Letter: Voting reform bill doesn’t do what critics think it does

There is misinformation going around concerning the voting rights bill known as the For the People Act (House Bill 1/ Senate Bill 1), much of it apparently attributable to a Facebook post put up shortly after the bill was introduced earlier this year.

One of the misconceptions is that the bill would make it illegal for states to require voters to show ID when voting. That is not true. What the bill says is that states cannot require a voter to provide ID to vote by mail. Many ways remain for the state to verify the validity of the mailed ballot.

Another is that the bill makes the practice of “ballot harvesting” universally legal, where anyone can go house to house collecting absentee ballots. No, it does not. Rather, it prevents states from putting a limit on how many ballots any person could return on behalf of others. As far as I can tell, it leaves all other regulations about the practice — and there are a lot of them — in place. It might be noted that 36 states already permit “ballot harvesting,” and that only Alabama and Tennessee explicitly forbid it.

Still another bit of misinformation is that the bill requires absentee ballots to be sent automatically to all people on voter registration rolls. Again, no. What it requires is for election officials to mail applications for absentee ballots. Not the same thing at all. An application for a ballot is not a ballot. You will get your actual mail-in ballot only if you apply for it, and meet the qualifications.

And yet another misconception is that the bill would allow imprisoned criminals to vote. Nope. What it does is restore the ballot to people convicted of felony after they have completed their sentences. It does not grant voting rights to those currently incarcerated for felony.

The bill itself is some 800 pages long, with some very arcane language. A good summary is the website “Annotated Guide to the For the People Act of 2021,” put out by the Brennan Center. Also useful is the Politifact site article “Fact-Checking Misleading Attacks on HR1, Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill.” And for detailed data on what current state regulations are, see the site “National Conference of State Legislatures.” It’s perhaps surprising how many states, and which ones, already follow the practices advocated in the bill.

Google these sites to see what the bill actually says. I think you might find it hard to object to it on any reasonable grounds. Its purpose is to safeguard democracy in the United States, and I think you will find it does exactly that.

Mike Metzger

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