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The “For the People Act” (FTP), designated HR 1, is by far the most comprehensive federal voting rights act ever proposed. The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on January 4 and passed there along strict party lines two months later—220 for and 210 against. This divisive legislation represents a concerted effort by the House Democratic majority to consolidate and build on its gains from the 2020 election cycle. Its unabashed supporters, such as New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, hail the legislation as “a roadmap to an inclusive, diverse, and equitable democracy.”
While there is much to criticize about the act’s hamhanded efforts to expand the regulation of campaign finance and disclosure requirements, I will concentrate on the FTP’s effort to organize a federal takeover of the electoral process as it applies to members of Congress and the president via the Electoral College. Its proposed changes are manifold. The FTP would mandate an expansion of automatic registration and same-day voting. It would create a two-week early-voting period and extend the franchise in federal elections to all former convicts. Finally, it would allow those citizens who lack any appropriate photo ID to gain access to the polls with sworn affidavits to their identity.
For all its ambition, FTP is vulnerable to both constitutional and administrative challenges. On the former, the new legislation appears to treat states as extensions of the federal government. By dictating the kinds of rules and regulations that states must adopt in order to comply with federal law, FTP may intrude on state authority to conduct elections. In addition, the act raises a host of practical problems, including the need for dual administration of state and federal requirements of the same election.