Waukesha Freeman: Steil working to stop fast-tracked elections bill

March 5, 2021
Column

Read Steil's op-ed in the Waukesha Freeman.

Well, at least they made their priorities clear. 

As soon as Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer gained complete control of the White House and Congress this year, what was the bill Speaker Pelosi labeled H.R. 1?  A bill that is a massive re-write of America’s election process. That’s right. Not vaccines, not unemployment, not reopening schools. Nope. The bill titled H.R. 1, signifying the House Democrats’ top priority, is a partisan bill to fund politicians’ elections and make it easier to cheat. 

Holding free, fair, and secure elections is vital to the legitimacy of our democracy. After all the questions that were raised surrounding the last election, this year, I asked to serve on the House Committee that oversees federal elections with the goal of digging into these issues and correcting past mistakes. Rather than conduct that needed review, however, the Committee rushed to jam massive election changes through Congress. While we were not allowed to make changes, or even offer amendments to the bill in Committee, House leadership did allow a hearing to be held. This should have been an opportunity to hear from experts about what does and does not work in our elections. Instead, House Democrats’ only witnesses were partisans who had never run statewide elections. After a review of the bill, it is clear why House Democrats did not want to get into the details. 

So, exactly what is in it?

H.R. 1 or as I call it, the “For the Politicians Act”, is an assault on election integrity. Let me explain. Here in Wisconsin, we have a strong voter ID law to prevent fraud and ensure the integrity of each person’s vote. H.R. 1 ends this safeguard by gutting states’ voter ID laws. In fact, H.R. 1 expressly allows voting without an ID by simply providing a written statement.

The bill also authorizes ballot harvesting nationwide. Ballot harvesting, seen at events in Madison last year, entails mass collection of ballots by individuals with little to no guarantees on the security of the collected ballots.

Not only does H.R. 1 threaten the integrity of our elections, it takes public money to fund campaigns for politicians. These are dollars that could be used to fix roads, open schools, provide tax relief to you and your family, or pay down our national debt. Instead, the bill sends those dollars to political campaigns, filling the pockets of campaign consultants and filling the airwaves with attack ads. 

Taken together, H.R. 1 nationalizes our elections, tying the hands of any state or local government trying to control vote fraud.

The strength of our democracy depends upon people having faith in our elections, trusting that their vote will count, and that only legal votes will count. H.R. 1 moves us in the opposite direction and is why I have worked to defeat the bill. Despite my opposition, the bill passed the House on Wednesday night with only support from Democrats. There is still time to stop this partisan election takeover in the Senate. 

While working to block these misguided proposals at the federal level, I am also continuing to work with state and local officials here in Wisconsin to secure our elections. Many Wisconsin laws already in place can be effective if they are properly enforced. Several bills proposed by Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature could also represent major steps forward. To help encourage reform along, I outlined my six steps to restore confidence in our elections in a column on my website, Steil.house.gov. These steps include correcting the voter rolls, banning ballot harvesting, closing the voter ID loophole, ending midnight ballot dumps, and following our existing laws. 

If we can stop Speaker Pelosi’s election power grab, pass commonsense reforms here in Wisconsin, and properly enforce our election laws, I believe we can run fair and open elections. For me, getting our elections right is vital to restoring trust in our system.