January 25, 2019 | The Washington Examiner
ACRU Policy Board Member J. Christian Adams

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made a gargantuan overhaul of election law, campaign finance, and ethics rules the top priority of House Democrats. Contrast this move with the Republicans in 2017—-the Democratic Party and its allies understand there is a difference between winning elections versus big idea debates.

H.R. 1, her proposal, is not likely to clear the Senate, but that’s not the point. It is a marketing document intended to broach the idea of federalizing some progressive state policies while trying to squeeze more conservative locales into adopting them as well. Taken as a whole, the only saving grace to the bill is that it does not contain a prosecution shield for noncitizens who are automatically registered to vote—-something California has done.

This bill also comes with the benefit of already exhibiting critical failures in the laboratories of bad ideas, like California and others. But automatic voter registration and relaxed voter roll maintenance standards are not a threat to the proponents, if they know how to massage the chaos before a big election.

From an enforcement perspective, the most ambitious part of H.R. 1 is its automatic voter registration mandate. Right now, if you engage in a transaction with a state entity, the bureaucrat is required to offer voter registration. H.R. 1 would require that you be registered without your consent when dealing with any government office. While it may seem convenient for the end-user at the time, the confusion and procedural breakdowns tend to surface later.

If you gave your middle name to one government office and your middle initial to another, you could become registered twice. If a green card holder seeks a driver’s license and gets registered automatically, it could create a voter record that red-flags them in the eyes of immigration agents. Parolees can head back to the slammer if their paperwork isn’t properly handled by the living assistance office.

When automatic voter registration fails, you end up paying the price. Right now, California still cannot answer the question of how many noncitizens its new automatic registration system has put on the voter rolls.

While H.R. 1 is busy dirtying voter rolls with duplicate and incomplete data, it handcuffs registrars from identifying the problem cases and taking corrective action.

When a county clerk sends mail to a registrant and it bounces, that indicates the intended recipient no longer lives there. Under federal law, that can initiate a four-year process for the record’s eventual removal.

Pelosi wants to change that and prevent states from cleaning voter rolls of nonresidents, even after the Supreme Court found such procedures were constitutional under the Husted decision. The bill goes even further to prevent states from sharing data to see who is registered in more than one place—-for example, like Democrat congressional nominee Wendy Rosen was when she voted twice in multiple federal elections in Maryland and Florida.

H.R. 1 would be incomplete without the latest attempt to resuscitate the preclearance portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which forced some states to ask federal permission to make any change at all to their election procedures. Sponsors want you to believe voting discrimination is as pervasive as it was in 1965. But it’s 2019, not 1965, and times have changed.

Taken together, this package will be a bridge too far for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The Democrats’ strategy is to push key components such as the preclearance renewal on a spin-off basis. However, it is not 1965 anymore, and not many Senate Republicans are gullible enough to believe that voter ID or citizenship verification of voters is the second coming of Jim Crow.

Everything that made California elections a mess, House Democrats are now trying to make the law of the land. The Senate, and the American public behind it, should take a hard pass.