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Friday, July 22, 2022

OPINION:

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Independence Day, a day to remember our national values of freedom and self-governance. But while families everywhere were firing up the grill and watching firework displays, few realized that a government-sponsored attempt to undermine our free and fair elections was already underfoot.

President Biden’s agenda — to infiltrate state-run elections with a bureaucratic “get-out-the-vote” scheme — came about last year when he issued Executive Order 14019. The unprecedented executive order, which directs federal agencies to adopt and execute plans to expand voter registration and voter participation, contained few details, but left little to the imagination. An administration seeking to stop the anticipated red wave in November would do well to have a Democrat get-out-the-vote campaign at every intersection the federal government has with American citizens. 


There’s only one problem with this plan: It’s unconstitutional.  

Shortly after the Biden administration announced the “Promoting Access to Voting” executive order, the Foundation for Government Accountability sent multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to executive branch agencies to learn more about how they planned to comply with the directive to partner with third-party organizations to interfere with state-run elections. Those requests went unanswered, and now it’s up to the courts to compel the Department of Justice to respond. Based on the ruling issued on July 12 in FGA’s lawsuit, in which the court commanded DOJ to provide, prior to the midterm elections, the documents we have requested, it looks like that is exactly what the court intends to do. 

Our concern that the executive order is a federally funded attempt at driving out the Democrat vote is not unfounded. Just two years ago, we witnessed privately coordinated interference in our elections through the use of “Zuckerbucks.” These dollars were primarily supplied by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and were supposed to assist state and local election officials during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet suspiciously, Zuckerbucks were concentrated in counties that went for then-candidate Biden.  

And now, it’s “Bidenbucks.” 

Already, multiple federal agencies have laid out plans to use Bidenbucks to transform their offices into voter registration agencies or VRAs. The Department of Labor, for one, announced its plans to designate 2,300 American Job Centers as VRAs. The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development has also unveiled plans to designate Public Housing Agencies as VRAs, even though they had previously stated they were barred from participating in such activities.  

Ignoring the fact that presidential use of taxpayer dollars to run up the tally of Democrat voters is wildly unethical, this process of designating additional VRAs is also illegal. VRAs are authorized under the National Voter Registration Act, which expressly grants states the power to designate additional VRAs. If Mr. Biden wants federal agencies to become coercive centers that exchange public handouts for partisan votes, the very least he can do is run that change through Congress.   

We’ve spent a great portion of our careers seeking to hold governments accountable, both as public officials and private citizens. And this underhanded attempt to use taxpayer dollars to influence our elections is an administrative power grab unlike anything we’ve ever seen. That’s why we’re calling on state policymakers to act now to prevent Bidenbucks from influencing our elections. 

States can order state agencies to ignore federal guidance about VRAs and pass legislation barring state agencies from seeking to become VRAs. Additionally, states can increase their oversight over federal guidance relating to election activities, as well as increase their oversight over federal funding for the administration of elections.  

States can also simply decline to designate federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor and others as VRAs. And they can keep the Biden administration from using taxpayer-funded resources and federal offices in the states to launch a get-out-the-vote effort designed by the left to benefit the left, under the guise that doing so is required under federal law. It is not. All these efforts could help drive back the Biden administration’s partisan efforts to affect voter registration and turnout.    

Mr. Biden’s executive order flies in the face of our American principles. And left unchecked, his efforts could give Democrats an institutionalized advantage, not only in the 2022 midterm elections but in every election for decades to come. Pushing back against this presidential overreach must start now. 

• Russell Vought served as the 42nd director of the Office of Management and Budget and is the president of the Center for Renewing America. Tarren Bragdon is president and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability


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