National Review

The Two-Pronged Assault on American Democracy

A full-out assault on our election system — a two-pronged project of the Democratic Party and the vast and crazy-funded left-wing conspiracy — is underway, threatening a radical transformation of our republic, making mincemeat of the notion of states (those things currently considered “united”), and erasing our Declaration’s assurance that America operates via “the consent of the governed.” Can this actually come to pass? Well, can Joe Biden be elected president? So, yes — fret. This effort’s success may prove dependent upon a passive, dispirited, and divided conservatism. Our movement’s central tenet — to protect the Founding — demands a rousing, a call to arms, and forceful and determined counterattack that gives no quarter and allows for no sunshine patriots. When you’re a bull, and when you’re trying to gut the last best hope of earth, two prongs are better than one. The one of more immediate concern protrudes from Capitol Hill, where Democrats have unleashed the “For the People Act.” Granted the legislative prestige of being designated “H.R. 1,” the massive proposal would dismantle our election system by federalizing election laws, appropriating the constitutional rights of states to oversee the ballot box, hampering protected political speech, exposing and intimidating donors, making hash of voter verification and restrictions on voter registration, and burying once and for all the notion of an Election Day. It is nothing less than a partisan assault on our democracy. We’ve seen the trailer: The bill would make permanent and supersize the pre-election chaos of 2020, the consequence of widespread bureaucratic and judicial whim that exploited the pandemic and lockdowns and that monkeyed with ballot deadlines and voter integrity. This new normal would make rampant the chicanery that is the expertise of the party of street money and ballot-harvesting and voter intimidation. As an important Heritage Foundation analysis summarizes the bill: H.R. 1 would federalize and micromanage the election process administered by the states, imposing unnecessary, unwise, and unconstitutional mandates on the states and reversing the decentralization of the American election process—which is essential to the protection of our liberty and freedom. It would implement nationwide the worst changes in election rules that occurred during the 2020 election and go even further in eroding and eliminating basic security protocols that states have in place. The bill would interfere with the ability of states and their citizens to determine the qualifications and eligibility of voters, to ensure the accuracy of voter registration rolls, to secure the fairness and integrity of elections, to participate and speak freely in the political process, and to determine the district boundary lines for electing their representatives. Nasty stuff, but for good reason, at least from the Democrats’ perspective: If this travesty becomes law, the Republican Party’s electoral goose is cooked. On deck for the stove: our principles. There is no certainty to this outcome, though, and the jihad is clearly at odds with the views of most Americans. Some evidence: On the heels of the 2020 elections, Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania, who knew a thing or two about ballot chaos, and found these overwhelming numbers: 88 percent want cleaned-up voter-registration files — no dead, no moved — prior to the next election. 75 percent strongly approve of requiring all mail-in ballots to be received by Election Day. 68 percent want all the votes counted on Election Night. 75 percent say photo ID should be required for in-person voting. 58 percent want a copy of photo IDs to accompany mail-in ballots. 56 percent want to ban ballot harvesting. Who is pushing back against the Left — for this majority, and for the essence of the republic? Things are percolating. One example is Honest Elections Project (HEP), founded last year, which concentrates on the state-based efforts to strengthen voting laws and integrity (it’s not involved in conducting forensics on, or defending cases for or against, the 2020 presidential results) and restoring public confidence in the fairness of elections. Its new report, Safeguarding Future Elections, lays out eleven areas for “critical reform” and voter security such as protecting a proper absentee-ballot process — which when abused is a mother lode for election fraud: A. Ban “ballot trafficking” (also known as “ballot harvesting”) by third parties. No one other than a voter’s caregiver, an immediate family member, or fellow household resident should be permitted to handle his or her ballot. B. Prohibit all forms of compensation for ballot collection. C. Individuals should be permitted to “assist” no more than three voters with filling out or casting a ballot in a given election. D. Each absentee ballot should be signed by a witness, and there should be reasonable limits on the number of ballots an individual may witness. E. Candidates for public office should be barred from collecting, returning, or assisting with the completion of absentee ballots. F. Each absentee vote must have a clear and auditable chain of custody, including the identities of anyone who assists a voter in completing or returning a ballot. G. Drop boxes should be subject to clear and uniform rules that govern deployment, that mandate adequate security (e.g., through security cameras viewable by the public), require placement inside a government building, and that limit drop-box availability to regular business hours. H. Secrecy envelopes including a signature and date should be required for all absentee ballots. HEP founder Jason Snead wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal that these kinds of guidelines, which are the province of state legislatures, so explains our Constitution, are exactly what H.R. 1 would blow up. Comparing Pennsylvania, where ballot-counters in Philadelphia took two weeks to count 700,000 ballots, to Florida, once the hanging-chad laughingstock of election tabulating, where all votes were counted (accurately!) on Election Night in 2020, Snead says that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pet bill would put Florida’s success at risk. Its law requires voters to show identification and return absentee ballots by Election Day, bans organized ballot trafficking, and requires that voters cure problems with their mail-in ballots no later than two days after an election. Common-sense measures like these help the state deliver honest elections with prompt and accurate results even in the face of a pandemic. For H.R.1’s drafters, though, these are instruments of “voter