Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania contends that if the Democrat-sponsored For the People Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives, were to become law, it would undermine faith in the nation’s elections and Americans’ First Amendment rights.
“This bill is taking whole elections and federalizing them, having the federal government mandating exactly how it’s going to be,” Perry told The Western Journal.
H.R. 1 passed the House earlier this month in a strict party-line vote, 234-193.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that the For the People Act would codify “the most important package of democracy & ethics reforms in a generation.”
The legislation seeks to implement many of the election law changes put into place in California in recent years at a national level, including automatic voter registration and Election Day registration.
Perry and other Republicans have argued such changes hurt the integrity of elections.
He pointed to the ballot harvesting that occurred in California last fall, after which multiple Republican-held seats switched to the “D” column even though GOP candidates enjoyed strong election night leads.
After November’s midterms, Republican representation in the Golden State dropped from 14 House members to seven. The longtime GOP stronghold of Orange County was swept by the Democrats.
“(S)ame-day registration, vote harvesting, electronic voting, that’s all part of, in my opinion, ‘We don’t like the election results. We don’t have control of it, so this is a better way to figure out where we have fallen short and come up with the right number votes that we get to win,'” Perry said. “That’s not how elections are supposed to go.”
Although ballot harvesting is now seen as “perfectly legal and wholesome” in California, he noted, in other states (like North Carolina) it is illegal and can involve jail time.
“Voting is a sacred thing in the United States, where (in) other countries they have these elections, and they’re contested because there’s no fidelity,” the lawmaker said. “Preserving that faith and fidelity in our elections is an important part of the process in a representative republic.”
Democrats have argued that H.R. 1 increases voter participation, which is important in a democracy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., countered that the legislation is a solution in search of a problem, given the turnout in the 2018 midterms.
“What is the problem that we’re trying to solve here? We had the highest turnout last year since 1966 in an off-year election,” he told reporters earlier this month, according to USA Today. “People are flooding to the polls … because they’re animated. They’re interested. This is a solution in search of a problem. What it really is is (a) bill designed to make it more likely that Democrats win more often.”
In an Op-Ed for The Washington Post, McConnell labeled the bill the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”
Another problem Perry sees with H.R. 1 is its requirement for advocacy organizations such as the National Rifle Association, the National Right to Life and the American Civil Liberties Union to report the names and other personal information of their donors online.
I opposed HR 1, inaccurately entitled “For the People,” because it undermines our fundamental 1st Amendment Rights, usurps the rights of state & local governments, & degrades the integrity of our elections– which, frankly, is the goal. pic.twitter.com/7XBuFH8IYs
— RepScottPerry (@RepScottPerry) March 9, 2019
“From the free speech standpoint, if you want to donate $5 to Planned Parenthood or the NRA, you picket the organization, you know right now you can do that anonymously and you can express your political will that way,” he said.
“Having someone picket your home or deride you online because your $5 contribution is published across the globe is something that most people would find as a deterrent to free speech. It has a very chilling effect,” Perry said.
Finally, Perry highlighted that the legislation would put taxpayers on the hook to fund federal political campaigns.
Congressional candidates who receive at least $50,000 from small donors would have those donations matched at a 6-to-1 ratio.
“As much as (people) don’t like the kind of money influence that they see in politics, that doesn’t mean they want to be forced to be a part of it under penalty of law,” Perry said.
McConnell shares all of the congressman’s concerns and has pledged not to bring the For the People Act up for a vote in the Senate.
Perry represents the 10th Congressional District, which encompasses the state capital of Harrisburg in the heart of central Pennsylvania. He was first elected to Congress in 2012.
The Keystone State native is a veteran of the Iraq War, where he served as an Army aviator. Perry was promoted to brigadier general in the National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division in 2015 and currently serves as an adjutant general in the Guard.
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