Led by House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis, nine members of Congress have written a letter to Domestic Policy Director Susan Rice and OMB Director Shalanda Young to inquire and express concerns about President Biden’s Executive Order 14019 on “Promoting Access to Voting.” The members of Congress are correct to do so for a multitude of reasons, but we will focus on three.
Democrats in Congress have made it their top legislative priority to “federalize elections.” Those efforts have failed. This seems to be another way to start those efforts though the law seems clear that this cannot be done through executive order. As the letter states:
[O]ur system requires that all our actions must comport always with the Constitution and other federal law. According to Article I, section 4 of the Constitution, states have the primary role in establishing election law and administering elections.1 And, to the extent the Elections Clause contains a federal “fail-safe,” it is the Congress to whom the Constitution delegates that power, not the President. The President’s role is limited to enforcing enacted legislation passed by Congress; therefore, the President must exercise great restraint when attempting to act on election law.
The second concern we will highlight is that this program by its very nature seems to be diverting personnel and funds for agencies away from their intended and legally funded purposes:
For example, on January 20, 2022, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it was the first federal agency to apply to be a voter agency. Within this announcement, the SBA stated that “through the SBA’s district offices, small business owners and others will have the services they need to ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box and fair representation for their communities.” However, SBA’s mission is to assist small businesses with growing, expanding, and creating jobs – the sole federal agency dedicated to this task.
Lastly, the letter questions whether there is danger in involving nonpartisan civil servants in voting. There are many laws in place to deal with this situation, most famously the Hatch Act, which is titled "An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities. "Its main provision prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president and vice president, from engaging in some forms of political activity. As the letter questions:
Have proper steps been taken to ensure that the actions taken by the federal agency employees do not violate the Hatch Act? If so, please provide a detailed description of the steps taken.
It seems, at best, that this program was not thought through. At worst, it is a partisan exercise violating the Hatch Act and the Constitution. We hope that Ranking Member Davis and the other members receive prompt answers and this program will be halted unless those answers are satisfactory.