House GOP seeks tougher voting rules in DC, which Democrats say is a model for nationwide restrictions

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans on Wednesday proposed overhauling the conduct of elections in the District of Columbia, using a conservative playbook to tighten voting rules that have been used in Georgia, Texas and other GOP-controlled states.

Democrats called the effort an abuse of congressional authority over the district and a first step to impose voting restrictions and remove voter protections nationwide if Republicans regain full political power in Washington in the elections. next year’s elections.

Republicans used a joint committee hearing to criticize what they see as serious flaws and missteps in the district’s handling of the election. Although they provided no evidence of widespread fraud, they said election officials sent ballots to undeliverable addresses, failed to purge lists after voters died, and neglected security measures to make their systems less susceptible to foreign interference.

“For years, DC’s elections have been mishandled,” said Wisconsin Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, chairman of the House Administration Committee. “Our nation’s capital should be a beacon of democracy and a national model of excellence in electoral administration. It’s not about who wins or loses the election, it’s about making sure voters have confidence in our elections.”

The Republican bill calls for many changes that have been pushed by GOP lawmakers across the country. Among other changes, it would prohibit the automatic mailing of mail-in ballots to all voters, require that all mail-in ballots – except those for military and foreign voters – be received before the close of polls to vote, restrict the use of drop boxes and eliminate same-day voting records.

Republicans also want to revive a failed effort from earlier this year that would prevent noncitizens from being able to vote. The district is one of approximately 15 municipalities in the United States where noncitizens are permitted to vote in local elections.

The campaign proposals follow a successful effort in Congress earlier this year to overturn an overhaul of the district’s criminal code, which President Joe Biden signed in March. It’s also the latest flashpoint between the predominantly Democratic city and congressional Republicans, who have vowed to investigate everything from crime in the district to how it’s run.

Under a 1970s law called the Home Rule Act, the district can pass its own laws — but they must then survive a 60-day review period during which Congress and the president can strike them down.

The rejection of the Penal Code overhaul earlier this year embittered DC City Council members and was seen by many Democrats as part of a broader trend across the United States of predominantly legislative bodies. white dictating how cities with large minority populations can operate.

On Wednesday, Democrats on the Oversight and House Administration Committees criticized efforts to tighten district voting rules as part of a similar strategy. Several said the legislation, called the American Confidence in Elections Act, was an attempt to use the nation’s capital as a model to undermine voting rights and make it harder to get to the polls.

“If we’re being honest, this hearing is not actually about Washington, D.C. This hearing, and the entire ACE Act, is intended to give Republicans a platform to impose extreme restrictions on voters across the country,” a said Democratic Representative Joe Morelle, a member of the management committee.

In a statement, District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb said there was no evidence of widespread voting irregularities or voter fraud in the district, where about 77% of registered voters are Democrats. Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also questioned the need for the legislation, which she described as a way to remove voter protections in a city with a large black population.

“If there’s no good reason, I think you have to conclude that the only real reason we’re seeing this surge is political,” said Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the oversight committee. “To even have the idea of ​​proposing to the federal government to take away the right to vote in one of the blackest cities in this country, which has a history of slavery, a history of freed people seeking refuge here and then being punished with disenfranchisement cuts to the heart not only of the present moment, but of American history.

The hearing also delved into the tension between district leaders’ desire for full power over their own policies and the unusual authority Congress has over them. Democratic Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s nonvoting congressional delegate, said it was another reason to continue pushing for DC statehood.

Wendy Weiser, Vice President of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said, “DC residents, like all citizens, desire and deserve self-politics, self-determination, a say in what happening in their community and a voice to the national government on what is also happening in the country.

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The Associated Press’s coverage of race and voting receives support from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. Learn more about AP’s Democratic Initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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