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Fact check: Pence echoes Trump’s Big Lie in dishonest op-ed on election rules

In an opinion article published on Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence did something he used to do in office: echo a lie from former President Donald Trump in a slightly more sophisticated way.

Pence’s op-ed, published on the Daily Signal website run by the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, was mostly filled with attacks on a Democratic elections reform bill known as HR 1.

But Pence also made claims about what happened in the 2020 election. Most notably, he began the article by claiming that the election involved “significant voting irregularities.”

Unlike Trump, Pence did not say the election involved significant “fraud.” But he left his vaguer claim about “voting irregularities” wide open for readers to interpret as an endorsement of Trump’s fraud lie.

Facts First: There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray, who remains in the job under President Joe Biden, testified to Congress on Tuesday that the FBI is “not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud that would have affected the outcome in the election.” Trump-appointed former Attorney General William Barr said in December, when he was still in the position, that the Justice Department had not seen any such evidence. And no court has endorsed the claim that there was major fraud in the election.

Pence’s claims about HR 1

Now let’s turn to Pence’s more specific claims about HR 1, which is also known as the For the People Act. The bill would make major changes to numerous elections rules; it also contains significant provisions on government ethics.

Voter identification

Pence claimed that under the bill, “voter ID would be banned from coast to coast.”

Facts First: This is false. The bill does not prohibit states from having voter identification requirements. Rather, it requires states to allow voters who do not show ID to instead submit a signed statement under penalty of perjury attesting to their identity and eligibility to vote.

Pence could fairly argue that this provision weakens voter ID rules; Heritage Action for America, an advocacy organization connected to The Heritage Foundation, has argued that the provision “sabotages” and “undermines” state rules. But Pence’s declaration that voter ID would be “banned” is not true.

Undocumented immigrants and voting

Pence suggested that the bill would allow undocumented immigrants to register to vote. Specifically, he claimed that by requiring “automatic voter registration for any individual listed in state and federal government databases,” like the Department of Motor Vehicles and welfare offices, the bill would ensure “that millions of illegal immigrants are quickly registered to vote.”

Facts First: This is false. The bill does not change current law that bans people who aren’t citizens of the United States, including undocumented immigrants, from voting in federal elections. The bill makes clear that people would still have to affirm that they are US citizens before they are added to the voter rolls. It also says that the government agencies involved in the process are to inform only US citizens that they will be registered to vote unless they choose to opt out. And it says the agencies are required to send state elections officials not only people’s names but “information showing that the individual is a citizen of the United States.”

It is true that in states that already have automatic voter registration, there have sometimes been errors that resulted in non-citizens getting registered to vote. But there are also errors in states without automatic voter registration. Daniel Weiner, deputy director of the Election Reform Program at New York University’s liberal Brennan Center for Justice, said in an interview that automatic voter registration “increases the accuracy” of the voter rolls, “not the other way around.”

Regardless: Pence was wrong in suggesting that “any individual” listed in government databases would be registered to vote regardless of their citizenship status.

The deadline for mail-in ballots

Pence wrote that “states would be required to count every mail-in vote that arrives up to 10 days after Election Day.”

Facts First: This is misleading at best. The bill requires states to accept mail-in ballots that arrive up to 10 days after Election Day only if these ballots are mailed on or before Election Day. Ballots mailed after Election Day would not be counted even if they arrived before the 10-day deadline.

“This proposal does not allow individuals to vote after Election Day and would help ensure that all valid ballots are counted regardless of postal delays that are outside the control of the voter,” Sarah Brannon, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said in an email.

Voting by formerly incarcerated people

Pence wrote that the passage of the bill would mean “felons would be able to vote the moment they set foot out of prison.”

Facts First: This is correct. Under the bill, people who have committed felonies would be allowed to vote in federal elections unless they are currently incarcerated.

“Individuals who have completed a felony sentence would have their right to vote in federal elections reinstated once they are released from custody or receive a probation sentence,” Matthew Weil, director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank, said in an email. “States would be required to notify these individuals of their re-enfranchisement.”

In a bipartisan vote this week, the House voted 328 to 97 to defeat an amendment from progressive Democrats to extend federal voting rights to people who are still incarcerated.

“Universal” mail-in ballots

Pence claimed that “the bill would force states to adopt universal mail-in ballots.”

Facts First: The accuracy of this claim depends on how you define the phrase “universal mail-in ballots.” Specifically, it is only accurate if you define the phrase differently than Trump himself appeared to define it during the 2020 campaign.

Trump used the phrase “universal” mail-in ballots to criticize the states that sent a mail-in ballot to every eligible registered voter without requiring the voter to request a ballot.

The Democrats’ bill does not require states to send out ballots that voters have not explicitly solicited. Rather, the bill requires states to give all voters the option of requesting a mail-in ballot without an excuse.

“H.R. 1 would require a no-excuse absentee voting process for all federal elections. This is different from what some call ‘universal mail-in ballots,'” said Weil of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Redistricting

Pence said that, under the bill, “congressional districts would be redrawn by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.”

Facts First: This claim is subjective, but it’s worth explaining what Pence was talking about: the bill proposes to end the practice of gerrymandering by state legislators. Under the bill, district boundaries in each state would be drawn by 15-member “independent redistricting commissions” composed of five Republicans, five Democrats and five people unaffiliated with either party.

What constitutes an “unaccountable bureaucrat” is up for debate, but the commissions are not designed to be filled by government employees as Pence’s language may have suggested. Members of the public would be able to apply; political consultants, lobbyists and government contractors would be banned.

Major democracies including Canada, England and Australia use independent bodies to draw district lines rather than allow legislators to do so.

Undocumented immigrants and representation

Pence said that, under the bill, “illegal immigrants and law-abiding American citizens would receive equal representation in Congress.”

Facts First: True, but it’s important to note that this is already the case. Under US precedent and law, congressional districts have long been apportioned based on total population regardless of citizenship status. While Trump sought to exclude undocumented immigrants from the calculations, President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January reversing the Trump policy.

Weiner of the Brennan Center said that Pence was “dressing up the status quo as something new and nefarious.”

CNN Newsource

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