By The Epoch Times
The GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is zeroing in on election reform heading into the 2024 presidential contest.
According to party leaders, the Republicans’ major strategy to clean up election administration across the nation before 2024 is the passage of the American Confidence in Elections Act (ACE).
To date, the House Committee on Administration has conducted nine public hearings on the various aspects of the legislation.
The most recent hearing was on July 10 in Fulton County, Georgia, the past scene of some of the bitterest wrangling over the legitimacy of the 2020 results.
The bill was formally introduced on July 11, 2023. It has more than 100 co-sponsors, none of whom are Democrats.
Republican members of the administration committee, along with Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), held a press conference on July 12 to draw public attention to what Chairman Bryan Steil (R-Wisc.) called the “most substantive election integrity bill in a generation.”
A half-dozen secretaries of state from around the country attended to show support for the bill.
The ACE Act eliminates the federal tax exemption for the private funding of elections, advocates for the tightening of voter ID requirements when an individual applies for a mail-in ballot, and it prohibits states from using federal funds to pay for election administration unless they restrict ballot harvesting.
The bill also blocks federal agencies from engaging in voter registration and mobilization activities and encourages states to limit and better manage the use of absentee ballot drop boxes.
On March 7, 2021, President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14019, which turned nearly every federal office, prison, and jail into a voter registration, information, language assistance, and education center.
The order mandates that, consistent with state and federal laws, the centers are ordered to help incarcerated individuals obtain state-accepted photo ID cards and facilitate their voting by mail.
Pros and Cons Debated
Backers of the bill contend it contains strong election integrity reforms that will bolster voter confidence while respecting the Constitution, federalism, and conservative principles.
Detractors of the proposed legislation have stated that it will exacerbate ongoing voter suppression and further increase the alleged disparity of voter turnout between white voters and people of color.
The introduction to the bill’s summary affirms that states have the primary role in establishing election law and administering elections; all eligible American voters must be able to vote, and all lawful votes must be counted; and that political speech is protected speech and all voices must be heard.
During the course of the hearings, Democrats on the committee have defended the current system and consistently pushed for further centralization of election administration and increased federal funding.
Only Citizens Should Vote
An important focus of the Republican reforms is to keep non-citizens from voting in federal elections, an act that is a felony under existing law.
As of June 2023, the District of Columbia and municipalities in three states, California, Maryland, and Vermont permit foreign nationals to vote in some local elections.
A municipal ordinance in New York City that sought to enable 800,000 non-citizens to vote in local elections was recently struck down by the New York State Supreme Court.
To discourage the practice of allowing foreign nationals to vote, the ACE Act would penalize any state that permits a non-citizen to vote in a local election by docking 30 percent of the new federal funds they receive under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
The bill prohibits a state from maintaining a single voter registration roll for federal elections if the state permits non-citizens to vote in state and local elections.
It also requires such states to have separate ballots for local races if the election coincides with a federal election.
No federal funds may be used to pay for the required separate ballots.
The ACE Act allows states to immediately remove from their voter registration rolls any identified non-citizen without a blackout period.
A blackout period is a rule which stops an action from being taken within a certain number of days before an election.
Also, the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, and all other relevant federal agencies must provide states, free, any data in their possession that would help state election departments to remove the names of foreign nationals and dead people from their voting rolls.
To keep foreign nationals from influencing American elections by giving money or in-kind contributions to local ballot proposals that they may favor or oppose, the ACE Act makes such donations illegal and subject to criminal penalties.
The act also prohibits tax-exempt entities that have received contributions from foreign nationals within the past four years from contributing to Super PACs and other political committees.
And it codifies the existing regulatory prohibition on making political contributions in someone else’s name.
Funding for Audits
The ACE Act expressly authorizes states to use HAVA funds to pay for post-election “independent” audits.
It also eliminates some ambiguities pertaining to what election records must be preserved for 22 months following an election, as mandated by HAVA.
Materials required to be preserved include ballots, ballot images, and the envelopes of voted ballots.
The ACE legislation also directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of all voting machines and equipment used in federal elections being made in America.
Steil said at the press conference that the large number of co-sponsors was a good indicator that the bill would pass the House.
“We’ll be marking it up in our committee in the very near future and I hope to see it hit the Senate floor for action shortly thereafter.”