An Illinois Congressman is working to counter a measure on the nation’s elections that he feels suppresses freedom of speech and common sense election laws by states. 13th District Congressman Rodney Davis helped introduce the Honest Elections Act to the House last Friday to counter-punch the Democrat-led the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy or SHIELD Act of 2019.
The bill, which passed the House yesterday, was pushed through by House Democrats without support. Davis says the Committee on House Administration’s Democrats pushed the bill through without holding any hearings. Davis is the ranking member of the committee and one of 3 Republicans who sit on the committee. “It was pushed through without any hearings so some of us could talk to some of the social media platforms that are going to be regulated by this bill and ask them questions. Ask them questions about why they took foreign dollars for campaign ads in 2016. The Democrats pushed this through. It was a bill that garnered zero Republican support as well as not having all of the Democrats supporting it. Our bill we think is a better alternative. It will provide some click-through disclosure for online political ads. It would also empower the Department of Justice to really go after bad actors that want to play in our elections. The DOJ should be the one to go after foreign agents and their interference in our elections. Not the Federal Election Commission or other government agencies. Our bill makes sure that happens.”
Davis agrees that the SHIELD Act is an example of Federalism versus States Rights. “The Democrats approach is what they want to hide as election security with their true goal of wanting to nationalize the elections. I think it would be easier for nefarious actors to hack into our election systems if it was run by the federal government. The folks that run our elections at the local level – they are the ones who work tirelessly for us to have fair elections, whether they are a Republican or a Democrat. They just want a fair election that runs smoothly in their home counties. Unfortunately, they are worried about a top-down federal approach. One of the most egregious provisions in the SHIELD Act is empowering the Attorney General to interfere in elections. Now, I don’t think needs to come correct the record when my opponent says something that’s not true about me on TV. I don’t think the Attorney General needs to spend, potentially, millions of dollars correcting the record. That puts partisan politics into our agencies and our elections that I feel was a tremendous over reach by Democrats with this bill.”
Davis said the SHIELD Act will put more strain on local election officials to carry out regular elections for local, state, and federal elections. Davis said that he’s also seen support from some surprising allies that are against the SHIELD Act’s provisions: “It’s not every day that you get Americans For Prosperity and the ACLU on the same side. This bill would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment and Free Speech. This is one thing that we have to continue to consider and look at to ensure that the Democrats push to change the outcome of elections. If Democrats don’t win elections, I’m finding out that the national party decides they want to change the process. That’s not right. That’s not really how we run elections in the United States. We run them at the local level. Let’s never nationalize the election.”
Davis says that the suppression of freedom of speech also extends to the media as well. “This is one of the most Orwellian-type of issues they addressed with this legislation with the news media. Who in the federal government and why would they determine what is legitimate and not legitimate news? Are they going to determine that my conversation with the local media today is not legitimate news? No. That should never happen. We have more options to get our news than any other country in the world. We need to help people learn how to discern what news is good news and what news is not. It’s why local radio stations and local news media is so important. Never take for granted that some provisions could be put in place in the law that could effect their ability to provide that local news. I don’t think anybody deserves a federal government worker determining whether or not their local radio or newspaper is legitimate or not.”
The Honest Elections Act would expand the prohibition on foreign nationals contributing to campaigns to include state and local initiatives and referendums. It would also codify existing Federal Election Commission guidance to require that all online political advertisements include a disclosure of who paid for them. The bill would also prohibit any federal dollars for election security to go to states that allow non-citizens to vote in elections, and would require states to forfeit all federal election security grants unless they ban “ballot harvesting,” which allows mail-in ballots to be collected without a verification system to determine who was in possession of the ballots. The Act has yet to be called for a vote to the floor of the House.