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tv   Former AG Holder Michigan Secretary of State Benson and Others Testify on...  CSPAN  March 25, 2021 1:58am-4:53am EDT

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book "minor feelings: asian american redneck" speaks about race and identity. sunday night, "the washington post's" jody warrick talks about his book. he's interviewed by georgetown university professor and author angela stent. watch book tv this weekend on c span 2. >> the senate rules committee is considering potential changes to campaign finance law and voting rights with legislation known as the for the people act. senator heard testimony from a variety of witnesses including former attorney general eric holder and state election officials from michigan, west virginia, and indiana. senate leaders chuck schumer and mitch mcconnell were also at the
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hearing to share their thoughts on the legislative proposal.
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sen. klobuchar: i call to order this hearing on s-1 the for the people act. today we are here to consider the for the people act, legislation that i'm honored to lead with senator merkley and majority leader schumer, which has been cosponsored by every democratic member of this committee. i would like to thank senator blunt, our colleagues, and our witnesses for being here today. i would also like to acknowledge in addition to
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senator merkley two of our other members who are new to this committee and are new to the senate. senator ossoff, who along with senator warnock were elected in georgia, where we know election issues were front and center. as well as senator padilla, who has his own extensive experience with these issues from his time as california secretary of state. last month when we held this committee's organizing meeting, i announced the "for the people act" would be the subject of our first ledge first legislative hearing. i'm pleased we took part in constructive hearings along with the homeland security committee on the january 6th attack on the capitol. and our productive work, senator blunt and i are doing together, on oversight and investigations of that day is continuing.
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in the end, that insurrection was about an angry mob working to undermine our democracy. and it reminds all of us how very fragile our democracy truly is. and how it is on all of us to not just protect that democracy but to ensure that it thrives. and that democracy is due for rejuvenation. this bill is essential to protecting every americans' right to vote, getting dark money out of our elections, as well as some very important anti-corruption reforms. it is about strengthening our democracy by returning it to the hands of its rightful owners, the american people. as i said from the stage on the inauguration day, on that beautiful day, which senator blunt did so much to make a success, under that bright blue sky at the very place you could still see the spray paint on the bottom of the columns and the makeshift windows that were put
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in place, i said, this is the day our democracy picks itself up, brushes off the dust, and does what america always does, goes forward as one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. well, we can't do that if anyone's vote is suppressed. at a time when the right to vote is under attack and special interest and dark money are drowning out the voices of the american people, we need to take action. last november, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a public health crisis, nearly 160 million americans voted. more people than ever before. in part, because the methods of voting specifically ways that we made it easier to vote, were extended in states across the country. that was an extraordinary thing. that was progress.
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but what was the result? well, just since the beginning of this year, now over 300 bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, in nearly every state, including my own home state of minnesota, efforts have been made to suppress the vote. efforts have been made to introduce bills that would suppress the vote. so, as senator warnock said in his maiden speech on the senate floor last week, what's happening? some people don't want some people to vote. that's what's happening. to take two examples, a dozen states, including arizona, georgia, and pennsylvania, have introduced legislation to limit access to vote by mail. which is how 45% of voters cast their ballots in the last election. and 14 states have introduced
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legislation to make it easier to purge voters from the roles. at the same time, the huge sums of money spent on elections are drowning out the voices of voters. according to the center for responsive politics, spending for the 2020 election cycle was approximately $14 billion, more than double the 2016 cycle. and dark money also continues to flood our elections, denying voters their ability to know who is trying to influence their vote. these are real threats to our democracy and "the for the people" act takes them head on in a common sense way to return the power to the people. that is why the american people overwhelmingly support the provisions of this bill. according to a pew poll from last year, 65% of respondents said the option to vote early or absentee should be available to any voter. a poll from the campaign legal center found that 83% of likely
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voters support public disclosure of contributions to organizations involved in elections. a recent morning consult poll found that 57% of voters support requiring states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions. these are not new ideas. many of the provisions in this bill have already been adopted across the country in red, blue, and purple states and have the support of republican and democratic governors and elected officials. they should be extended to all people in america. 21 states have same-day voter registration, including red states like idaho, wisconsin, wyoming, and iowa. kentucky secretary of state praised a bill that would make early in-person voting permanent, calling it the most significant legislation in the past quarter century. 20 states have automatic voter
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laws, including alaska and georgia. even ohio called for automatic voter registration in his state. 45 states allowed all voters to vote by mail and 43 states have early voting. they should all have early voting. what this bill does is take the best of the best and puts in place minimum standards. i note it's not just bipartisan support in the states, there are nine bipartisan bills that are part of the for the people act. including the honest ads act, a bill that senator graham and i have long tried to get passed, along with senator warner, a member of this committee. i'm focused on having a productive discussion of what is in the bill before us and how we will address the real challenges our democracy is facing. based on what some of my colleagues say, i think i want
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to briefly respond ahead of time to that. we may hear about voter fraud, despite the fact that experts found that voter impersonation fraud is so rare in america it's more likely to be struck by lightning. we may hear problems about the 2020 election, despite the fact that trump's department of homeland security called the 2020 elections the most secure in american his ri. we may hear about federal overreach despite that article 1 section 4 of the u.s. constitution empowers congress to make or alter, words of the constitution, rules for federal elections at any times. we may hear about violations to the first amendment despite the fact the supreme court repeatedly held disclosure and disclaimers are constitutional and never held there's a constitutional right to spend anonymously on elections. we may hear about taxpayer funding of campaigns, despite the fact this bill includes a provision stating that no taxpayer money should be used to fund campaigns.
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the subject of this hearing, the health of our democracy, is simply too important to allow these types of misrepresentations to go un unaddressed. at its core the "for the people" act is about three simple ideas -- making voting easier, getting big money out of politics, and strengthening rules. these are not radical ideas. they're rules that nearly everyone in the country agrees with and this bill we can make them a reality and ensure that americans have a democracy that works for them. with that, i am honored to turn it over to ranking member blunt. thank you. sen. blunt: thank you, senator klobuchar. good morning to everybody here.
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i'm pleased everyone will be attending as the morning goes on. before i begin my comments on today's hearing, i'd like to congratulate chairwoman klobuchar on becoming head of our committee. senator klobuchar and i have a long history of working together to make the daily work of the senate go better as an institution and we have worked on lots of bills outside of the scope of this committee as well. as all of you know we have begun bipartisan hearings on january 6th. as the senator said we're continuing extensive interviews on that topic and we're going to be looking to see what comes next there. i look forward to continuing the committee's work with her as we look to the remainder of this congress. i also want to mention the four new members that have joined the committee. i'd like to welcome senators merkley, haggerty, padilla, and ossoff to the committee.
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senator padilla and i served as secretaries of state and have an idea of the things you worry about on election day than people who have been candidates on election day but never have had the responsibility the secretaries of state and local officials have had. now to the business of today. it's been 21 years since the first bill of the congress has been referred to the rules committee. i think the first bill, the s-1 bill is symbolically important, it's intended to demonstrate the highest priority of the senate's majority party, and as the rules committee begins its review of the majority's highest priority, s-1, we should note that democrats defended the last elections as secure without meaningful election fraud as senator klobuchar has done here today. they point to the high level of voter participation and the
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ability of states to make pandemic-driven changes. if you follow their view of why we need those two things, it's because the states are now headed in the wrong direction. they have been pointing to 253 bills, that became 300 bills this morning. but 253 bills mentioned in almost every article filed in 43 state legislatures to make it harder to vote. now nobody is a bigger expert on how to conduct elections than politicians. when people come to see me who are with the airline industry, i say what you're going to find in congress is everybody here thinks they are experts on two issues, elections and air travel. elections are something that every state legislature thinks they're an expert on, and frankly, six or seven bills
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filed in the average session by republicans and that many filed by democrats would not be an unusual number at all. the truth is almost none of those bills become law. in fact, the brennan center, who has been the source of these 253 bills that restrict voter access, say only two have become law. one bill in arkansas further defines the implementation of photo i.d. requirements. and the other bill in utah requires the lieutenant governor to send the social security list of deceased recipients to county clerks so they can initiate the process of removing the names of dead people from the voter rolls. the brennan center lists that as voter suppression. i think they also list the bill that senator klobuchar talked about in kentucky as voter suppression because it takes the
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expansion that kentucky made in the pandemic moment and then institutes the best of that expansion as part of permanent law. you can't have both voter suppression and praising the bill at the same time as an example of how we need to move forward and states are moving forward in these areas. that's never mentioned that over 700 intercontinental ballistic missile -- 700 bills have been filed by democrats in state legislatures and 100 have become law. 100 democrat laws and two republican laws sounds a little disproportion there. one illinois bill requires the establishment of polling places in county jails so prisoners can vote. the bill that we're looking at really doesn't have much to do with the topic of how well the
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elections were conducted in the last cycle or democrats wouldn't be offering a bill at all. one of the goals of s-1 will be a federal takeover of the election process. in my view, that would be an unmitigated disaster for our democracy. today's hearing will shed light on some of the destructive elements contained in this legislation. i've been a former election administrator, first as a clerk, and later as the missouri secretary of state. i'm greatly concerned about the idea that somehow one-size fits all regulations from the federal government change a system that has served our country well since the beginning of the country. the diversity of our election system is one of the greatest strengths of our election system. you all have become perhaps tired of me consistently quoting
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president obama in 2016, who made that exact same observation. one of the strengths of the system is the diversity of the system. s-1 would force a single partisan view of elections on more than 10,000 jurisdictions around the country. state and local election administrators would be forced to change how they register voters and which voting systems they can use. how they handle early voting and absentee ballots and how they maintain their voter list. the bill would require states to make ballot drop boxes available for 45 days prior to a federal election. it even designates the location of the drop boxes and tells states how the ballots are to be taken out of the drop boxes and counted. it would mandate unlimited ballot harvesting, a process where one person collects and submits an unlimited number of
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ballots, a system ripe for abuse, as democrats in the house contend it when they refused the election of a republican in north carolina because of ballot harvesting. this bill would also allow felons to vote in federal elections. it allows states that don't want to have a separate list for federal elections and for other elections. this bill would require the changes to be made so very quickly. so quickly that if this legislation were enacted, chaos would reign in the next election and voters would have less faith in the integrity of their elections than they do. s-1's path of destruction doesn't stop at that. it would result in a partisan federal election commission, a commission designed to be half of one party and half of the other.
