to each and every state to decide how to register voters” and effectively suggested the bill was the Democratic Party’s way of “micromanaging” from Washington DC.
Still, many voting rights and constitutional experts have said the For the People Act was a critical step towards achieving equal voting rights in the US, while providing additional election security and critical ways to modernise the US electoral system, including voter verified paper ballot provisions, campaign finance reforms and new ethics laws.
Republicans in the Senate can block the bill through a filibuster, and it remains unclear whether Democrats will be able to recruit at least 10 Republicans required to block such a move.