H.R 1: The Bill that Lies

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Jack Dougherty, Staff Writer

On March 26, President Biden gave a speech decrying attempts by Georgian Republicans to enforce “rigid restrictions” on voters that consequently “den[ies] people the right to vote.” He, thus, urged all Americans to support H.R Bill 1, or the “For the People Act.” According to Biden and most other Democratic figureheads, H.R 1 will universally dissolve all voting rights problems, usher in a new, more democratic election system, and find a cure to cancer. Being a bill of colossal proportions, 886 pages to be exact, there’s a non-zero possibility that the bill will indeed accomplish these objectives. And although with its merits, a specific section of the bill, Title IV, lends itself to becoming a tool for the stripping of power from independently-run advocacy groups as well as political candidates. We are allowing for antiquated lapses in legislative judgment that resurrect in its place new needless regulation that serves only to hinder those who cannot afford to play the election game

The For the People Act would first and foremost expand the legal definition of political contribution to the extent where any political statement made online, within certain arbitrary parameters, would be considered a financial act of support for a candidate, leading to a greater amount of red tape for social media users. Likewise, the legal definition of “electioneering communications” would be broadened to include all social media posts. As the law stands, electioneering communications are subjects to extreme scrutiny and accountability. Phrases such as “clear and conspicuous” and “no plausible meaning” dictate the litmus test to one’s freedom of speech. The only problem is such phrases are opinionated and, therefore, legally void of meaning. It is then up to regulators themselves, the United States federal courts, in this case, to decide whether or not speech is subject to scrutiny. Of course, the term “freedom of speech” naturally connotes a sort of conservative ethos. It is then in the best interest of all to point out that the federal court has recently been packed to the brim with Federalist Society members and Scalia fans who wish for nothing more than to make the ghost of Reagan very proud. Such a bill that strives to be as nuanced and, by extension ambiguous, as possible will lead to nothing but unfavorable rulings for those outside the bubble of accepted ideas. Even when terms are strictly defined, the amount of technicalities one must align too is, to put it bluntly, unbearable for any candidate without an exorbitant legal team aware of decades of election laws that have pancaked themselves onto one another in such a fashion that creates a mountain of dense legal terminology and precedent. For example, in order to determine whether or not a campaign ad online is “clear and conspicuous,” did you know it has to be stated or written in an intelligible language for at least three seconds if written and four if verbally communicated? The font size naturally has to be at least the size of the majority of the rest of the text exhibited within the ad. These regulations, however, are excepted by any cases listed in 110.11(f)(1)(i) and (ii) of title 11, Code of Federal 14 Regulations. 

Rather fun, isn’t it? Any candidate without considerable backing from some established political party would beg to differ.