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federal moneys would flow into campaign coffers at the rate of 6 federal dollars for every dollar raised up to $200. $1,200 from the treasury for $200 raised would be helpful to candidates when they can pay themselves a salary to campaign, as this bill also allows. these are only a few of the things that people need to be aware of. i'm sure they'll be aware much more by the end of the hearing. there are first amendment issues, tenth amendment issues, a federal takeover of congressional redistricting, a constitutional issue. and let me finally request as a committee, we really work through this and other issues based on the principles of fair play. now as i said earlier, senator klobuchar and i have worked closely together for a long time, and we will continue to. but on this issue, the first
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time my staff saw a draft of this 818-page bill was march 12. after a agreeing to the number of witnesses on march 16, we were informed at 6:18 p.m. on thursday, march 18, that instead of having the three democrat witnesses and two republican witnesses we'd agreed to, there would be six democrat witnesses and we could add our witnesses if we could find them over the weekend. this committee has a long tradition of respect for the minority party. i hope that custom will be restored. i'm glad to be joined by so many of our colleagues today, chairwoman, and look forward to the hearing. sen. klobuchar: thank you very much, senator blunt. i think you know our strong friendship will continue despite our disagreements on this bill. i will want to point out one thing, the bill has been in existence for years. the version of the bill introduced this year is very
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similar to the one introduced in in the last congress almost two years ago. and the senate bill actually closely tracks the text of the house bill, which passed the house of representatives, was introduced on january 4, 79 days ago. so with that, we have, we're honored to have both leaders here, members of this committee, and i'll first hand this over to senator schumer. senator schumer: this is the first committee meeting i'm attending as majority leader, because i believe this issue is so, so important. now the story of american democracy, contradictions, two
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steps forward, one step back. it was essentially in the hand, another half century before african-americans could enjoy the full rights of citizenship. it took mighty movements and decades of fraught political conflict to achieve even those basic dignities and establish the united states as a full democracy worthy of the title. progress in the right to vote is a hallmark of this democracy. when the nation was founded, you had to be a white male, white male protestant property owner in many of the states. so a very small, if we kept those rules into effect, let's not change things, we maybe would have 5% or 10% of the american people voting. but no. our move to equality, our move
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to fairness, has been inexorable. but it didn't happen on its own. it took mighty movements and decades of fraught political conflict to achieve those basic dignities and establish the united states, as i said, as a full democracy worthy of the title. but any american who thinks that the fight for a full and fair democracy is over is sadly and sorely mistaken. today, now, in the 21'st century, there is a concerted nationwide effort to limit the right of american citizens to vote and to truly have a voice in their own government. in the wake of the november elections, one of the safest in recent history, republican-led, republican-led state legislatures have seized on the former president's big lie that the election was stolen and introduced more than 250 bills in 43 states aimed at tightening
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voting rules under the guise, the guise, of election integrity. instead of doing what you should be doing when you lose an election in a democracy, attempting to win over those voters in the next election, republicans instead are trying to disenfranchise those voters. shame on them. in iowa, where college students often rely on the flexibility provided by early and mail-in vote voting, the republican legislature voted to cut early voting by nine days, close polls an hour earlier and tighten rules on absentee voting. in wisconsin, where precincts face vastly different administrative burdens, republicans proposed limited ballot drop boxes to one municipality no matter the size, could be 10,000 voters or
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500,000 voters, one ballot dropbox. in arizona, no fewer than 22 separate measures to limit voting rights have been introduced, including a bill to require every absentee ballot to be notarized. how are poor people going to pay for a notary when there's virtually no indication of fraud? it's one of the most despicable things i have seen in all my years. shame, shame, shame. other things in arizona, two bills to ban automatic voter registration and same-day registration, even though neither practice exists in arizona. and the most reprehensible effort at all might be found in georgia, where republicans passed a bill to eliminate early voting on sunday, on sunday, a day when many church going african-americans participate in voter drives known as souls to the polls.
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what an astonishing coincidence. outlaw voting on a day when african-american churches sponsor get out the vote efforts. i'd like one of the republican members on this committee to give us a plain sense justification for that restriction. no early voting on sundays. why did georgia republican outlaw it? monday through saturday, legitimate voters show up. but sunday is voter fraud day. give me a break. every one of us, democrat, republican, liberal and conservative, knows what the georgia legislature is doing. they don't have a good justification for it. this is infuriating. i would like to ask my republican colleagues, why are you so afraid of democracy? why, instead of trying to win voters over that you lost in the last election, are you trying to prevent them from voting?
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our country has come a long way, supposedly, since african-americans in the south were forced to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar in order to vote. but some of these voter suppression laws in georgia and other republican states smack of jim crow rearing its ugly head once again. it is 160 years since the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments abolished slavery and jim crow still seems to be with us. the laws, their various cousins in republican state legislatures across the country, are one of the greatest threats we have to modern democracy in america. according to "the washington post," these laws could strain every available method of voting for tens of millions of americans.
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the most sweeping contradiction of ballot access in the united states since the end of reconstruction. if one political party believes that when you lose an election, the answer isn't to win more votes but rather try to prevent the other side from voting, we have a threat to democracy on our hands. if we don't stop these vicious and often racist actions, third world autocracy, like turkey or hungary will be on its way. that is why the country so badly needs s1. a bill that would combat all of these voter suppression efforts. a bill that would make it easier, not harder, to vote by automatically registering american voters when they get a driver's license. but guaranteeing at least 15 continuous days of early voting.
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a bill that would limit dark money and corruption in our politics and much more. we're going to hear from my fellow democratic committee members why the bill is so important. i expect we're going to hear the same tired cannards from our republican colleagues in of which are have no basis in fact, and defy belief. we're going to hear this bill, gasp, registers americans to vote is a democratic power grab. we'll hear that it's a federal takeover of our elections. never mind that the founders, who my republican colleagues invoke when it's time to confirm a right wing judge, wrote in the constitution, in the constitution, that the congress has the power to pass laws to determine the time, place, and manner of federal elections. we've been down this road before. opponents of voting rights throughout history have always said, leave it to the states. just leave it to the states to
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discriminate against african-americans, latinos, native americans, younger americans in college. it is shameful our republican colleagues are proposing these ideas in 2020. the same kinds of states rights that have been used from time immemorial to prevent certain people from voting. shame, shame, shame. this is not the usual political argument. this goes to the core of our democracy. the crowning achievement of the american civil rights movement was a federal election law. you might know it better as the voting rights act. federal. federal. bipartisan. the truth is that we have passed
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scores of federal election laws and amended our constitution to guarantee the franchise to our citizens, often bipartisan. led by republican presidents. the voting rights act of the 1965, the national voter registration act of 1993, the help america vote act of 2002, the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th amendments, all election changes. that's because in a democracy it shouldn't matter if a state wants to make it so onerous for a particular group to vote that it's nigh impossible. is requiring a notary public any different than asking people to guess the number of jelly beans in the jar? i guarantee you the motivation is exactly the same. it shouldn't matter if a state
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wants to do it, if it's so, so wrong. so, so against the grain of our democracy. voting rights are sacrosanct. if congress has to pass a law or amend the constitution to protect the voting rights of our citizens, that's what we should do, that's what we must do, that's what our democracy requires we do. s1, the for the people act, will be a priority in this congress. thank you. >> thank you very much, senator schumer. we now turn to the republican leader, senator mcconnell. senator mcconnell: what the majority leader just said, the state bills that he refers to, i believe senator blunt mentioned two of them had passed and they had absolutely nothing to do with suppressing the vote.
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it's also noteworthy that this is a solution in search of a problem. turnout in 2020 was up 7%. the turnout in the 2020 election was the highest since 1900. states are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever. this is, clearly, an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system. but even more immediately, it would create an implementation nightmare, as senator blunt pointed out, that would drown state and local officials who run elections. this proposal needs all the scrutiny it can get, and i'm glad we're all here to give it that scrutiny. this legislation would forcibly rewrite the election laws of all 50 states from here in washington. popular policies like voter id
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requirements would be banned. unless states neutered them with loopholes. meanwhile, unpopular and absurd practices like ballot harvesting where paid political operatives can show up carrying stacks of other people's ballots would not just be allowed, it would be mandatory. washington would mandate that every state and county in america adopt same-day voter registration with minimal safeguards, but make it incredibly difficult for states and counties to conduct routine voter list maintenance like removing dead people or voters who don't live there any longer. then there's the whole question of political speech. refereeing campaigns and policing speech are sensitive tasks. appropriately, the fec was designed after watergate to be
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bipartisan and even split 3-3. so let me draw on that for a minute. after watergate, my party, the republican party, was just about wiped out. the overwhelming democratic parties could have done anything they wanted to. it never occurred to them the federal election commission, set up to police how we run campaigns, would be made a partisan entity. they could have done it then. now we're in a 50/50 senate and a narrowly majority in the house, and this audacious move wants to turn the judge of our democratic process into a partisan prosecutor. talk about shame. if anybody ought to be feeling any shame around here, it's turning the fec into a partisan prosecutor.
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the majority controlled by the president's party to harass and intimidate the other side. that's what you ought to be ashamed about. or when the house administration we're, in the administration committee we're having an example right now of how that could happen. a democratic majority is trying to over turn a certified election result. how many of our friends on the other side here just arguing last month and the month before that certifying a state election was the gold standard, it's over after certification? apparently not in the house. of course the constitution gives the house to determine who will sit there. that doesn't mean they should go against everything they were preaching in the last two months about the sanctity of state certification and ram through
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someone who lost the election according to officials in iowa. that's what happens, i would say to my democratic friends, that's what happens when you let partisan bodies regulate elections. and that is certainly not what we need at the fec, and that's what, among other things, you ought to be ashamed about. this bill would also expand the scope of this newly partisan fec. more power over more of america's speech. more mandates for private groups to publicize their list of supporters. associational privacy is a core liberty, it's been championed by organizations like the naacp, this bill is such an attack on citizens' privacy that even the left wings aclu opposes this bill. these are big picture problems,
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but on a practical level, even if you disagree with everything i just said, the fact is, as senator blunt pointed out, this legislation is not ready for primetime, it's an invitation to chaos. chaos. state level election officials including democrats are sounding alarms left and right. this messaging bill would create a nightmare that actually became law. it would mandate brand new voting machines that not even been produced yet. it mandates something that doesn't exist, let alone certified and approved. it would force every state to rush through big changes like inventing new, unsecure, automated telephone systems to register voters. i'm sure prank callers would have a field day with that. this thing even has something to say about the paper on which local officials would be able to print their ballots. and the kind of envelope adhesive they have to use.
