Standing on principle is rarely popular and can often have big political consequences. But standing on principle is also essential to ensure partisan politics doesn’t override basic constitutional ideas.

Such is the case with H. R. 1, the Democratic bill that’s touted as a defense of voting rights, and a bulwark against anyone (read: Republicans) who would take such rights away.

So critical is this bill that many elected Democrats, not least of whom is the president, want the Senate to amend its filibuster rules so the law can pass.

Fortunately, there are those standing on principle against this bill’s many bad provisions – primarily its assault on free speech and federalism:

It limits freedom of speech: The first amendment protects public speech and case law accords the most protection to political statements. While the internet does make broad circulation of ideas easier than ever before, reaching a true mass audience almost always requires spending money. Therefore, restricting money spent on political causes, while perhaps well-intentioned, also restricts speech. H.R. 1 only adds to the labyrinth of laws and regulations that govern spending money on political causes and it should be opposed for that reason alone. It’s through political speech that people can make their views known and can debate with each other. Less money for political speech means that whoever has power already is likely to keep it even if they use it in harmful ways.


It federalizes elections unnecessarily: The Constitution and its amendments make two promises that are sometimes at odds: voting rights can’t be abridged and states should run their own elections. While there should be a strong federal role in protecting the right to vote and election security, the specifics of election administration should be left to the states. This helps good policy ideas spread while bad ones die well-deserved deaths. Decentralization makes the overall system stronger—people intent on disruption have to figure out 50 separate systems—and lets states adopt customized practices, preferences and political systems. H.R. 1 would slash these differences and undermine state autonomy, an important strength of our electoral system.

Voting rights deserve protections. But upholding those rights should not come at the cost of free speech and our unique system of government. And they should never be sacrificed to give one political party an election day advantage.