“It’s political corruption,” the announcer charges in a new commercial that is part of a major ad blitz by the National Republican Senatorial Committee starting Monday. “Stop the grab. Stop the fraud.”
The Senate GOP reelection arm is spending seven figures to run the spots in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, four states they hope to flip from blue to red in the 2022 midterms, when Republicans will aim to win back the majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The bill ‒ formally known as the “For the People Act,” or as H.R.1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate ‒ passed the Democratic-controlled House earlier this month along party lines.
While it now faces an uncertain future in the equally divided Senate, where Democrats in the chamber say it will be a top priority when the Senate session resumes in early April, it is unifying Republicans in opposition.
Longtime Republican operative and strategist Colin Reed said of the measure: “To me, feels like a messaging bill that the Democrats are putting forward that doesn’t really have a chance at becoming law. But it gives Republicans something to rally around and unite and move the conversation forward into the future.”
Congressional Republicans have been railing against the legislation for weeks. And GOP leaders outside of Washington are also taking aim. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa warned that “state election law would be wiped away” if the Democrats’ bill becomes law. And Mike Pompeo, secretary of state during the Trump administration and a potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful, charged in Iowa on Friday that the measure is a “raw power grab.”
The NRSC isn’t alone in spending big bucks to target the bill.
Heritage Action for America, the nonprofit advocacy wing of the influential conservative think tank, recently launched a $10 million push that includes messaging to block what it calls “federal overreach” in the legislation.
Conservative groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List, the American Principles Project, the Tea Party Patriots, as well as Republican Attorney Generals Association, have also ignited efforts to take aim at the bill.
Reed, a Republican presidential and Senate campaign veteran, said the Democrats’ bill gives Republicans “a chance to find some targets that are juicy to the base and will allow them to be on offense as opposed to reacting to news of the day. They can lay the blame for all the atrocious things in H.R.1 at Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer’s feet and try to make next year a referendum on them as opposed to having to project a vision of their own.”
Democrats highlight that their bill would “improve access to the ballot box” by creating automatic voter registration across the country and by ensuring that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full voting rights restored. The bill would also expand early voting and enhance absentee voting by simplifying voting by mail. There was a surge in absentee voting during last year’s primaries and general election due to health concerns of in-person voting at polling stations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure also commits Congress to deliver “full congressional voting rights and self-government for the residents of the District of Columbia, which only statehood can provide,” prohibits voter roll purges and aims to end “partisan gerrymandering” of congressional districts.
If passed into law, the bill would also enhance federal support for voting system security, increase oversight of election system vendors, upgrade online political ad disclosure and require all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their large donors, create a multiple matching system for small-dollar donations, which would be paid for by a new surcharge on “corporate law breakers and wealthy tax cheats,” tighten rules on super PACs, and beef up the enforcement powers of the Federal Election Commission.
Republicans slam the measure saying it would lead to a federal government takeover of elections and accuse Democrats of trying to change election rules to benefit themselves. But Democrats say the measure is needed to combat the push by GOP lawmakers in some states where Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature to pass bills that would tighten voting laws, which Democrats characterize as voter suppression.
A controversial bill that tightens voting access rules was signed into law on Thursday by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia.
Earlier this month in Iowa, Reynolds signed into law a bill that shortens the early voting period from 29 to 20 days – and requires that most absentee ballots be received, rather than just postmarked, by Election Day.
The current push by Republicans state lawmakers to beef up what they call election integrity was ignited by then-President Trump’s repeated claims ahead of last November’s election that the loosening of restrictions on voting by mail would lead to “massive voter fraud” and “rigged” elections.
After his defeat to President Biden, Trump falsely said that the election was “stolen” as he unsuccessfully tried to upend Biden’s victory. Recent polling indicates that election integrity remains a major concern for Republican voters.
Reed, the GOP strategist, noted that the issues of election integrity and voter suppression excite both sides.
“It’s a juicy thing to both bases. Democrats will argue that Republicans are disenfranchising voters and Republicans will argue that Democrats are putting in place polices that will make it impossible for them to ever win an election again,” Reed said. “Base messaging is motivated by fear and both of those have a way of spinning up the supporters in each camp into action and unification.”