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that's a really important thing for the federal government to dictate. what kind of adhesive they have to use. what a great idea. just the prospect of all these silly new mandates is already keeping local officials up at night. that includes, by the way, democratic local officials who conduct elections. and, of course, this thing would put american taxpayers on the hook for transfer of payments, don't be kidded into thinking there's not federal money into this bill, transfer payments that go directly to fund political campaigns, taxpayer-funded bumper sticker and attack ads, what a great idea, the american people are going to like that, taking their money and spending it on bumper stickers, buttons, and balloons. even liberals who like this bill better than i do are admitting all the practicalities need to go back to the drawing board.
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this is nowhere near ready for primetime, it's an invitation to total chaos. i'll close with this. senator klobuchar, i had your job after the 2000 election. chris dodd and i teamed up to pass the help america vote act. it was a major voting bill. what it did was to try to encourage making it easier to vote but harder to cheat. it was a combination of things. well balanced. it passed 92-2. 92-2. that's the kind of consensus that can be built when you approach a subject like the one that's before us today in the right way. by contrast, this bill did not receive a single vote in the
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house, and i predict it will not in the senate should we, unfortunately, have to vote on it. both republicans and democrats voted against it in the house. now we've just seen two consecutive presidential elections, 2016 and 2020, where chunks of americans on the left and the right took turns refusing to accept the result when their side lost. we can't -- their side lost. we can't afford to go further down this road. we should be finding ways to rebuild trust, not destroy it further. but that's exactly what a partisan power grab would guarantee. and that's what s1 is all about. thank you. senator klobuchar: thank you
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very much, senator mcconnell. i want to clarify that the bill did pass the house, did receive votes in the house, 220-210, with only one democrat voting against the bill. by prior agreement, senator merkley, who's the author of the bill, is going to say a few words and then we'll introduce the witnesses. thank you. senator merkley: thank you, madame chair. this is clearly a very important conversation for our country and has been since we were born. our founders had this revolutionary idea that instead of power flowing down from kings and being edicts on the people, it would flow up from the people to guide our nation in its current time and in times to come. that power is exercised through the ballot box, which makes that ballot box an incredibly important, not just symbol of government by the people, but the core device through which that power is exercised.
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our founders recognized that this could be difficult. i think you have all heard that ben franklin, in 1787, when he was leaving the constitutional convention exiting the door of independence hall was asked, "doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" and he replied, "a republic, if you can keep it." and this battle over keeping the vision of our country, a power flowing up from the people, has been one that we have had to fight to maintain throughout our history. it was lincoln who he was speaking at gettysburg, commented on the fact that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
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now our founding document was flawed in that it didn't give the power of the ballot box, the power of the vote to every individual. and we have worked through great struggle to make sure that that is remedied. through the 14th and 15th amendment, we overcame some of the barriers on race. through the 19th amendment, barriers on gender happening within the lifetime of my father, i was astounded to learn as a child. overcoming barriers that denied native americans the right to vote with the indian citizenship act of 1924. overcoming barriers of jim crow and the voting rights act of 1965. lbj commenting at that time said the vote is the most powerful instrument devised for breaking down injustice. and many characterize the right to vote as the most powerful right.
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robert kennedy saying each right to vote is fundamental as the other rights of citizenship. here we are now, once again struggling with the battle on how to defend the integrity of our election process, the integrity of the ballot box. we have elections that are afflicted by gerrymandering. a direct attack on representation. political scientists continue to tell us that the representation in the house of representatives is significantly biased by the gerrymandering that take places in states. every american has a stake in the integrity of eliminating gerrymandering. the dark money, this unidentified massive hundreds of millions of dollars is drowning out their voice.
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they see the attack ads, hundreds of millions of dollars, nobody knowing where this money comes from, and what they know is that isn't power from the people, because people don't have hundreds of millions of dollars. that is power from the corporations, that is power from the mega rich attempting to influence the course of our country not for the people, not of, by, and for the people but of, by, and for the powerful. we have a responsibility to address that. and then, voter suppression. this is not some, as i just heard, some "silly idea" that we should stop voter suppression. it is fundamental. we took an oath to the constitution. and that involves defending the right to vote, defending the ballot box. and we are going to see a lot of laws passed trying to take that away.
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we know, we all know how easy it is to manipulate the vote on election day. we know because we see it. we see the long lines in very poor communities. we see difficult places to reach or moved precinct polling places in areas that are primarily where black americans vote. we see the false information put out by various characters saying the election was last week, sorry you missed it, when the election is the coming week, or saying here is place to vote, but it's not accurate. so the antidote to the manipulation of election day has been to enable people to vote early or vote by mail. it's worked in red states like utah, it's worked in blue states like oregon. it has been popular with citizens who want to know that they can exercise their right without being sent to the wrong place, without being sent to someplace that has no parking, without being sent to someplace where there is no staff so they have to wait in line for 5 hours, without worrying about
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whether that november election is in the middle of a snowstorm. they want to exercise that right, and we have a responsibility to defend their ability to do so. let's take on these afflictions in a bipartisan manner. until recently it was bipartisan energy in support of the vision of election integrity. let some in that spirit again. -- let's summon that spirit again. let's summon the spirit that led us to the 14th and 15th amendments, the 19th amendment, that led us to the 1974 citizenship act, that led us to the 1965 voting rights act. it is our responsibility, and it's imperative that we act, and we act now. thank you, madam chair. senator first panel of witnesses today,
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i'd like to make a motion to enter into the record some documents by unanimous consent. they were submitted by national leaders, civil rights groups, democracy reform groups and others in support of s-1 the for the people act. i would like to highlight three letters in the group. the first from former first lady michelle obama's organization "when we all vote." in support of the bill which has been signed by more than 60 people who are national leading voices in the arts, sports and civil rights, including tom hanks, keri washington, manuel miranda and issa rae. the bill that's been signed by hundreds of national organizations and
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the letter that highlights the difficulties voters continue to face when they cast their ballots and enact many of the reforms in the for the people act. unanimous consent to put these letters in the record? put them in the record. i'm now going to introduce three of the witnesses and senator blunt will introduce the other witnesses, the other two witnesses, including one that's with us today. but before we do that, i'll swear in the witnesses. if the witnesses could please stand, including those joining us virtually, and raise your right hand. do you swear that the testimony you will give before the committee shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> i do. >> thank you. now our witnesses. our first witness today is former u.s. attorney general eric holder. attorney general holder began
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his career in public service. he was later went to fight president reagan to serve as a judge on the superior court in the district of columbia. after she stepped down from the bench, he made history as the first african-american to serve as u.s. attorney for the district of columbia. in 1997, he was named deputy attorney general by president clinton and became the first african-american to serve in that position. he then moved on to a law firm, and in 2009, he again made history by becoming the first african-american serve as u.s. attorney general on their president obama. in 2017, he launched the national democratic redistricting committee and has
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served as its chair. our second witness today is secretary benson, elected as michigan's 43rd secretary of state in 2018. she has implemented a number of major reforms very important to the discussion we will be having today with implementations. she has been able to do this without issue, putting into place automatic registration, same-day registration, and no excuse vote by mail for all voters and audits. she was the youngest woman in u.s. history to lead a top 100 accredited law school after she was appointed at the age of 36. previously, she was an associate professor and associate director
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of a center for civil rights. she also served as the advisor of wayne law which she found -- which she cofounded. she received her ba from wesleyan university, her ma from magdalen college, and her law degree from harvard law school. our third witness on the panel is mr. michael baldwin, president of the brennan center for justice at new york university bosque. -- law school. he began his career in 1989 as the director of public citizens congress watch. from '93 to '95, he served as a special assistant to president clinton for policy coordination and was the top white house aide on campaign reform. he then continued to serve in the clinton administration as director of speech writing and assistant to the president in 1999. -- until 1999.
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he has written four state of the union addresses and two inaugural addresses. mr.wildman has also been a lecturer in public policy at the harvard john f. kennedy school of government and practiced law in washington, d.c. and new york. he received his b.a. from columbia university and his law degree from nyu school of law. i'll now turn it over to senator blunt to introduce the two other witnesses. senator blunt: thank you, senator klobuchar. since you responded to senator mcconnell's comments, i have one brief comment to what senator schumer had to say. he said he would like for any republican to answer the question of why georgia should eliminate voting on sunday. they are not eliminating voting on sunday. it did not pass the legislature. the republican lieutenant governor even refused to preside over the debate. this is an idea, like most of the 253 ideas out there introduced by some republican and some legislature somewhere
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, that will not happen. we can spend all day talking about legislation that was filed by republicans that will not become law or we can talk about this bill. and i hope we get to where we talk about this bill. i have two witnesses today we've asked who can talk about this bill with great knowledge of how this bill will affect states. one of our witnesses, todd rakita, was elected to serve as the attorney general of indiana in november of 2020. prior to that, todd rakita served indiana in the congress and as indiana's secretary of state. todd was elected as president of the national association of secretaries of state in 2007. our second witness today, mac
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warner, is west virginia's -- as west virginia's 30th secretary of state. he graduated from the united states military academy at west point and the west virginia university school of law. prior to serving as secretary of state, he served his country for 23 years in the united states army and five years in afghanistan with the state department, and i'd like to turn to senator capito for any additional comments she might make about her secretary of state, mac warner. >> thank you, senator, thank you, all of you, and i want to thank secretary of state mac warner for joining us today. he ran a flawless election in 2020 under difficult situations for everybody. we had more people voting. we had no disputes to speak of, and i want to thank our secretary of state for not only being a leader in this area on mobile voting as well but also for serving our country. he comes from a long line of west virginians and i'm proud to have him here with us today. thank you. >> very good. we'll start with our first witness. the witnesses have five minutes for an opening statement and we'll begin with attorney
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general holder. >> thank you. chairman klobuchar, ranking member blunt, members of the committee, i want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. you know, for as long as this country has existed, there have been two opposing forces that have fought over how we define and confer the rights and privileges of citizenship, freedom, and equality. every step that has brought us closer to universal suffrage has been met by those, often by those who are in power, who want to maintain an unjust status quo. much in the same way that reconstruction was followed by the era of jim crow, the progress won by the civil rights movement, including the voting rights act of 1965 has faced a multi-pronged assault that has sought to take us back to an era in which politicians, not the people, and consequently who can participate in elections. events of the past few months have brought into stark focus what has been true for too long.
