GOP Senators Seek to Curtail Powers of State Election Officials

A group of Republican senators wants Congress to restrict the authority of state election officials to expand vote-by-mail measures without the explicit backing of state lawmakers -- the latest volley in the brewing clash over voting rules, access and rights.

The bill, known as the Protect Electoral College Act, will be introduced on Tuesday by Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty, who was elected in November, along with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

GOP Senators Seek to Curtail Powers of State Election Officials

“Congress must protect the Electoral College and should not subsidize an unconstitutional process in which state election laws are trampled on, like we saw in some states in 2020,” Hagerty, an ambassador to Japan under former President Donald Trump, said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg News.

The bill would broadly prohibit a series of election measures unless state statutes’ authorize them, essentially moving to constrain the powers of state election officials. It would also require the U.S. comptroller general to issue a report on states’ handling of the 2020 vote, including whether increases in vote-by-mail measures were authorized by legislatures.

The bill also proposes banning federal election security grants to states pending a state-by-state review of the 2020 election, and refusing grants outright to states that have what Hagerty called “unconstitutional election practices.” It also calls for measures implemented because of Covid-19 to end when the pandemic does.

While Democrats are certain to oppose it, the bill’s introduction is the latest development in the clash between the two parties over election laws after Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election, which he falsely claimed had been stolen through voter fraud.

GOP Senators Seek to Curtail Powers of State Election Officials

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking Monday in the chamber, criticized a series of state-level measures to restrict mail voting and voting times. “Make no mistake: These despicable, discriminatory, anti-democratic proposals are on the move in state legislatures throughout America. They must be opposed by every American,” he said.

Trump called for restrictions to voting rules in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida on Sunday. “We should eliminate the insanity of mass and very corrupt mail-in voting,” Trump said, repeating some of his baseless claims. “We need election integrity and election reform immediately. Republicans should be the party of honest elections that can give everyone confidence in the future of our country.”

House Democrats are preparing to begin advancing their own package of election reforms, known as H.R. 1. President Joe Biden’s administration supports that package, and Republicans have sharply criticized it.

Hagerty framed the Senate bill as an alternative to H.R. 1, calling it a “sweeping proposal that would federalize elections.” Both bills face obstacles in a Congress with two sharply divided chambers.

Asked about the fate of the Democratic proposal on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden is “happy to see the House take up H.R. 1 this week, we’re not going to get ahead of the process.”

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