DES MOINES, Iowa – A cloture vote the “For the People Act,” representing Democratic efforts to curtail Republican election reforms at the state level, failed with the U.S. Senate tied 50 to 50 split along party lines.
Democrats state that the bill’s goal is to curtail partisan gerrymandering, modernize election systems, make them secure, reform campaign finance, and provide the Department of Justice with tools to enforce the voting rights of all Americans.
Republicans complain that the bill would federalize elections, legalize ballot harvesting, and abolish voter I.D. laws and other laws they say safeguards election integrity. The bill also requires automatic, same-day and online voter registration, something many Republicans oppose.
It also requires taxpayer funding of campaigns.
Iowa’s U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, both Republicans, voted against cloture.
During a press conference with other Senate Republicans on Tuesday afternoon before the vote, Ernst blasted the bill.
“So we’ll take up S.1 (the bill number previously assigned to the bill before it stalled in committee), the ‘Fund the Politicians Act’ or was it ‘For the People Act?'” she joked.
“It truly isn’t for the people. It is all about consolidating power in Washington, DC. This is a power grab for D.C. politicians and bureaucrats. And instead of focusing on the things that are really important to our constituencies back home, you know the rising prices of goods that our families need every single day. These politicians here in Washington DC, have decided they want to focus on consolidating power, politicizing the FEC focusing on ballot harvesting, funding their own campaigns with taxpayer dollars,” Ernst said.
“I served as a county auditor in Iowa, which is also commissioner of elections. And I trust the county auditors in Iowa at the local level, Democrats, Republicans and the occasional independent in Iowa, much more than I trust a bunch of D.C. politicians and bureaucrats who want to run our local elections,” she added. “This is all about consolidating power, a national power grab to take away the voices from our local elections officials and our state elections officials. So let’s focus on the things that matter to our constituencies and less about these D.C. politicians own wants and desires.”
In a released statement after the vote, Grassley said that our democracy doesn’t need a rewrite.
“Our elections are the hallmark of our democracy, and we should strive to increase both participation and integrity in this process. Many states, including Iowa, have enacted new laws aimed at boosting turnout and confidence in our elections. Democrats’ partisan election takeover would trump this progress by fundamentally overriding our election process. It would erode election integrity by banning state voter ID laws, preventing election officials from verifying voter eligibility, politicizing the federal election commission, and legalizing ballot trafficking by political operatives, among other provisions. It would also supplement political campaigns with public dollars that could otherwise go to more pressing needs like rural health services,” he said.
“Make no mistake: this bill is not about voter rights, and after pushing it for several years, this bill is obviously not in response to the 2020 election, which had the greatest voter turnout in our history. This bill would upend our very well-run elections in Iowa and replace them with a new system from Washington. We ought to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. This bill does not achieve that goal,” Grassley added.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) also stated that the bill has First Amendment concerns.
“Despite contending to be ‘for the people,’ this bill would have imposed unworkable and invasive regulations on the ability of Americans and groups of citizens to discuss vital policy issues with elected officials or the public. It would have intruded upon the private financial decisions made by everyday citizens, subjecting them to harassment and intimidation simply for giving to causes they care about,” ADF Senior Counsel Zach Pruitt said in a released statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail,’ so it is good that this legislation failed to pass the Senate. We commend the senators who took a stand for the First Amendment by rejecting this misleading and deeply flawed bill, and we hope the Senate will continue to reject any similar measures that trample on the free speech and free association rights of Americans.”
The Biden Administration released a statement of support for the bill.
“Democracy is in peril, here, in America. The right to vote – a sacred right in this country – is under assault with an intensity and an aggressiveness we have not seen in a long time. The election of 2020 and its violent aftermath on January 6, 2021, when an armed mob of insurrectionists sought to overturn the voice of the people and a duly certified election, reminds us that our democracy is fragile. This landmark legislation is needed to protect the right to vote, ensure the integrity of our elections, and repair and strengthen American democracy,” the White House statement reads in part.