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there is a large and powerful faction in this country intent on retaining power that will bend or break the rules of our democracy in order to do so. the attack on our system of government did not begin or end with the insurrection at the capitol on january the 6th.for years now politicians have spread the same lies about voter fraud and advanced falsehoods about the integrity of our electoral system. the fact is that there is no evidence of widespread or systemic fraud during the 2020 election or at any other time. yet state legislators around the country have used these baseless assertions as a pretext to introduce, as you've heard, more than 250 bills in 43 states that would restrict who can vote. this new wave of bills is the latest step in a decade-long project to systemically chip away or outright eliminate key protections for voters in a way that has undermined our representative democracy. too many americans, and particularly people of color, face discriminatory and onerous barriers to vote.
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the for the people act is a necessary and appropriate response to both the erosion of voting rights and the advancement of the special interests. the combination of unprecedented partisan gerrymandering during the 2011 redistricting process, the wake of the disastrous shelby county decision, and the courts citizens united -- co urt's citizens united decision have all combined to create a political system that does not adequately represent the desires of the american people. the for the people act is the right remedy at the right time. this bill recognizes that the best solution to abolishing the undemocratic trinity of issues plaguing our democracy, gerrymandering, voter suppression, dark money, is to get rid of all of them at once by creating a baseline of protection for voters, rooting out corruption and dark money, and ending the practice of partisan gerrymandering. this congress can create a fair and level playing field in our electoral system.
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this bill also makes evident that congress should pass the john lewis voting rights advancement act which would update the formula for determining which jurisdictions are subject to federal clearance. taken together, the for the people act and the john lewis voting rights advancement act represent the greatest pieces of civil rights legislation since 1965 and are badly needed reforms that will strengthen our democracy. despite what opponents may say, this bill will not favor either party. on the contrary, it would create a level playing field for the american people. the reality is that no matter what political party you support or what policies you advocate, your voice will be stronger if
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politicians are required to be responsive to your needs. now is the time for congress to exercise its constitutional authority to protect the structure of our representative democracy. ensuring a true representative democracy is how we advance equality, opportunity and justice in areas where too many americans are still let down, left out and left behind. it's how we make every vote count and how we make every voter count. it's making the determination of what kind of country we want to be. one closer to its founding promise or a nation turning away from our democratic ideals. passing this bill will be a critical and necessary step to restoring power to the people where it belongs. thank you. >> thank you very much, attorney general holder. next with us today, secretary andrew mac warner from west virginia. >> thank you, chairwoman klobuchar, ranking member blunt and members of this committee. thank you for letting me address the implications of s-1 on the state of west virginia. dubbed for the people act, this is anything but for the people. in fact, it is against the people, it is against the states, and it is against the united states. first, it is against the people
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because it overrules access and it overrules checks and balances. my most the human -- vehement objection to this is it strips the most sufficient and secure voting for our military, the people who put their very lives on the line for our democracy and way of life. when i was deployed, as were my two sons, my two daughters, my two sons-in-law, all who served in the use.s. -- in the u.s. army, they have had difficulty voting. when i became secretary of state i was determined to fix this and redid it through electronic transmission of ballots using mobile devices. we extended it to the military and then voters with disabilities, giving them not only the right to vote but the opportunity to vote. 31 states offers electronic transmission and s-1 strips the opportunity for everyone to vote electronically. how is this for the people?
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clearly, it's not. s-1 also overrules checks and balances in our election security. it mandates avr, including 16-year-olds. it bans i.d. laws and shields non-citizens from prosecution. it pushes mail-in voting without photo i.d., it promotes ballot harvesting and requires drop boxes. it delays acceptance of ballots for up to ten days. that delay and all of these collectively decrease individual confidence and it increases distrust in our elections. second, s-1 is against the states because it requires a huge expansion of state legislation and imposes funding mandates far beyond states' abilities to implement. it forces decertification of every voting machine in west virginia, wasting tens of millions of dollars you've provided to us through hopa funding.
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it mandates funding requiring poll books connected to the internet through high-speed broadband, something west virginia simply cannot do. we do not have high-speed broadband in all the precincts of west virginia. it requires agencies beyond dmv, such as colleges and social services to automatically register people who come in contact with them and process identification, thereby increasing risks for hackers and it busts our budgets. it forces election officials to accept and count ballots voted in incorrect precincts. it stops states from cleaning up voter registration lists, and west virginia's clerk association president, linda huggins, said this. clerks are unanimously against s-1 because deadlines cannot be met and requirements are not achievable. clerk michelle holly cited unfederal mandates as showstoppers, and clerk brian wood said, it doesn't matter if you're republican or democrat, if you want to keep it intact, you have to let the states run their elections. a special session of our state
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legislature would be required, which is not practical and would be hugely expensive. in sum, take away the idealogy and partnership, clerks across west virginia, most of whom i'm told are democrats, are against s-1. third, s-1 is a vast overreach. this 80-page monstrosity steps on people's rights. states have history, geography and cultures that create vastly complex and different election processes. this broad mosaic provides election security versus a one case for all approach. private clauses indicate that s-1 is not likely to withstand judicial scrutiny. the court cases will increase
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delays, cause confusion and distrust and are already con tentious and tense election process. s-1 is not for the people of west virginia. federalizing elections has never been done before and for good reason. senators, please leave election administration up to the states. the impossible requirements and unfunded mandates of s-1 will create election chaos and further divide our country. on behalf of the state of west virginia as its chief elections official, i ask you to consider these grave implications and i thank you for this opportunity to bring the very serious flaws and concerns to your consideration. thank you. >> thank you. and for a different perspective on the bill, the secretary of state for the state of michigan, jocelyn bensen. >> the election of 2020 is behind us.
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the war on democracy is escalated. and in addition to the ongoing efforts of democracy deniers to spread misinformation alongside continued attacks and threats against election officials, a new battlefront has emerged in state legislatures across the country. yet, michigan's story demonstrates a different path. our experience underscores that voters on both sides of the aisle want reforms like those in the for the people act, and it shows how, with sufficient funding, partnerships, leadership and political will, it is entirely possible to sufficiently and successfully implement those reforms. in november 2018, michigan silt citizens voted overwhelmingly to vote absentee without a reason. voter registration and an independent citizens redistricting commission. my office was charged with working with 1600 clerks across the state to implement all these policies in advance of the 2020 election cycle. and we did.
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because these policies are not new and implementing them is not rocket science. many states already have these reforms in place. we conferred with leaders in those states to learn from their experience, replicate best practices and modernize our democracy effectively and efficiently. we implemented automatic voter registration, for example, to security policies in place to make sure only citizens were registered. by november 2020, we increased our registered voters by a quarter of a million. we found that people on both sides of the aisle embraced the ability to vote absentee and use secure drop boxes. the number of absentee voters increased exponentially 1.20 million to 3.20 million in 2020. we saw thousands of voters register in the days leading up to the election, including 30,000 on election day itself and the majority of those were under 30. in the end, due in no small part to these reforms, we had the most successful, secure election in our state's history.
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we've already succeeded in implementing michigan's first independent redistricting commission enacted by voters in 2018. we found that when given the chance, citizens embraced the opportunity to draw on their own legislative districts. the commission is already at work, and you can read about their work in redistrictingmic if michigan can do this during one of the most difficult and highly scrutinized elections in our lifetime, every state in the country with proper leadership can do the same. federal minimum standards ensure equal protection of every citizen's right to vote. yes, every state will face unique circumstances in incorporating a new federal floor, but it's our job to meet those challenges, not to shirk them. just as the national voter registration act took a popular state policy in michigan, the motor voter law, and made it a nationwide convenience for every citizen, it will take
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collaboration, partnership, leadership and funding, but it can be done. truly only politics and political will stands in our way. i want to close by noting that 56 years ago at this very moment, thousands were marching for to montgomery, alabama from salma to call on their federal -- selma to call on their federal government to protect their right to vote and not impede their access. many of those advocates were beaten, some lost their lives. but their work led to the passage of the voting rights, one of the most effective voting legislations in our history. it was opposed by many of the attacks we see today. opponents said it would be impossible, that it would be an overreach for federal authority. but in the years that followed those critics, they were proved wrong and we became a more perfect union as a result. so as the current moment
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demands, we have to once again step in and defend democracy. at this moment, you are our greatest hope and this legislation is our best chance to stop this rollback on voting rights that is sweeping state legislatures across the country. i urge you to act and advance this legislation, because no matter where a voter lives or who they vote for, their right to vote should be protected. the future of the our democracy depends on your leadership today. thank you. >> thank you very much, secretary benson. the next witness is attorney general todd rakita. thank you for being with us. >> thank you, chairwoman ranking member. -- thank you, chairwoman, ranking member. i appreciate you inviting me to speak today on behalf of the citizens of indiana. my name is todd rokita, and i serve as the attorney general for indiana. prior to that i served as indiana's chief election officer as well as a member of congress. given my experience as an
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election officer and in various offices, i know how elections can and should be run to ensure transparency and public confidence in elections. we don't hear enough about the need for public confidence in our elections in order to make this republic work. any effort to address america's election system must begin with recognition of a simple fact, that the 2020 presidential election was unlike any other in our history, and it doesn't need to be repeated because we shouldn't be having pandemics every time we have a presidential election. the 2020 election involved an effort to convert what has traditionally been election day in our country to a months-long process of vote gathering, ballot harvesting, last-minute rule and law changes by people not authorized to do so. and all of this resulted in shaken confidence in our electoral system and a profound unease, if not outright distrust, about the results.
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americans saw mountains of mail and ballots being processed in processing centers. tens of millions of mail-in ballots overloading the capacity of the system in many states, turning the tabloids of them in -- tabulation of votes into a weeks-long process. case after case so vote waters excluded from an opaque and never-ending process. many of the problems in 2020 resulted from people without authority to do so trying to control how the election was run and changing election rules at the last minute. this led to an unprecedented number of election lawsuits that frankly have overwhelmed the system. senate bill 1 would increase the number of those lawsuits, both against states and states suing the federal government. the mandates of this bill are wholly unnecessary and the determinations for how elections are operated should remain with the states as intended by the framers for good reason. the proposed changes will open our elections up to increased voter fraud and irregularities and promote perhaps the most
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egregious provision of the acts 'elimination of photo i.d. laws. requiring government id represents a common sense, best practice for election administration and is in place in over 32 states. government-issued photo i.d. has been the global standard for decades. i recently talked with an -- a hoosier and she's also a mexican citizen. she showed me a voter card, a special card for voting that not only had her picture but a copy of her thumb fingerprint that was compared at the voting booth when she had to put her thumb in ink and use it to compare.
