Biden Administration’s Voter Registration Drive Sparks Controversy Over Public Fund Use

Photo by AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Efforts led by the Biden administration to incentivize college students to register voters ahead of the 2024 election have sparked concerns among legal experts regarding potential legal implications, particularly if the initiative is perceived as favoring President Biden’s reelection campaign.

Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled the election initiative during a meeting with voting rights activists at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, according to a report by Fox News on Sunday, March 3, 2024. Harris emphasized the aim of engaging young leaders in the democratic process to strengthen communities.

However, legal experts caution that the initiative may run afoul of federal law if it is perceived as partisan or designed to benefit President Biden’s reelection efforts. Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, criticized the Biden administration for allegedly using federal resources to bolster its political agenda.

“We have been doing work to promote voter participation for students, and, for example, we have, under the federal work-study program, now allowed students to get paid through federal work-study to register people and to be nonpartisan poll workers,” Harris said Tuesday. “As we know, this is important for several reasons.”

Snead accused the administration of weaponizing the federal government to aid its reelection efforts, citing Executive Order 14019, which he claims has turned federal agencies into tools for get-out-the-vote operations. He raised concerns about the collaboration between federal agencies and left-wing nonprofit groups to promote voter registration and turnout among college students.

A report by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), titled “The Federal Electioneering Machine,” further highlighted the administration’s partnerships with progressive organizations like Rock the Vote and Campus Vote Project. The report alleged that these groups have received substantial funding from liberal donors and have clear partisan biases.

Additionally, the report claimed that federal agencies, including the Department of Education and the National Park Service, have been directed to use their resources to encourage voter participation among students. The Department of Education, for instance, issued guidance on employing Federal Work-Study (FWS) students to perform civic engagement activities, including voter registration.

While the guidance stipulates that FWS students must act in a nonpartisan manner, the GAI report questioned the feasibility of ensuring neutrality, given the political environment on college campuses and the partisan affiliations of the organizations involved.

Furthermore, concerns were raised regarding potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities while on duty, and the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which regulates the use of campaign funds.

In light of these concerns, the GAI report called for a congressional investigation into the administration’s election initiative and accountability for any breaches of federal law. The controversy underscores the delicate balance between promoting civic engagement and ensuring compliance with legal and ethical standards in election-related initiatives led by the government.

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