Misleading attacks on the Democratic voting rights legislation H.R. 1 are surfacing on social media and elsewhere. CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols spoke with anchor Mike Hagerty about those attacks in this week’s installment of Can You Handle The Truth.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On what H.R. 1 and what it would do
H.R. 1, also known as the For The People Act of 2021, is one of the top legislative priorities for Democrats in Congress. It would expand voting access by requiring states to enact automatic and same-day voter registration and make it easier to obtain a vote-by-mail ballot.
But Republican lawmakers strongly oppose it. They have stepped up attacks against it in recent days as it moved closer to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. PolitiFact National fact-checked several of these claims in February.
On what California Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa has said about the bill and what the bill actually says
A constituent of LaMalfa’s asked PolitiFact to fact check an email she received from the congressman about H.R. 1.
In that email, he claimed the bill “would force states to restore the voting rights of convicted felons — including violent felons convicted of murder or rape.” H.R. 1 doesn’t expressly mention murders or rapists. But LaMalfa’s statement is partially correct — the bill would restore voting rights for those convicted of a crime, but only in federal elections and only once they are no longer incarcerated.
The congressman doesn’t mention those facts in his email.
On if other states allow people to regain their voting rights after their prison sentence
Yes, the majority of states do this, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 18 states, felons automatically get this right restored after prison, including California. In 19 other states, they get their right right back after a period of time, usually at the end of their parole, so this is not new.
On how PolitiFact California rates this claim
We rated LaMalfa’s claim Half True — it’s partially right but leaves out some really important context.
On dubious claims about H.R. 1 spreading around social media
Some social media posts describe the legislation as leading to “Nationwide mail-in voting.”
This also lacks context. The bill does not mandate voting-by-mail. Instead, it tries to make it easier for voters to cast ballots by mail, if they so choose. For example, the bill says states cannot require a voter to provide an ID or require a witness signature to cast a vote-by-mail ballot.
Many states like California already rely heavily on vote-by-mail, and others expanded that practice last year due to COVID-19.
On the baseless claim that H.R. 1 will “legalize limitless ballot harvesting.”
This one also needs some explanation.
“Ballot harvesting” is not an official legal term, but it refers to someone collecting absentee ballots on behalf of others and then submitting them. This is legal in California. H.R. 1 would allow a voter to designate “any person” to return their sealed absentee ballot, as long as the person doesn’t get paid based on the number of ballots returned. That’s how California’s law already works.
This claim about legalizing ballot harvesting ignores the fact that many states already allow this practice, although some put restrictions on it.
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