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this is mexico, by many a third world country, that has better turnout than we do of holding the integrity of one citizen, one vote there, and here this bill making a lot lower standard than that illegal. we're going in the opposite direction for a free society. regardless of which party or candidate a voter favors, all americans should have confidence in the outcomes of their elections. no american's vote should be devalued by fraudulent votes. earlier this month, 19 of my attorney general colleagues joined me in a letter to your leadership opposing hr-1, similar to s-1. as we wrote in letter, the act has several unconstitutional measures. that it passed, would federal estate elections and impose burdensome costs on state officials. the measures proposed in s-1 turns our constitutional structure on its head. they would open the door for greater fraud and less confidence. our system of government depends on the electorate having faith in the outcome of our elections, removing voter integrity measures such as voter i.d.
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laws, requiring that votes be counted for ten days after the election, requiring that counter commissions and d.c. judges should be removed from -- far removed from the states drawing our redistricting lines will make the system worse. voters should have a voice through their directly elected representatives in their states on how these elections should be run. the simple fact is these changes will apply across the board because no state can afford to have separate elections for state elections and federal elections. states should continue to hold elections in a manner that best take that entirely away from the states. -- that best suits the states and s1 takes that entirely away from the states. simply put, if states are laboratories, and that's what our founders intended and that's what's been proven time and time again, the passage of s-1 would
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make the state's laboratories close and no innovation would occur. should this become law, i can tell you the sun won't set in indiana before we sue the federal government, and i'm sure other states will join. thank you for your time. >> thank you. next for our final witness, michael waldman, the president for the levin center for justice. >> thank you, madam chairwoman, ranking member blunt, and members of the committee. thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify on this landmark legislation. we believe for the people act would be the most significant democracy reform measure in over half a century. it is the next great civil rights bill and response to the demand for racial justice in our country. it is long overdue and it is urgently needed now. now, as we know, there are a
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number of reforms in this legislation related to curbing the role of politics, with a number of ethics, dealing with gerrymandering. i want to talk about the right to vote as an understanding of ourselves as americans. i ask you to think about what happened in 2020. despite the pandemic, despite voter suppression, despite the lies, it was the highest voter turnout since 1900. and as has been said, the trump administration's own department of homeland security confirmed it was the most secure election ever. this is something we ought to celebrate. instead what has happened? we had the big lie about the election being stolen, we had the insurrection driven by that big lie, and now in states across the country, a wave of legislative attempts to curb the vote, the most significant attempted cutback in voting rights since the jim crow era.-s
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studied these laws for years and found, as has been mentioned, 253 laws that would, in one way or another, cut back on voting. that's 70 times the rate four years ago and the number is higher right now. these numbers are being pushed hard. it is only march, i should note, and already the governor of iowa has signed into law significant cutbacks, for example, in vote by mail. in georgia, the legislature is finishing its work this week on an egregious bill that was a public outcry that has forced changes, but there are still tremendously harmful provisions that will be moving through the legislature. these laws that we see across the country affect voters of color, young voters, poor voters, and the attempt, i'm afraid, is often unambiguous. oe
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bills in arizona said the purpose was to make sure that only, quote, quality voters had the right to vote, not that everybody would have the right to vote. that does not strike me as true to our american spirit. s-1 is, the for the people act, deals with this in a very important way, and i want to be very clear. this legislation would stop this wave of voter suppression cold. it stops it in its tracks, and congress has the power, the right, the authority constitutionally and legally to do this. what this bill would do is set national standards to ensure that every eligible citizen has the freedom to vote and the ability to make that ballot count. it would make automatic voter registration already the law in 19 states, democratic and republican states, the law of the land. it would ensure access to vote by mail and early voting and other things that proved so
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popular and so effective in recent years and are used by tens of millions of people enthusiastically. it would ensure the right to vote be given to returning citizens after they are incarcerated so they can rejoin our society. it would take all these important steps, and i note again, that every one of the things in this legislation, every proposal in this legislation is based on a tested and effective reform or policy at the national level, at the state level and at the local level. it would bolster election security in significant ways and, as has been noted, you are more likely to be hit by lightning that commit voter legislation in the united states.
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i should note that this bill honors the constitution. the elections clause gives congress this power, and i would note as well that the supreme court of the united states in 2019, in an opinion by john roberts, specifically pointed to this legislation as a constitutionally sound example of congress' power to set election law. this is part of the great story of american democracy. will we live up to our best ideals? will we build a multiracial democracy that really represents all people? or will we allow a drive to take place to turn the clock back, to cut back on those rights. this legislation would be a significant, and again, long overdue milestone for our country, and i urge you to enact it. >> thank you very much, mr. waldman. thank you to all of our witnesses. i'll begin the questioning and then turn it over to senator blunt. i did want to clarify one thing. i've been hearing the word "chaos" tossed around. let me tell you what chaos is. chaos is what we've seen in the
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last years, five-hour, six-hour lines in arizona to vote. chaos is purging names of long-time voters from a voting list so they can't go vote in states like georgia. chaos is the state of texas declaring you can only have one drop-off box for votes and ballots in their state, including huge counties like harris county with nearly 5 million people. chaos is forcing people in wisconsin to stand in garbage bags in the rain, waiting in line just to exercise their right to vote. chaos is people in south carolina being told that they have to have a notary public to be able to get a mail-in ballot and having to do it through a window of a hospital while they've got covid. chaos is a law in north carolina that a circuit court ruled was so discriminatory against african-americans that they said this is a conservative circuit court, that it was designed with surgical precision.
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their words, not mine, to discriminate against african-americans. and chaos is what we saw happen at the capitol when people heard for an entire year that our election isn't sound, and they decided to come here and take it under their own hands. that angry mob, that was chaos. what this bill tries to do is simply make it easier for people to vote and take the best practices that what we've seen across the country and put it into law as we are allowed to do under the constitution. so i'll start with you, attorney general holder. the for the people act would ban practices that states use to purge voters effective immediately. can you explain how voter purges disproportionately impact some voters and why these provisions are so important, given what we
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just heard from mr. waldman about all of the bills that have been introduced across the country to limit people's right to vote. is this threat real? >> the threat is extremely real. voter purging occurs in disproportionate numbers. i looked at a study that indicates the voting purging has occurred in states that were formally covered by the voting rights act of 1965. this desire to purge voters because people decided not to exercise their right to vote disproportionately falls on people who are people of color or people who vote democratic. so this is something, i think, that we need to be cognizant of. there are movements to try to keep people away from the polls and purging people from voter registration rolls is one of the tactics that is unfortunately used too frequently. >> and under article i, section 4 of the constitution, congress can make or alter -- those are
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the words of the constitution -- rules for federal elections, quote, at any time, end quote, is that correct? >> that is correct. the power that congress has under the elections clause with regard to the regulation of federal elections is very broad. >> and the supreme court has upheld this power as, quote, broad, unquote, and quote, comprehensive, unquote, is that right? >> that's correct. the court has considered the elections clause in a number of contexts, and i'm not aware of any instance where the court has said that congress has somehow gone beyond that which you could do with regard to the law of federal elections. >> thank you. your board has worked on these laws that you discussed. can you speak to some of the most egregious bills you've seen, just briefly? mr. waldman? >> thank you, madam chairwoman.
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in texas, for example, there is a proposed legislation moving through the legislature that would require people with disabilities to have a witnessed note confirming that they have the right to get an absentee ballot. you see cutbacks on absentee balloting and vote by mail all across the country, and you see them in ways that are politically very, very targeted. in georgia, the legislation that was moving through the legislature until the last day or so in this forum ended effectively no excuse absentee balloting, but preserved it for people over 65 who tend to vote conservative, who tend to be white. you see laws of this kind all over that are very precisely targeted that look neutral but have a very sharp and clear racial and partisan bent. >> ok.
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last year because of the pandemic, 45 states -- this is to you, mr. waldman -- did not require an excuse for voters to request a mail-in ballot, and 34 states allow for this in every election, including states like utah, montana, florida. we just saw how critical mail-in voting was, and a lot of voters really liked it. they said, we want to keep it. this bill, mr. waldman, would ensure that all voters can request mail-in ballots going forward. do you agree that all voters should be able to vote by mail, and that voter participation, whether you are a democrat or a republican in a blue state or a red state, increases when voters have options to cast their ballots? >> absolutely. this legislation would preserve something that was a hugely successful effort. first of all, even before 2020, tens of millions of people in this country vote by mail without incident, and it has not benefited either political party. last year many people found it
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was convenient and it would be unwise in the extreme to take it away, to take away from voters something they have found to be very useful in our newly mobile society which is not the same as it was when we set election day on one day so that you could get to the polling place in your horse and buggy. and we should guarantee that as something that everybody all over the country, regardless of where they live, as a minimum standard have access to vote by mail. it's important to note, you'll hear people say this switches everybody to vote by mail. that's not true. it merely gives everybody the opportunity to vote by mail and make sure they have the ability to apply for that kind of absentee ballot. >> thank you very much. my last few questions to you, secretary benson. secretary warner, your fellow secretary of state, testified that this bill would somehow
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create barriers to ballot boxes. over the last two years in michigan, you have put in place many of the policies that are actually included in this bill, as we look at best practices to set national standards, including automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration and no excuse vote by mail for all voters. by the way, those policies have led my state to be number one -- number one -- in voter turnout time after time, electing republican governors over the years, democratic governors and independent governors in jesse ventura. so has your experience, ms. benson, been that these policies have somehow created barriers to voting? >> no. quite the opposite. in fact, not only were these policies enormously popular among voters on both sides of the aisle, both in voting to enact them and also taking advantage of them, we saw record-setting voter turnout in every election that followed the implementation of these policies. and that included a statewide primary election in the midst of
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a pandemic that did not include any major contested statewide primary on either side or race. so even absent a highly contested election, these policies in and of themselves increased significantly voter turnout on both sides of the aisle in the state of michigan within a year of them becoming a mandate in our state constitution. >> thank you very much. thank you to our witnesses. i'll turn it over to senator blunt. >> thank you, senator klobuchar. mr. waldman, i think i'll start with you. you mentioned, as senator klobuchar did, as others have, that the last set of elections were the most secure elections ever. you accepted that and have repeated that. it seems to me that based on that, there would be no reason to have this discussion unless you could create a false narrative, in my view, that somehow states are passing massive legislation that changes the voting structure to people's
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disadvantage. now, that's different than individual members of the legislature introducing bills. you said the last set of legislative bills are more bills than usual. actually, i think on the republican side, 22 bills of those bills are in arizona and 22 or so of those bills are in georgia, which i suspect my back of the envelope calculation would indicate that the four, five or six bills in other states is about right. believe me, politicians believe they are election experts and there are always bills passed -- always bills filed, almost none of which pass. every article on this topic cites your organization and all of this voter suppressing legislation that, one, all isn't voter suppressing, and, two, just simply isn't going to become law.
