Here is a fact check of some of the claims lawmakers made at the hearing; the Republicans present made a larger number of checkable assertions about what is in the bill, so we checked more claims from them than from the Democrats present.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas claimed: “Under this bill, there’s automatic registration of anybody — if you get a driver’s license, if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment, if you attend a public university. Now everyone knows there are millions of illegal aliens who have driver’s licenses, who are getting welfare benefits, who attend public universities. … ”
Facts First: It is not true that the bill automatically registers “anybody” to vote. The bill does not change current law banning people who aren’t US citizens, including undocumented immigrants, from registering to vote in federal elections. While the bill does require every state to adopt an “automatic voter registration” system, it repeatedly makes clear that only citizens are eligible to be registered.
The bill says people would have to affirm that they are US citizens before they were added to the voter rolls. It also says the government agencies involved in the registration process would inform only US citizens that they would be registered to vote unless they chose to opt out. And it says the agencies would be required to send elections officials not only people’s names but also “information showing that the individual is a citizen of the United States.”
Registration for 16-year-olds
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, a Republican, expressed concerns about the automatic voter registration provisions. Warner warned that the bill “overrules checks and balances in our election security. It mandates AVR, including 16-year-olds.”
Facts First: This needs context. While it’s true that the bill would require states to allow individuals as young as 16 to register to vote, the text explicitly says that nothing in the bill requires states to let individuals vote before they turn 18 — and that the bill has “no effect” on states’ own voting age requirements. The policy of registering people before they turn 18 but not yet allowing them to vote, known as preregistration, already exists in several states in varying forms.
Criminals and the vote
“This bill is designed to get criminals to vote,” Cruz said. “This bill says, ‘If you’re a murderer, if you’re a rapist, if you’re a child molester, we the Democrats want you voting.’ ”
Facts First: This needs context. The bill would not force states to allow incarcerated felons to vote. It would require states to allow people who committed felonies to vote once they are no longer 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.”
The prevalence of voter fraud
Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi claimed that voter fraud is “rampant.”
Voter identification laws
Warner, the West Virginia secretary of state, said the bill “bans ID laws.”
Facts First: This is false. The bill does not prohibit states from having voter identification laws. Rather, it requires states to give voters an alternative to showing the ID the states normally require — specifically, to allow voters who do not show ID to instead submit signed statements under penalty of perjury attesting to their identity and eligibility to vote. Critics are entitled to argue that this provision weakens or undermines voter ID laws, but it’s just not true to say the bill “bans” such laws.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, made a more nuanced claim than Warner did, saying that “popular policies like voter ID requirements would be banned unless states neutered them with loopholes.” This claim at least hinted that the bill does not include a total prohibition on voter ID laws.
The bill and a North Carolina scandal
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said: “As I recall, a member from North Carolina, a Republican, was elected in a close election and was expelled or not seated from the House of Representatives because he engaged in ballot harvesting, which was illegal under the law of North Carolina but would be not only legal but required to be legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
In addition, the House of Representatives did not expel any Republican because of the election scandal, and it wasn’t the House itself that decided not to seat the Republican in question. Here’s what actually happened.
Sunday voting in Georgia
Criticizing Republican election proposals in various states, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said that “the most reprehensible effort of all might be found in Georgia, where Republicans recently passed a bill to eliminate early voting on Sunday. On Sunday, a day when many churchgoing African Americans participate in voter drives known as ‘souls to the polls.’ ”
Voting rights activists say there is an important caveat: The bill does not appear to require any weekend early voting in runoff elections. (Democrats won two Georgia runoffs in January to earn control of the US Senate.) We’ll update this item if we get further information on the bill’s runoff provisions.
— CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Kelly Mena contributed to this item.
The ACLU’s position on the US bill
McConnell said, “This bill is such an attack on citizens’ privacy that even the left-wing ACLU opposes this bill.”
The ACLU has expressed privacy concerns about a provision that would require the disclosure of the names and addresses of people who donate $10,000 or more to entities that make “campaign-related disbursements.” The ACLU lawyers warned in the op-ed that such disbursements “could include paid political speech that discusses a public issue such as immigrants’ rights, voting rights or reproductive freedom if the communication merely mentions a candidate for public office,” and they said that groups working to advance civil rights through paid communications should not be “deterred from doing so” because of a government-imposed funding disclosure requirement.
The National Disability Rights Network’s position on the bill
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the committee chair, entered into the record three letters that she said were in support of the bill. One of them was from the National Disability Rights Network.
Facts First: Klobuchar had a reasonable basis for her claim that the National Disability Rights Network supports the bill; the network sent her and the committee’s top Republican member a letter that called the bill “sorely needed” and said “almost all” of its provisions “will positively impact all voters in America, including voters with disabilities.” However, as with McConnell’s claim about the ACLU, there is nuance here.