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Posts on federal election bill share incomplete information

April 19, 2021 GMT

An election overhaul bill backed by Democrats passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 3 over unanimous Republican opposition. The bill, House Resolution 1, would overhaul how states run federal elections. H.R.1 would expand voters’ access to mail-in voting, early voting, same-day registration and other long-sought reforms that opponents reject as federal overreach.

Unless there are significant procedural changes, the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate due to filibuster rules requiring a supermajority, according to reporting by The Associated Press. 

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A widely shared social media post makes several claims about the potential impact of the law, but the information being shared doesn’t tell the whole story. Here are the facts: 

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CLAIM: The bill would “OVERRULE Voter ID laws in place in 36 states.”

THE FACTS: Section 1903 of the bill would result in changes to voter ID laws in several states, allowing voters to affirm their identity using only their signature, but the proposed legislation only applies in federal elections. Thirty-five states currently request or require photo or non-photo ID in order to vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Technically, those voter ID laws would remain in place. But in practice, voters could simply sign their name to affirm their identity, and vote in elections for federal office without presenting an ID of any kind.

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CLAIM: The bill would “FORCE states to allow ballot harvesting.” 

THE FACTS: Section 1621 of the bill would allow voters to designate someone to collect and deliver their completed absentee ballots, but this rule only applies to elections for federal office. The practice of a third party collecting multiple absentee ballots from voters is often referred to as “ballot harvesting” by critics to suggest something nefarious. The proposed legislation would  prevent states from limiting the number of ballots that an individual can collect, but would bar individuals from receiving payments based on the number of ballots collected. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 26 states allow another person other than the voter to deliver absentee ballots and in 12 of those states there’s a limit on how many ballots can be collected and delivered by one person. “The idea is that community groups, neighbors or even family members might gather absentee ballots from people and bring them in together,” says Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School. “It’s typically useful for people in rural areas who can’t get to the post office and even in some urban areas for people who are older or who have physical disabilities.” 

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CLAIM: The bill would “RESTRICT states from cleaning up their voter rolls.”

THE FACTS: Election officials constantly update voter rolls and the bill would place restrictions on this process to ensure eligible voters are not purged. H.R. 1 would prevent states from removing voters from the rolls who haven’t cast a ballot in any election, or who haven’t responded to a government notice (except if the notice is returned as undeliverable). Under Section 2502 of the bill, these scenarios aren’t considered “objective and reliable evidence of ineligibility.” However, states would still be able to remove voters who have moved or died, and they could consult the Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC, to ascertain that information. ERIC is a non-profit run by 30 states and the District of Columbia. Through ERIC, participating states share voter registration and motor vehicle license data. If states cross-check a voter’s eligibility through ERIC or in consultation with other state election officials, they will also be required to show specific documentation confirming the voter is ineligible before removing them from the state’s voter rolls. If an individual is removed from the voter rolls, the state has 48 hours to alert the individual and say why they’ve been removed. Within 48 hours, the state is also required to issue a public notice, such as a newspaper bulletin or webpage update.

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CLAIM: The bill would “FORCE taxpayers to fund campaigns for politicians they do not support.” 

THE FACTS: One of the goals of the bill is to enact campaign finance reform that would make it easier for citizens to run for federal office, but money from regular American taxpayers is not involved. If passed, the bill would institute matching programs using public funds, though Section 541(e) of the legislation specifically states that “no taxpayer funds may be deposited into the Fund.” As previous AP reporting has outlined, the public funds would come from additional fees imposed on corporations and tax code violators in the highest income brackets. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.


Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536