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it's a great excuse to upend a system that served the country well for a long time. on the utah bill, for instance, that i cited earlier, hb-12, requires the lieutenant governor, who is the chief election authority, to provide social security data of deceased individuals to county clerks so they can begin the process of removing deceased individuals from the voter rolls. why would that be voter suppression? >> well, thank you, senator. when we look at legislation across the country, we look to see whether the measure is potentially restricting or -- >> just on the question i asked, why would that bill, removing dead people from the voter rolls based on social security information, be voter suppression? >> because there are frequently errors in the voter registration roll -- >> so you are saying they
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wouldn't be capable of telling them which people have died and should no longer get a check, so we should turn the entire election over to a federal structure. >> senator blunt, can we allow the witness to answer the question? >> >> no. >> no? >> the witness did answer the question. senator, the witness answered the question by saying the federal government is often in error in giving information to the states. that was the answer to the question. let's go to the secretary of state warner who is here, and the other two as well. we had three different views of this, from two current secretaries of state and one person, the attorney general of indiana who was the secretary of state until the end of last year.
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i think to some extent, that may show by one size fits all maybe doesn't ever fit anybody very well. secretary warner, what would be the challenge? you said you would have to have a special session in the legislature, you think, if this bill passed, and tell me again would that would be the case. >> the expanse of this bill would force seats to address these issues, such as the funding to get these new machines. this decertifies all the machines we have in west virginia. we have to go and get new machines. that's quite the process to find that funding, put it out for bids, that sort of thing. i want legislative directive. again, that's what our constitution says. it's going to be left up to the states, so i want that directive legislature to tell me so i can direct this vast, as i called it, monstrosity of a bill. the clerks are against the same-day voting aspect of this bill that would just overwhelm them, and as i said, when you don't have the broadband capability throughout the state,
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it's an impossibility. so then our legislature would be up to trying to find a way to address what congress is passing down to them, but then meeting the reality. that's the problem of so much of the discussion that's gone on here today. it's talking points versus reality. and that's why i always turn to my clerks, and my clerks tell me unanimously across the board they are against this as, one, because of the federal mandates and the expanse it would impose on them in the election administration. >> and general rokita, you thought there would be immediate action across the states. what would be the principal focus of that legal action as to why this shouldn't move forward? >> thank you, senator. the constitutionality of this all was immediately called into question, not just with regard to the framer's clear intent that state legislatures determine these rules, but also in terms of redistricting, which
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would be completely usurped by the federal government, and in particular, federally elected judges. the people have the most power in this situation when they can hold their representatives directly responsible for processes. that's a huge problem. the private right of action that is in this bill that was not in the help america vote act. when you have, for example, a prisoner that decides his rights are now violated as made up in this bill can sue the states, untold amount of litigation will happen, so it's not just the states against the federal government, this bill would give rights and private rights of actions to citizens for their apparent, not real, grievances, and that will drive up costs to states significantly. >> thank you, attorney general rokita. thank you, chairman. >> thank you very much.
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mr. waldman, 30 seconds. do you want to finish answering that question before i turn it over to senator feinstein? >> i would say, the five minutes is mine -- >> you went six minutes. >> it is not mr. waldman's. i didn't take the four minutes you took before the clock started or the 1.48 minutes after. >> i simply want to give mr. waldman 30 seconds to finish answering the question, and that is my prerogative as chair. >> well, if i had given him 30 seconds to answer the question or another minute, i wouldn't have been able to answer my questions within near the five minutes that every member should be restricted to here. >> madam chair, i think the senator from missouri took six minutes -- >> yes, i was generous in the time. i was generous in the time. mr. waldman, could you just finish answering the question? my goodness. what? >> would you let the witness, please, senator wicker? just let him finish 30 seconds. >> i will be brief.
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one must be very careful when purging voters from the rolls to ensure that the lists are checked and double-checked. unfortunately, there are errors and that's why voters should have protected rights as in this bill to ensure they are not being removed from the rolls when they ought to be eligible and ought to be able to vote. >> thank you. senator wicker. >> [inaudible] the position of the chair on the time in question is irrelevant. i've been sitting on this committee for 15 years. the chair took four minutes requesting an answer, she took four minutes to make another statement, and then the clock began to run.
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she took over six minutes getting him to answer questions. she knows that a witness -- a witness can filibuster an answer and take up five minutes of a senator's time, so senator blunt was well within his rights to cut that off to move on to other matters. but if the chair in this committee, on this important day where we have two panels, is going to run this committee in a way that i've never seen in 13 years, then i will point out that this is quite irregular. >> excellent. so i will note that testimony is supposed to be five minutes, and the time can be extended by the
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chair, including for questioning, which i just did for senator blunt, and i'm sure we can work that out, and i will say what's unprecedented is that we're finally having a hearing about something big. we're finally having a hearing in the rules committee about an actual bill and that everybody is here in this beautiful room. that is unprecedented. and i will be nothing than more than they're as we go forward because i understand how important this is. with that, i turn it over to senator feinstein. thank you. >> thank you, madam chair. in 2013, the supreme court struck down a key clearance provision in the voting rights act, which required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against minority voters to obtain approval from the justice department before making changes to voting laws. at the same time, the "washington post" has reported that, and i quote, in 43 states around the country, republican
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lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early, in-person and election day voting, with such constraints as stricter i.d. requirements, limited hours or narrower eligibility to vote absentee according to data compiled as of february 19 by the non-partisan brennan center for justice. let me ask both witnesses, can you discuss why it is so important to pass the for the people act now? nobody wants to answer? >> i think they just need a specific witness to go for. do you want to take that,
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attorney general holder? >> yeah. i'd be glad to answer the question. it seems to me that this is the right time, this is the right act. dealing, as i said, with that unwholly trinity of voter suppression, dark money and gerrymandering, these are all things that are handled by this act and will make our electoral system more fair, more responsive and more available to the american people. and that's why i think this bill should be passed. >> thank you. last june california passed bipartisan legislation to mail every voter a ballot before the november election in order to mitigate the risk of spread of covid. as my colleague, senator padilla, i think, can attest, our election was successful. almost 70.8% of voters participated.
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that's the highest percentage of eligible voters since 1952, and there were no reports of widespread voter fraud, according to the los angeles times. california is not the only state to recently expand vote by mail. for example, in 2018, michigan supported a measure that established the right to vote by mail. i'd like to ask miss benson, did this measure increase access to ballots in the 2020 federal election? >> yes, it did. remarkably, we saw one of the most secure, high turnout elections in our state as a result of policies just like that. >> can you describe it a bit more so we have something tangible? >> so in 2020, as i mentioned, we saw in particular the amount of people who voted absentee go from 1.1 million in 2016 to 3.3 million in 2020.
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that was enormous, and we saw 5.5 million people vote overall in the presidential election. but we had four elections in 2020, and in every single one of them, we saw more people vote than ever before, taking advantage in more numbers than we had even expected of their right to vote absentee. in doing so, they utilized secure drop boxes to return their ballots, they utilized applications that were mailed to them to every registered voter to know how to request their ballot. in short, i think michigan's experience over the past two years is the blueprint for how every state in the country can effectively and securely take the policies in the for the people act and make them real for their voters. >> thank you. the recent solar winds hack, and this comes from intelligence, is a reminder of the scale of the cyber weapons our adversaries possess and our ongoing need to
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secure critical infrastructure from attack. in light of this attack, it's troubling that even after 21 states were warned, they were targeted by russian hackers in 2016. approximately 10% of votes cast in 2020 do not have a verifiable paper record. to be clear, this doesn't mean that these votes were fraudulent but it does suggest a major vulnerability in the event of a large-scale attack on our elections. the for the people act would require states to use voter-verified paper ballots in election and conduct risk-limiting audits. how would the for the people act protect our election systems against foreign interference and attacks? >> well, simply put, you can't
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hack paper. and one of the reasons we had one of the most secure elections across the country in recent history is because so many states used paper ballots that enabled for us in michigan to have more than 250 post-election audits to affirm that the ballots were adequately counted by the voting machines, it enables transparency, it enables reliability. there are systems set up to enable military and overseas voters to have those same protections of paper ballots in voting and making sure the votes are received on time. and many states have gone through this and can provide the best practices and experiences that underscore how to do this. >> thank you. i think we're going to move on. so thank you very much. next, senator cruz. thank you, senator feinstein. >> thank you, madame chairwoman. this bill is the single most dangerous bill this committee has ever considered. this bill is designed to corrupt
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the election process permanently, and it is a brazen and shameless power grab by democrats. that the number one priorities is not covid or getting people back to work or getting kids back in school. it's keeping democrats in power for 100 years. and how do they do this? they do this by instituting a bill that will promote widespread fraud and illegal voting. under this bill, there's automatic registration of anybody if you get a driver's license, if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment. if you attend a public university. now, everyone knows there are millions of illegal aliens who have driver's licenses, getting welfare benefits to attend public universities. this bill is designed to register every one of those illegal aliens.
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what would the impact be in state elections of automatically registers millions of illegal aliens to vote? >> well, despite the cause and everything in the system, it would dilute the votes of every citizen who is supposed to be voting. oh so they want voter turnout. they want more people to participate, and you cannot vote in this country unless you're a united states citizen in a federal election. >> and the bill explicitly says if an illegal alien is registered to vote, even though it's illegal for him to vote, a illegal alien will not be liable. the democrats here anticipate and their desired effect is to register millions of illegal aliens. is that correct? >> yes.
