3 Laws That Biden’s Voter Registration Order Could Break 3 Laws That Biden’s Voter Registration Order Could Break

President Joe Biden’s executive order spurring an “all of government” approach to registering voters could raise questions about whether the effort squares with a law prohibiting political activity on federal property. 

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), co-chair of The House Election Integrity Caucus, stated that Congress will investigate such questions. 

“We’re looking at potential Hatch Act violations,” Tenney said last week in an interview. “We have these former political operatives now, and actually even government agencies, engaging in political operations to get votes out, which are roles reserved to the states and not to these federal operatives.”

Federal employees are prohibited from engaging in partisan politics while on duty, while in government offices, wearing uniforms, in government vehicles, and using taxpayer dollars.  

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The law was passed by Congress in 1939, following a scandal in which executive branch officials in President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration threatened to withhold benefits and loans to those who didn’t vote Democrat, and promised jobs to those who did vote Democrat. The law is named after its sponsor, Senator Carl Hatch, D.N.M.

A government watchdog group contends that Biden’s executive order on voter registration could cause federal employees to violate three federal laws. 

Biden’s March 2021 Order was issued by several agencies. They have since responded with a list of actions they will be taking. These include

  • The Justice Department has issued guidelines to states in order to increase awareness about voting rights for convicted felons. compliance with Biden’s order. States have different views on whether convicted felons can vote again after they have completed their sentences.
  • The Daily Signal reported last month, based on a Freedom of Information Act request that the Department of Housing and Urban Development was engaging in voter registration efforts that allowed in some cases mass collection of registration forms to be collected by local public housing officials. 
  • The Department of Homeland Security said it will focus on voter registration “at the end of naturalization ceremonies for the hundreds of thousands of citizens naturalized each year.”
  • The Education Department said it will focus on “increasing civic engagement at the elementary school, secondary school, and higher education level, helping more than 67 million students.”

Biden’s order states that agencies will “promote voter registration and voter participation” and will be “soliciting and facilitating approved, nonpartisan third-party organizations and state officials to provide voter registration services on agency premises.”

The order is identical to recommended executive actionsDemos, a liberal non-profit, provides information on voting. Demos did no respond to a request to comment on this report. 

Tenney stated that it is concerning for government agencies to work with outside organizations with a political bent. 

“It really concerns me that there’s a blurred line between these federal agencies and even funding agencies. And we’re even funding salaries within the federal government by the taxpayers to engage in political operations like Demos and others,” Tenney said in the May 24 interview. 

“It’s really unacceptable. It should be stopped. We should sue over these [issues and] we know that there’s lawsuits either filed or pending on these issues,” the New York Republican said.

Stewart Whitson is the legal director of the Foundation for Government Accountability. This ethics watchdog group believes that there needs to be greater transparency from the Biden administration. But based on what is known, Whitson said, the president’s executive order potentially violates the Hatch Act.

“Executive Order 14019 seems designed to target voters that are more likely to vote Democrat,” Whitson, a former FBI supervisory agent, told The Daily Signal. “Voter participation means voter mobilization. If the federal employees are engaged in getting people to the polls, that is political activity.”

Biden’s order has similarities to actions that originally prompted the Hatch Act, Whitson said. 

“It was based on a 1939 scandal where the national Democratic Party was using the government to get more votes,” he said. “This is strikingly similar.”

Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department lawyer who is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, previously told The Daily Signal that the president’s order poses problems under the Hatch Act. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.) 

“If an individual is dealing with government—whether for Social Security, Medicaid, or veterans benefits—when a government clerk tells them to register to vote,” von Spakovsky said, “the typical reaction for someone getting government benefits is: ‘I better vote for the party in power, or my benefits will be denied.’” 

Whitson said Biden’s order also could prompt violations of the Antideficiency ActThis law prohibits federal employees to obligate tax dollars not authorized under Congress and prohibits any federal agency accepting voluntary service from individuals. 

The executive order refers to working with “third parties” and “nonprofit organizations” to assist in increasing voter registration and participation. 

The president’s order also could lead federal employees to violate the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 law better known as the Motor Voter Law, Whitson said. That law authorizes federal agencies to engage in specified activities to ease voter registration, but Biden’s order extends beyond the boundaries of the law, he said.  

The White House did not respond to The Daily Signal’s inquiries for this report. 

The Biden administration failed to push Democrat-sponsored voter initiatives in Congress that would have nationalized the election administration, which historically was a state responsibility.

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