In Brief: Dems’ Anti-Voter Voting Bill
The Freedom to Vote Act is remarkably anti-voter in its restrictions on free speech.
Loyal readers know the myriad problems with Democrats’ “voting rights” legislation. We just covered the Senate GOP’s blocking it yesterday. But Nathan Maxwell at the Institute for Free Speech opens up another can of worms from the bill — its assault on free speech.
The right to vote means the right to vote for representatives who will listen to us when they are in office. It means the right to vote free from undue government restriction.
Yet, the so-called Freedom to Vote Act … would restrict our right to participate in our democracy. It would also inject government-sanctioned misinformation into political campaigns. The bill would make it far more difficult to advocate for legislation, support causes, or organize grassroots movements.
Despite the bill’s numerous rewrites, it’s chock full of anti-voter measures that undermine true representation.
As usual, a bill this size has a lot of stuff in it that’s not related to the subject supposedly at hand.
Instead, it’s devoted to producing politicians who are insulated from their critics and less responsive to their communities. Public communications that so much as mention a candidate, including nearly all elected officials, would be susceptible to regulation as campaign ads for more than 10 months out of any election year. That will prevent many nonprofit and community organizations from speaking out about key legislation or galvanizing the public to do the same. How is this better for democracy?
Furthermore, the bill regulates online communication, political ads on web platforms, lobbyist groups, and so on. There are “bureaucratic investigations and debilitating fines” for unapproved speech, and a newly empowered Federal Election Commission “speech czar who will dictate many enforcement actions.” Obviously, says Maxwell, “The result would be censorship.”
The bill also invents election lies. Groups that mention lawmakers in their communications could be forced to profess their allegiance or opposition to the officials they name publicly. Even, that is, if said group is neutral. An ad that simply asks citizens to contact their representative about a piece of legislation would now bear a false partisan slant. It’s horrifying that a bill purporting to promote voting rights actually mandates election misinformation!
The bill’s supporters claim they want to remove barriers to civic involvement, but their proposal tramples on free speech. The bill would require groups speaking about legislation to expose their supporters publicly. As the American Civil Liberties Union warned about a prior version of the legislation, “We know from history that people engaged in politically charged issues become political targets and are often subject to threats of harassment or even violence.” Fearing for their supporters’ safety, many groups may not speak out at all.
The Klobuchar-Manchin bill would deter civic participation, undermine the First Amendment, and misinform voters. The bill’s cynical speech provisions utterly contradict its proponents’ stated mission of empowering the people.
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