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>> but it's not just illegal aliens. this bill is designed to get criminals to vote. a great many states across this country prohibit fellens fromons from voting. if you're a murder, a child molester, we the democrats want you voting. every one of those state laws is struck down. is that right, general? >> that's correct. and if they don't get their way, the state -- >> so apparently the democrats have determined that if millions of illegal aliens get to vote, if millions of criminals get to vote, that that will benefit democrats because they understand that criminals and illegal aliens are much, much more likely to vote for democrats. is that correct? >> yes. >> not only that. this bill strikes down photo i.d. laws. 31 -- 29 states have photo i.d. laws including by the way the state of arizona.
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including the state of georgia, including the state of west virginia, all of which i might note have democratic senators. but senate democrats are so interested in maintaining power that they are asking senators from georgia, west virginia, to strike down roto id laws in. general rokita, photo id laws help cash to photo id laws help protect the integrity of elections >> that elections? >> absolutely. they protect one citizen, one vote in indiana, we had the first photo id law and voter turnout went up. it went up because more people have confidence in the process. people on this panel and in other places say a certain subset of our electorate can't vote without photo id. that is a racist statement.
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senator: you are right the indiana photo id law was a model for the nation and it was challenged in court time. i was solicitor general in texas and let a coalition of states defending the indiana law and the u.s. supreme court upheld that law by a vote of 6-3. the majority opinion was written by justice john paul stevens, a noted liberal who observed voter fraud is a serious problem and voter id laws protect the integrity of elections. democrats want to strike down every photo id law in the country to encourage voter fraud. not only that, this bill mandates ballot harvesting. it mandates party operatives to be able to go into nursing homes, collect every ballot there, throw out ballots they don't like because there is no supervision over ballot harvesting. the carter-baker commission chaired by former president
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jimmy carter said ballot harvesting was a major source of voter fraud. democrats said, let's do more of that. this bill has been called the corrupt politicians act because it is designed to keep corrupt politicians in office. everyone supporting it should be ashamed. i would like to introduce six letters in opposition to this bill. >> a letter from the family research council, citizens united, concerned women of america, the public interest research foundation, independent women's forum, independent women's law center, independent women's voice and a letter from the campaign for liberty. chair klobuchar: the letters will be admitted. senator: it is interesting that the junior senator from texas thinks allowing felons to vote will benefit democrats. the state of vermont always
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allowed felons to vote and overwhelmingly elected a republican governor in this last election, and has, even though we are the 14th state, only elected one democrat to the u.s. senate. so it is certainly something that might not benefit just democrats. we are concerned with state legislators across the country are pushing legislation that will make it more difficult for the disabled, shift workers to cast ballots. that is not what is intended. i would ask them to look at vermont, where we have the most honest voting you can imagine. i think the witnesses for being here. i can hope that we stop this slide backward in the face of a spree of voter suppression laws across the country. how do we make it easier, not more difficult, for our citizens to vote?
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recent election cycles have seen dramatic increases in early in-person voting, especially during covid. it helped in rural areas like vermont. we can make voting easy, but also safe, secure and legal. you can vote early, you can vote by mail, if you are homebound, you can have a ballot delivered by a justice of the peace. in michigan, backers of former president donald trump challenged the validity of the election. and certainly, parts of your population are as rural as vermont. i would ask you, do you doubt the safety and security of your elections? and if you have -- and have you had any evidence presented to you that mailing, absentee end early voting created widespread fraud in michigan's elections? >> thank you, senator. the michigan experience
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demonstrated these policies can be implemented securely and effectively with an eye toward taking everyone, citizens on both sides of the aisle, whether they live in urban or rural areas, to participate in their democracy. when it comes to making sure that every valid boat is counted -- valid vote is counted and only valid boat are counted, these policies not only further that, but there is plenty of evidence to ensure that that is the case. and it can work in not just michigan, but states across the country to successfully ensure people can vote securely through these provisions, and that they are administered securely to ensure that only valid citizens are able to, for example, register to vote automatically when they get a driver license. senator leahy: in many ways,
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our state is a roadmap for the act. attorney general holder, you and i spoke any times about the supreme court's devastating decision that gutted the voting rights act and led to a spree of state suppression schemes not seen since the civil rights era, almost immediately after the case came down. for the people, we are trying to ensure states are moving toward increased access, not less. but can we also make sure that under legislative actions, states already are taking actions to not penalize or unduly burden. and states -- and congress should have a certification process for states that are already meeting the requirements of the election. >> having some sort of requirement that makes states
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roof they are following the intent of the law is something that ought to be considered -- states prove they are following the intent of the law is something not to be considered. after the shelby decision, 1700 polling places across the country were closed. there were a number of things that happened post-shelby county that have an habited the ability of people, especially of people of color, to get to the polls. it is having some sort of requirement that shows the states are doing all they can to make sure their citizens have access to the polls. it would be something worth considering. senator leahy: thank you. i appreciate that. madam chair, thank you for this hearing. i think it is vitally important. chair klobuchar: thank you very much. next, senator wicker. [indiscernible]
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senator wicker: the people of the united states don't want this. , ion or not -- am i on or not? madam chair, i really think you should start my time again. chair klobuchar: i will. senator wicker: the people of the united states might like the sound of a bill that sounds like it's going to make it easier for people to vote. senator cruz is right that it makes it easier for some people to cheat in elections. but when you go step by step and ask the questions, as this pollster did, the american people object many provisions in this bill.
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i would like to ask secretary warner and general rokita about this. universal mail-in voting, this may be great for some states, but 71% of americans are concerned about that, and only 26% are not concerned. vote alec drop boxes, 74% of americans are concerned about that. only 24% are ok with that. preventing states from regularly cleaning up voter registration files, to make sure people who died or moved out of the state are removed, preventing states from doing that, 82 percent of americans are concerned with that provision in this bill. only 17% are not concerned at jet, one of the witnesses for the majority has told this
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committee that using social security numbers to remove dead people is voter suppression. i believe in eternal life, but i think once we have passed on, the voting stops. general rokita, you were a member of the house when ballot harvesting was an issue, were you not? general rokita: i believe it was. we voted against it several times. senator wicker: as i recall, a member in north carolina, a republican, was elected in the house of representatives and was not seated because he engaged in ballot harvesting, which was illegal under the law in north carolina, but would be not only
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legal, but required to be legal in all 50 states and the district of columbia. that incident by the member who won the most votes was denounced on both sides of the aisle as wrong, as rife for fraud, and the republican member was not seated on a bipartisan basis, because he engaged in a practice that would be blessed by this act. i will ask each of our witnesses to comment about whether ballot harvesting, in other words, letting hundreds of people go out and pick up pallets to bring them in, and trust them to do that, what do you think about that, mr. secretary? secretary warner: i am completely against it. the carter center has addressed these issues at the further we get away from election day with mail-in ballots and so forth is
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where the fraud is likely to occur. the gold standard in elections is voting in person at a polling precinct under the supervision of trained poll workers on election day. and that is where we need to go, and only if there is a good reason for doing something other than voting on election day, that is where you open up early voting. but that should before reason, legitimate reason, as proscribed by the state legislature. and each state has different character in the people, different history. here in west virginia, the 1960 presidential election was fought by john f. kennedy. they brag about that for years, took that as a sense of ride. we need to overcome that. we are not proud of that anymore. that is where ballot harvesting, mail-in ballots, all of that, we want to keep a tight rein on it, our legislature is well aware of that and that is where i want to get my guidance, from the state legislature, and not go against
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mail-in ballots and same-day registration. all those provisions are in this bill. senator wicker: there is a provision that allows ballot harvesters to deliver ballast to the county clerk, 83% of americans are concerned. is this illegal in indiana? >> it is illegal indiana -- ini. it is not that california mailed out ballots to every voter, they melded out to every name on the voter list. and if you don't clean up that voter list, that means you are going to have tens of thousands, maybe millions of ballots out there that are live, associated with people who shouldn't vote, meaning they are dead, moved away, they are in prison, except for vermont, i guess. that is why this is a bad idea. they didn't have partisan, paid
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collectors to collect those ballots. in this build does not allow you to challenge those ballots. chair klobuchar: next up is senator king, who is with us remotely. senator king. ok, we will be joined by senator king later. we will now turn to senator merkley. senator merkley: thank you to our witnesses. i went to turn to michigan secretary of state jocelyn benson. with your automatic voting registration system, do you have a system to make sure people are aware of the requirements to be a legal voter, that instructs them to opt out of me signed up for they don't meet all the requirements? secretary benson: yes, we do. but we'll just have that, we
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actually have six checks in place for multiple places and positions to ensure that only valid citizens are registered to vote. it has been implemented over the past year and a half. we found it to be enormously successful through those checks, and again, leading to the registration of nearly 250 thousand new, eligible citizen registered voters in the state of michigan. senator merkley: have they turned up any numbers at all of the folks who are noncitizens registering to vote under the avr system? secretary benson: no. and again, there is a procedure in place to ensure if there is one error, that is quickly found by one of the other checks. that is why six checks through multiple partnerships has been critical to ensure that if there is an issue, that it is found and addressed long before that person either is in a position
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to wrongly feel that they have the ability participate, in other words, checks and balances we have in place in our state prevents -- senator merkley: how many people got registered because of avr? >> 250 thousand, because of notably real id, and a number of other things. people had to show documents in order to get the drivers license and those documents also affirm their citizenship. senator merkley: keep your answers short, if you are able, that would help me out. one concern noted has been cybersecurity. we are worried about this in all sorts of contacts -- contexts, transferring information. are you working to address cybersecurity to make sure that we don't have voting systems that are back? secretary benson: yes.
