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Republicans unveil election bill in Georgia, the heart of the fight

The location was in response to the MLB, which moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of a 2021 state voting law

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Bryan Steil went down to Georgia on Monday.
Wisconsin Republican Rep. Bryan Steil went down to Georgia on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Administration Committee Republicans on Monday traveled to Georgia to announce legislation they’re calling the “most conservative election integrity bill to be seriously considered in the House in over 20 years.”

The measure, which they’ve previewed in a series of hearings this Congress, would urge states to adopt voter ID laws, override some election policy in the nation’s capital and prohibit the federal government from tapping into political donor rolls, according to the Republicans.

Dubbed the American Confidence in Elections Act, or ACE Act, the bill has drawn the scorn of committee Democrats, who argue it engages in denialism and falsehoods about election fraud, disenfranchises minority voters and puts the security of poll workers at risk, among other complaints.

“Rest assured, there will be people that are going to push back against this commonsense legislation. We saw people push back with false narratives right here in the state of Georgia two years ago,” House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said at the press conference, which preceded a field hearing on the legislation.

Committee Republicans set the announcement in Georgia to send a message. It came on the eve of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, two years after MLB moved the game out of Atlanta in protest of a 2021 state voting law.

The Georgia law, which House Administration Republicans have touted as a model for their own legislation, imposed strict new voter identification laws for absentee ballots, limited the number of drop boxes and prohibited any offerings of food or water to voters waiting in line.

The nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice conducted a post-election analysis in Georgia in 2022, finding the gap between white and nonwhite voters was the largest it had been in at least a decade and roughly double the figure for the past two midterms.

But Republicans on the committee have repeatedly pointed to data that showed record turnout for a midterm election in the state, which they argue is proof that the Georgia law and similar measures are a viable way to increase confidence in elections and promote turnout.

Democrats’ claims of voter suppression “seeped into woke corporate boardrooms,” resulting in the cancellation of the All-Star Game and a hit on the local economy, Steil said, surrounded by Republican colleagues in a suburban Atlanta diner. Committee Democrats did not attend the announcement at the diner but were at the later field hearing at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Majority members have stopped short of saying the 2020 presidential election was stolen, though four of the five House Administration Republicans in office at the time voted to overturn the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021, hours after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol. They have pressed the idea that structural issues in how elections are run have eroded voter confidence and could contribute to fraud.

Former President Donald Trump, who falsely claimed he won the 2020 election, is currently under investigation in Georgia for allegedly urging Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, to “find” enough additional votes to give him a lead in the state. 

At the hearing, House Administration ranking member Joseph D. Morelle, D-N.Y., played a clip of Trump’s call to Raffensberger asking for 11,780 votes, the minimum number he needed to erase Biden’s lead there.

Multiple audits of the 2020 election, in Georgia and elsewhere, have found few significant cases of voter fraud.

“We are at the scene of the crime. We are holding a hearing in Georgia, where President Trump in his now infamous and corrupt call to Secretary Raffensperger, tried to irrevocably damage the integrity of American elections,” Morelle said. “If our majority truly cared about restoring confidence in our elections, perhaps they would finally confront their twice indicted leader for his own behavior. But I won’t hold my breath.”

The 224-page legislative package includes nearly 50 stand-alone bills, according to a House Administration Committee statement. It would give state and county elections officials access to the Social Security death list to aid in the culling of voter rolls. It would urge states to require voters to present some form of identification before casting a ballot. It would override existing voting laws in the nation’s capital, including one that permits noncitizens to vote in local elections. It would also permanently prohibit federal agencies like the IRS from asking for nonprofit organizations’ donor lists, which proponents of the bill argue could be weaponized against conservative contributors.

In a statement released Monday, the Declaration for American Democracy, a coalition of more than 260 organizations that support Democrat-led election proposals, called the ACE Act “an extremist, anti-voter effort to increase the role of megadonors in our elections and encourage deliberate barriers to make it harder for eligible voters to cast their ballot.”

The House Administration Committee will mark up the bill on Thursday. 

If the proposal advances out of the House, it’s unlikely to gain support in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on Monday that Senate Democrats will not allow the bill to become law. He announced from the Senate floor that “very soon we will once again move to bring real, much-needed voting rights legislation before Congress.”

Mark Burnett contributed to this report.

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