suppression.” The bill would dilute or prohibit all these measures. The second prong — dicier, but still quite dangerous — is the leftist campaign to gut America’s election system, to be accomplished by eviscerating the Electoral College. It goes by the innocuous-sounding National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (and naturally has the enthusiastic support of major liberal editorialists). Though it lacks congressional approval (a requirement stipulated on that parchment kept in the National Archives), the Compact pinkie-swears that its member states agree to designate their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate earning the most votes nationwide; i.e., not necessarily to the candidate who prevailed among that state’s voters. (Asking for a friend: Why do we have states?) From the Compact: Prior to the time set by law for the meeting and voting by the presidential electors, the chief election official of each member state shall determine the number of votes for each presidential slate in each State of the United States and in the District of Columbia in which votes have been cast in a statewide popular election and shall add such votes together to produce a “national popular vote total” for each presidential slate. The chief election official of each member state shall designate the presidential slate with the largest national popular vote total as the “national popular vote winner.” The presidential elector certifying official of each member state shall certify the appointment in that official’s own state of the elector slate nominated in that state in association with the national popular vote winner. At least six days before the day fixed by law for the meeting and voting by the presidential electors, each member state shall make a final determination of the number of popular votes cast in the state for each presidential slate and shall communicate an official statement of such determination within 24 hours to the chief election official of each other member state. This shenanigan gets activated when enough states — representing over 270 electoral votes — become parties to the Compact. Currently, 15 states, along with the District of Columbia, accounting for a combined 196 Electoral College votes, have passed laws supporting the national popular vote (the most recent was in Colorado last November, when voters approved a Proposition 113 by a 52-to-48 percent margin). This is a new but more nefarious take on an old desire for direct election of the president. It would be our law, but for one man. In 1970, with strong bipartisan support (including that of President Nixon), the Senate (the House had given its overwhelming support the previous year) was on the cusp of voting on, and possibly for, the legislation, to be sent to the states for expected ratification. Here came the freight train. But a report by the late Michael Uhlmann, then a young aide to Senator James Buckley, derailed it. His epic and thorough defense of the Electoral College, and why its demise would deeply wound the republic, proved so influential that it persuaded some senators (key to this was Eugene McCarthy) to flip-flop. The expected amendment vote never happened. The Constitution remained as written. On Uhlmann’s death, National Review friend Chris DeMuth recounted how that defense — better known as the Uhlmann Report (in fact, it was the Senate Judiciary Committee’s “Minority Report” on the proposed amendment) — indeed saved America. (DeMuth’s essay, published in the most recent issue of National Affairs, is a must-read.) America still needs saving. The arguments made by Uhlmann in 1970 — echoed more recently in NR by colleagues such as David Harsanyi (Electoral College: A Defense), Dan McLaughlin (What the Electoral College Saves Us From), and Michael Brendan Dougherty (Our Shared Electoral College), amongst others — are evidence that the intellectual battle is far from over. And then there is the trench warfare. In the trenches, opposing the threat of NPV, is Save Our States. Actually, it has been there for over a decade, created after Maryland became the initial NPV Compact member in 2007, and has increased its efforts as the Electoral College trashers have gained more traction. It may be a David-Goliath challenge, but there are stones to be slung by SOS, such as its excellent 2020 documentary, Safeguard: An Electoral College Story, a persuasive effort to combat the NPV crusade. Here’s the trailer: Among its many resources, SOS offers a variety of handouts on NPV-related topics (such as how an NPV would turn America’s urban-rural divide into an abyss). But one handout that proves timely keys in on the Left’s two-pronged attack on American elections: An enacted NPV, combined with an H.R. 1–gutting of state control of election integrity, makes for a toxic brew: In presidential elections, these types of fraud are less likely and more difficult because of the Electoral College’s state-by-state process. Fraud within a state can only affect the results in that one state. A state where one party is overwhelmingly popular — and where one-party control might make vote fraud easier — is probably already going to vote for that party’s candidate anyway. The most competitive states tend to have two strong political parties and higher levels of oversight, making fraud more difficult. With NPV, however, fraudulent ballots anywhere — even in just one state — could steal an entire election. For the first time in American history, a presidential election could be stolen by vote fraud in one-party controlled “safe” states. This would create a new incentive to suppress the vote of the minority party in order to drive down its national vote total. The increased risk of election fraud under NPV, combined with the fact that it fails to establish a single official vote count or create a process for a nationwide recount, would lead to countless lawsuits and even worse voter distrust. This fight may indeed be that one, rightly feared, that fits the billing — “for all the marbles.” The one whose outcome could mean the fundamental redefining of America, and an end to its 244-year experiment. By perverting elections, by diminishing the legal rights of states and local authorities to maintain control and battle fraud, by loosening voter-ID integrity and other critical confines (such as when an election can take place, and where and how, who can and can’t handle absentee ballots, and much more), what the Left will accomplish is much more sinister. It will reconfigure and redefine just what is citizenship and who are “the governed.” Oh, you will indeed be governed. But good luck in trying to give your “consent.”



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