The American Civil Liberties Union dealt a blow Monday to Democrats’ new election overhaul legislation, saying the bill does too much damage to the First Amendment and the storied rights group cannot support it.
ACLU officials said they support parts of the bill, such as making it easier to register to vote, but said the legislation attempts to control even the mere mention of a politician, which goes too far.
“They will have the effect of harming our public discourse by silencing necessary voices that would otherwise speak out about the public issues of the day,” the ACLU’s national political director and senior legislative counsel wrote in a 13-page letter announcing opposition.
Democrats plan to put the bill, H.R. 1, on the chamber floor for a vote later this week.
They’ve cast it as their top legislative priority, after saying last year’s elections were tainted by too many problems with voting, and too much money controlling the outcomes of elections and legislating.
The bill is going nowhere beyond the House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he won’t even bring it to his chamber’s floor.
But opposition from the ACLU could damage the bill’s bona fides with the left.
“When groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, who have traditionally supported the Democratic party, echo my concerns with H.R. 1, it underscores why election reform legislation should not be developed in a partisan manner,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which approved the bill last week.
The ACLU said it objected to lobbying restrictions Democrats wrote into the bill, saying they’re so broad they could prevent a former official from communicating with a senior government policymaker in any agency for up to eight years.
The group also said new disclosure rules are so broad as to be unworkable, preventing independent organizations from taking political action based on something they’d read or talked about even before someone became a candidate.