CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – On this week’s episode of Inside West Virginia Politics, our guests are here for a discussion on the controversial “For the People Act.” Two of our guests will be speaking in favor of the act, while two will be speaking against the act.
The “For the People Act” is an election reform bill that includes allowing 15 days of early voting across each state, expansions on mail-in voting, same-day voter registration on Election Day and allowing people to use alternate means of proof of residency such as a utility bill if they do not have a photo ID among other changes. Many Democrats in Congress are in favor of the bill, however, some Republicans say they believe regulating elections should be left to individual states.
Former West Virginia legislator weighs in: Why should the ‘For the People Act’ be passed?
In Segment 1, former long-time West Virginia legislator Rick Staton (D) joins us to talk about the “For the People Act.”
Staton says he is in favor of the “For the People Act” and believes its provisions would stop states from making alleged attempts at voter suppression and create more uniformity in the voting process. He also says he hopes that should the bill pass, it will be upheld by the courts if it is challenged.
The former West Virginia delegate says he is also in favor of the provision that would eliminate “dark money” that goes toward Super-PACs such as 501-C-4 corporations but is then not publicly accounted for, meaning voters are left in the dark about where that money is going and what it is being used for.
Staton does say while he understands that some voting issues are state level, but that he believes when people are waiting in line for three hours for a chance to vote, there may be an issue with how those precincts are configured and it might be time for the government to step in and help.
‘For the People Act’: Does federal regulation of elections affect free speech rights?
In Segment 2, Jason Huffman with the West Virginia chapter of Americans for Prosperity stops in to discuss why the organization is not in favor of the “For the People Act.
Huffman says the organization believes the bill could cause futher divide while the country is already divided along party lines. He says they are also concerned the act could create erosion of free speech rights and “weaponize majority rule” against grassroots parties.
According to Huffman, the organization says looking for common ground would be a better way to mitigate divisive politics. Huffman says the bill could also force non-profits to chose a political side by putting their advocacy work under the definition of electioneering.
‘For the People Act’: How do strict state voting regulations affect eligible voters?
In Segment 3, the discussion around the “For the People Act” continues with West Virginia Delegate Jim Barach (D-Kanawha County).
Barach says he supports the bill because of the alleged voter suppression being seen in some states through legislation that cuts some people out of the process. He says because of this, bringing in some election reform at the federal level is necessary to make sure that, as a democracy, every eligible voter in the United States has the right and the ability to cast their ballots.
The delegate says some of the state-level laws passed through a Republican majority that cut back the number of early voting days, reducing the number of hours polls are open and strict voter ID laws all tend to have the most effect on minority groups and lower-income individuals who tend to vote along Democratic lines.
‘For the People Act’: Does what works for one state’s elections work for all?
In Segment 4, Putnam County Clerk and President of the West Virginia Clerks Association Brian Wood shares why he is against the “For the People Act” from a county clerk’s perspective.
Wood says that being against the “For the People Act” does not mean being against the people and that county clerks want and work toward making sure every eligible individual has the right and ability to vote. He says he is concerned, however, the bill creating a “one-size-fits-all” approach from Washington, D.C. taking over West Virginia elections when one size may not actually fit all.
According to Wood, having a national regulation even on the number of days for early elections is not ideal because the states know what’s best for their people as opposed to input from the federal level on how to run elections.