The Internal Revenue Service not only is involved in voter registration, it should get more involved, a coalition of over 50 liberal groups argues.
Meanwhile, the Obamacare exchange will attempt to drive up voter registration, while agencies within the Justice Department have acted to ensure that prisoners in federal custody may cast a ballot if eligible.
President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14019, which requires federal agencies to get involved in boosting voter participation, is a little over 2 years old.
However, members of Congress, the press, and watchdog groups unsuccessfully have sought information on how Biden’s order is being implemented. The Justice Department has claimed presidential privilege to shield related documents from release.
Yet, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights spearheaded a “progress report” on implementation of Biden’s get-out-the-vote order. It was joined by more than 50 other liberal organizations, including the SPLC Action Fund (affiliated with the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center), the American Civil Liberties Union, Demos, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club.
“The executive order is unconstitutional. States are supposed to be in charge of election laws,” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Monday. “The administration has not been telling the American people what they are doing.”
In October, Norman led a letter signed by nine House Republicans seeking information about how federal agencies were implementing Biden’s executive order. In January, 36 House Republicans signed a similar letter seeking details from the Biden administration on implementation of the order.
The report by the progressive groups, released in March, is not long on specifics but provides details that proved elusive to Congress. In assessing 10 government agencies, the report determines that the Treasury Department (which includes the IRS), the Interior Department, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are on track. It deems other agencies as needing improvement or falling behind.
“The order will cause violations of the Hatch Act that says federal employees can’t get involved in the voting process,” Norman said of Biden’s order. “It’s also a form of ballot harvesting on the backs of taxpayers.”
On top of the congressional requests, the Foundation for Government Accountability, a government watchdog group, sued the Justice Department seeking the department’s strategic plan. A total of 15 secretaries of state publicly asked for more transparency.
“Thus far, DOJ and other Biden administration officials have stonewalled efforts to uncover what they are doing,” Stewart Whitson, legal director at the Foundation for Government Accountability, told The Daily Signal in a written statement Tuesday. “How then does this cadre of activist groups have more information about Biden’s strategic plans than Congress or state elections officials?”
The IRS integrated voting information into a program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, which provides assistance on tax obligations to low-income Americans. It makes grants to tax preparers to assist low-income filers.
“In 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent out guidance to VITA grantees explaining that grantees were permitted to provide voter registration assistance to their clients,” the report by the progressive groups says. “The IRS also started tracking the number of VITA grantees who provided such assistance as part of their programs.”
The report continues:
In 2022, the IRS added robust information about providing voter registration assistance to their mandatory training for all VITA grantees and volunteers, and it added information about voter registration and access to Vote.gov to many of the VITA program materials, including the form that all taxpayers must complete as part of the program registration process. The IRS has also included voter registration information referring taxpayers to Vote.gov in the Form 1040 Instructions both online and in print. Treasury added a tagline on mailers to certain benefit recipients encouraging them to register to vote.
The report from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and other progressive groups says the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service, both part of the Justice Department, are ensuring that certain inmates who are eligible to vote can in fact vote.
The Bureau of Prisons issued a one-page handout in March 2022 titled “Voting Rights for Incarcerated Individuals” that provides information to inmates about their voting rights and the voting process. The Marshals Service plans to renegotiate contracts with state and private jails to ensure that eligible voters held in federal pretrial custody are able to vote.
“It speaks volumes that left-leaning activists have greater access to the White House than the American people [do],” the Foundation for Government Accountability’s Whitson said.
“Our FGA v. DOJ lawsuit seeks to force transparency and finally reveal what the Biden administration so clearly wants to keep hidden,” Whitson said. “We’re awaiting the federal judge’s final order and plan to share what we uncover with Congress, state attorneys general, and the public to prevent further abuses of our elections process.”
Reached for this news report, Dena Craig, director of media relations for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told The Daily Signal in an email: “Unfortunately, there isn’t anyone available to address your media inquiry.”
The report by the progressive groups calls Biden’s executive order “visionary” and encourages more federal intervention in state and local elections.
“Our findings are clear: most federal agencies have room for improvement in their implementation of the Voting Access EO [executive order],” the report says, adding: “We estimate that, if these agencies integrate a high-quality voter registration opportunity for the people they serve, as recommended in this report, they could collectively generate an additional 3.5 million voter registration applications per year.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has more work to do, according to the liberal groups. However, the report notes voter-related actions taken by other government agencies.
The Health Resources and Services Administration issued guidance for nearly 1,400 federally funded community health centers to support voter registration efforts. In December 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services committed to making it easier for consumers using HealthCare.gov—Obamacare’s online insurance exchange—to connect to voter registration services and get related assistance.
Others faulted by the report include agencies in the Justice Department, which it says should get more information on voting rights to prisoners; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which should do a better job of getting newly naturalized citizens to vote; and the Education Department, which should do a better job of targeting students for voter registration.
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