The right to vote and the right to free speech are core American values. Unfortunately, they have been under attack across the country as the radical left pushes through free-for-all elections that undermine Americans’ right to vote, while growing intimidation and political violence have highlighted the need to protect the right to private giving.
Democrats have relentlessly pushed legislation that would federalize elections for several sessions of Congress. The crown jewel of these efforts was the misleadingly-named “For the People Act,” H.R. 1, a grab-bag of liberal priorities that would rewrite election law to benefit the Democrat Party. The For the People Act has failed to become law despite unified Democratic control in the 117th Congress.
The new Republican-controlled House is responding, with the House administration committee holding hearings on the need to protect free speech, private giving, and election integrity.
The best legislation to fight back is the American Confidence in Elections, or ACE, Act. Originally introduced in the last Congress, the bill would make it easier to vote and harder to cheat by providing states with the tools they need to bolster election integrity. It also would curb efforts to expose the personal information of Americans who support non-profit groups.
The bill prohibits non-citizen voting, ensuring that American citizens decide the outcome of American elections. The ACE Act also allows states to use REAL ID as proof of citizenship and directs the establishment of a federal forum for states to gather and discuss election best practices. Instead of federalizing elections, the ACE Act respects the states’ role of primary election administration by submitting model state legislation that state lawmakers should consider.
Elections in Washington D.C. are currently plagued with irregularities and voter confusion, and Congress has responsibility over our nation’s capitol. The ACE Act brings common sense to D.C. elections by banning ballot harvesting and automatically mailed ballots, prohibits same-day registration, requires photo ID to vote in-person or request and absentee ballot, and requires annual voter-roll maintenance and post-election audits to reduce fraud. With passage of the ACE Act, D.C. elections will serve as the gold standard for election administration across the country.
The far left has not stopped with election shenanigans, but has also targeted Americans’ rights to free speech, free association, and privacy. As California Attorney General, in 2014, Kamala Harris demanded the personal information of contributors to non-profit groups operating in the state. Despite claims this information would remain private, it was leaked.
The Supreme Court finally ruled this was unconstitutional in 2021 in AFPF v. Bonta. The case established clearly that there is a need for privacy to effectively exercise the right to free speech. This sets additional precedent, building on the NAACP v. Alabama decision from 1958 that protected the organization’s contributors from disclosure to the state and the retribution that was sure to follow.
Despite this ruling, New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office leaked private contributor information from former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s group to activists and the press.
New Jersey and New York have lost litigation over their attempts to impose disclosure on non-profit organizations. Often, these laws label non-profit advocacy and education efforts that focus on legislation and policy as electioneering – expanding the definition until everything falls under campaign finance laws and regulations.
These efforts are not about accountability, but silencing people, and Americans understand what is happening.
A 2020 Cato Institute poll found 62% of respondents don’t feel they can express opinions publicly. In 2022, A Siena College/New York Times poll found, “Eighty-four percent of Americans say that some Americans not exercising their freedom of speech in everyday situations due to fear of retaliation or harsh criticism is either a very (40%) or somewhat (44%) serious problem.”
The fact that the Democrat-controlled 117th Congress made undermining elections and free speech its top priority should make it alarmingly clear that Republicans need to prioritize an effective response. Which is why the House administration committee hearings, and reintroduction of the ACE Act are critical.
Americans for Tax Reform continues to support the ACE Act to defend the rights of Americans to secure elections and free speech and urges lawmakers to send the bill to President Biden’s desk.