Overview: House Oversight and Reform Hearing “Protecting the Right to Vote: Best and Worst Practices”
Yesterday, the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing titled “Protecting the Right to Vote: Best and Worst Practices”. The Subcommittee featured testimony from four witnesses: Dale Ho of the ACLU, Leigh M. Chapman of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center for Justice, and Kaylan L. Phillips of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Legislators engaged in a spirited debate with witnesses, who often contradicted themselves while also over-exaggerating issues such as disenfranchisement, and a need for strong federal oversight of elections.
Chairman Jamie Raskin opened the hearing by painting a bleak and completely inaccurate picture of our electoral landscape, stating:
“Hundreds of polling places have been closed across the land, millions of voters purged from the rolls, early voting has been cut back sharply in a number of states, and strict voter ID laws in many jurisdictions. Virtually all of restrictions have been in Republican states…but only 31 instances of voter fraud.”
By opening up the hearing with grossly exaggerated and disingenuous statements, Raskin sought to inject politics into a hearing that should have sought to do one thing: seek solutions to strengthen our elections. Ranking Member Chip Roy’s opening statement made things clearer, stating:
“Article 1 Section 4 of our Constitution gives states the authority to determine the times, place, and manner of holding an election. Despite this Constitutional authority, the majority wishes to exert more federal bureaucracy over each states authority over local elections. We’ve seen this in H.R. 1. When we start a Congress, each party usually picks what’s their most important issue that they want to address and highlight it….H.R.1 would take significant amounts of state decisionmaking…and move it federal. ”
Roy highlights the issue with liberal efforts to overhaul and centralize elections, and demonstrates that fraud is very much an issue. Roy inserted a Heritage Foundation study that highlighted over 1,200 instances of voter fraud into the Congressional Record. Instances of fraud can also be extremely difficult to detect, and even if known, most prosecutors and investigators will not choose to spend their limited time and resources pursuing cases of vote fraud or election irregularities. This causes statistics regarding fraud to be vastly underinclusive. While many elected officials highlighted the need for strong, decentralized elections, it was during witness testimony that the most egregious examples of liberal voting reforms were highlighted- reforms that ignore the truth that a single, centralized voter system is rife for fraud.
In another exchange, Congressman Jody Hice asked the witnesses if they believe proof of citizenship should be required to vote. Ms. Perez stated “I do not believe someone should show documentary proof of citizenship every time someone registers”. Instead, a simple attestation of citizenship was proposed as the solution. Other examples of civic participation such as obtaining a library card, purchasing a gun, and obtaining a driver’s license were used as examples that require forms of ID beyond a simple attestation- so, why would one of the basic, core tenets of our democracy such as voting be deprived of basic security measures to ensure the integrity of the process?
Liberal legislators and activists seek to undermine the election system by centralizing elections under the control of Washington bureaucrats and politicians and relying on only the word of those who wish to vote, rather than proof of eligibility at the time of registration and identity at the polls. This presents a grave threat to the security of our democracy, and the integrity of our elections