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through our successful partnerships with the federal government, we have all the resources to be able to do that. senator merkley: another question is the cost of implementing this, certainly a legitimate concern, and the complexity of modifying existing computerod took you, and the cost, were you able to cover it with the funds from the america vote act? or was it a big burden on the state of michigan? secretary benson: it was not a big burden. it does take funding but notably, the approximately $2 billion allocated to states through this act would address many of those issues. ed the funding was not just for the implementation, but also educating voters on how to take advantage. senator merkley: so it wouldn't union position on the states if we passed the funds to hire them -- the funds for them to hire
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this outcome is that what you are saying? secretary benson: yes. senator merkley: how many people were signed up to vote illegally and illegally voted in the 2020 election? secretary benson: none. senator merkley: so when my colleague from texas says this bill is about registering millions of a legal aliens to vote, yet we are modeling on a system that michigan has done, and you have found zero, can we discount that has some hyperbolic speech, not a real recounting of how the system works, is that correct? secretary benson: yes. i recommend that. senator merkley: it is important to get past the hyperbole. you empowered hundreds of thousands of people to vote in michigan. i think he said 250 million, but that wasn't avr in michigan, what was the number in michigan of new voters under avr? secretary benson: a quarter
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million, 250,000. senator merkley: thank you. 250,000 people were empowered with his right to vote, making sure obstructions were knocked down, and not a single illegal voter. that seems exactly like what this congress should be defending and making sure happens across this country, taking the good work that has been piloted in states like michigan. secretary benson: i agree. yes. again, the system works with proper funding and enough partnerships. there is no reason why every state in the country can't follow our lead and implement provisions of this act. senator merkley: i think these are legitimate concerns that have been raised and we can learn from the experience of states that have gone through this process. some voting machines would be decertified, in part because they don't produce paper ballots, or some voting machines would be certified for that reason. our paper ballots integral to
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high-integrity elections? secretary benson: yes, they are. because you can't tack paper. and the more incentives we have to improve security after you laid in this paper ballots, the better off our democracy will be. senator merkley: and we would like to have american-made machines to ensure there is not some internal backdoor corrupting our elections, is that right? secretary benson: yes. senator merkley: thank you, your experience is very instrumental. very instructive. tanks. -- thanks. chair klobuchar: thank you. -- >> all of us want to have great faith in our systems and not be disenfranchised. we have heard from michigan and west virginia that things are working in their states, great. keep doing that. secretary warner, duplicate,
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out-of-state and deceased convicted felon voters have been eliminated. at the same time, in a state 1/5 the size of michigan, you have registered 246,000 new voters, 67 of which are high schoolers and you don't have same-day registration, you don't have the provisions she has. so we have tailored the way we want to get new and energetic voters on our roles and get rid of voters no longer eligible to vote. congratulations on that. the specific thing i would like to talk about is your mobile voting app. you talked about your overseas service members with electronic voting, but it is important to note you have expended use with the help of the legislature of online voting for disabled individuals. i have heard from our blind community in west virginia -- our deathblind community in west virginia about increased voting
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accessibility options you have pioneered in west virginia. could you briefly share concerns about the impact this bill would have on military voters and voters with this abilities? >> this bill would eliminate the opportunity for military people overseas, for voters overseas, and for what you just mentioned, voters with certain disabilities, especially the lined -- blind community and folks that are physically able to get to voting stations. we have a mobile device tailored their specific situation. we have a quadriplegic that could not get out of bed to vote, and he said he felt like an american for the first time in his life using this. senator we are talking about -- july -- senator: this eliminates the ability of people in the military to vote in the most convenient and technology-tested way.
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the state of west virginia in the 2020 election, without this bill, you increased the number of voters by 130,000 who came to the polls. is that correct? >> yes, we had over 800,000 people vote and just over one million active voters. we had a tremendous turnout. senator: i want to follow-up something you said, something senator merkley said about the decertification about certain machines. i understand and west virginia, all of ours are paper. secretary warner: yes. senator why would our machines be to certified under this legislation? secretary warner: the bill requires the voting machines meet a certain system, and no state has that. we have to go out and buy new machines to meet the new standard. senator: every state would have to buy new machines? secretary warner: yes, under this. senator: remember the funding we
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put in for america vote act, to make sure you are up to vote of -- up to the point of where you are today, so this is a dangerous thing and i have no idea what the answer is going to be. but there is a provision in this bill that says we are going to politicize the fcc, and make it, instead of even, three republicans, three democrats, the majority party will have a majority vote at the fcc. do you agree with that provision in this bill? mr. holder, yes or no? secretary holder -- general holder: yes, i am in favor the weight is now. >> yes. >> yes. secretary warner: no. rokita no -- general rokita: no. senator i cannot believe that
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three out of the five witnesses thinks it is a good idea to take a nonpartisan fec commission and politicize it and make decisions about elections when you can use your majority vote-a-rama anything. that -- majority vote to ram anything through. >> i would request an advance may be an extra minute. let me begin by commenting on remarks made earlier by minority leader mcconnell. i am so glad he made reference to the help america vote act that he worked on. he said it was both crafted and passed not just on a bipartisan
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basis, but specifically given the approach to make it harder to cheat. it should be easier to vote, and harder to cheat. the second part has clearly been accomplished, folks. voter fraud in america is exceedingly rare. study after study, investigation after investigation, report after report shows that. and anybody with evidence or proof to the contrary needs to step up and bring it forward. easier to vote and harder to cheat. we still have a lot of work to do on the first part. voter purges, discriminatory voter id laws, long lines that no voter should have to suffer
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in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote, let alone the falls choice too many voters were forced to make last year in either protecting their health and their lives versus exercising the right to vote during the covid-19 pandemic. we have a lot of work to do still, on making it easier for eligible citizens to register, to stay registered and to cast their ballot. and anybody who agrees with minority leader mcconnell in thinking that the 2020 election went so well, then you also have to denounce the hundreds of bills that have been introduced, even though they haven't been passing yet, they have been introduced and it would have the effect of making it harder for eligible citizens to participate. let me jump to three questions for the three witnesses,
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particular quickly. i am learning how to manage my time as a new member around here. the first is addressed to mr. holder. i will bypass the preamble and ask the question in reference to the flurry of bills we have seen since the start of this year coming off the november 2020 election, how these recent proposals further highlight the need to create a federal lien for voting and access to the ballot that should apply across the country. that is number one. number two, some folks have argued there is the john lewis voting rights act, isn't that enough? while restoring the teeth of the federal voting rights act critical, mr. waldman, can you
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explain why it is critical to create a baseline of voting rights through s1 rather than implementing new preclearance requirements for state and local jurisdictions in the defense of voting rights. and lastly, questions for secretary benson, hello, jocelyn. as michigan's chief elections official, you have a vested interest in ensuring the proper administration of free and fair elections in your state, as her colleagues across the country. does the for the people act rest control -- wrest control from local and state officials and federalize elections, as some have argued? and if you can comment on your experience on an independent redistricting commission.
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secretary benson: thank you, senator padilla. with regards to implementation, we have seen that with proper funding on the things we have learned from other states, that it is possible to implement all these policies. and it amazes me how so many of the arguments we have heard today were made against the voting rights act in 1965. almost verbatim, the overreach argument. i will underscore that in michigan, we had a state policy, the motor voter law. the same arguments were law. it is not possible, it is overreach, a federal takeover, and it wasn't the case. it improved election administration across the country. these arguments have been made before and have not proven to play out in reality. i know my time is limited, i will direct anyone to michigan space to see this success we had in implementing a citizens redistrict in commission in
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michigan and we found that when you give citizens the ability and both sides of the aisle to draw their own legislative districts, they embrace that ability with good intentions. at we have through the commission effectively eliminated gerrymandering. >> senator, we need both this legislation and the john lewis voting rights advancement act to ensure equal access to the ballot for all americans and enter there is not racial discrimination in voting. the john lewis voting rights advancement act deals with restoration of preclearance, which is a fairly specific thing relating to past racial discrimination and how it lays out in voting. but this legislation, by ensuring national standards and enjoying the contempt cutbacks in access to voting, unfortunately also have a very direct ainge of discrimination -- direct tinge of
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discrimination. that can happen as well. i will note that representative louis was very involved in the writing of this legislation when it was in the house of representatives -- representative lewis was very involved in the writing of this legislation when it was in the house of representatives. general holder: the need for baselines is important. we hear this cry about voter fraud. it simply doesn't exist. just because you say it doesn't mean it exists. in texas, if senator cruz were to talk about that, attorney general ken paxton spent $22,000 looking for voter fraud and found 16 cases of false addresses on registration forms. he talked about lake justice stevens, who said his bold upholding photo id laws because of concern about fraud was the worst decision he ever signed on
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to. there is simply not, there is simply not, indications of fraud to the extent that would justify very draconian measures put in place and that this act would prevent them being put in place. and it would separate people from their ability to affect the direction of the nation and would return power to the people. >> senator fischer. senator: thank you, senator blunt. in the 2020 election in nebraska, we saw an excellent job done in administrating the vote. and we had record turnout. we saw over 960,000 people vote out of 1.2 6 million registered voters. i am so proud of the job nebraska has done.
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as i sit here today and i listen my colleagues on the others of the aisle and the witnesses that they brought forward, as well as my colleagues on my side of the island the witnesses that we have brought word, it sounds like states are doing a great job. we hear that there is very little or no voter fraud. we hear that the voter turnout was tremendous in this last election, which all of us want to see. we want people to exercise their right to vote, we want that to happen. so i would just ask for us to think about, why in the world would we give up state control of our elections to the federal government? most everybody in here is saying, in their own fashion, that our elections are working. yet we are saying, heavens, we
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have to have the federal government take over control. i vehemently disagree with that. and as i look through this bill, my staff worked overtime trying to get through the 800 some pages, but what we saw were proposals that i think are done in a political fashion. what we have seen is a lot of confusion in this bill. in some cases, i would say sloppiness in how this bill was written. senator merkley brought up one point about, that states have to purchase paper voting machines that are compliant with standards. and i believe you, secretary
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warner, also spoke to that. we have conflicting deadlines in this bill that we discovered. in one section, it said this has to happen by january 2022 and another complex that -- and another conflicts with that. i see chaos. i see chaos in trying to meet these requirements for the 2022 election. for example, these machines don't exist yet, so you tell me how we are going to get this implemented. you tell my elected officials in the brassica, our secretary of state and his very competent staff, how we are going to be able to meet all this. and i would imagine before we go through here, we are going to find a lot more, a lot more. as senator wicker pointed out, when the american people hear what is in this, they do not support it.
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we all want fair elections. we all want more citizens to vote. that is what keeps a democracy strong. but to try and portray this as something it isn't, is just pretty darn disingenuous. secretary warner, you identified the unrealistic deadlines i mentioned that we see in s1, and it makes it difficult for states to meet that. can you speak to some of the challenges? for example, when we look at the decertification of millions of dollars worth of equipment that i mentioned, can you quickly speak to that? and then, i will have a number of written questions for you. because we can't just sit here
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on both sides and speak in a terms. we need to get down to the nuts and bolts of this and figure out if it is going to happen, and if it is realistic. secretary warner: i think you articulated the sentiment, especially of the people of west virginia, on the problems with this bill. the equipment, since it doesn't exist, you have to get vendors actually developing that. they say it is anywhere between 12-36 months. that would be passed january 2022 timeframe -- that would be past the january 2022 timeframe. then you have to get the clerks trained on that. it is just unrealistic senator -- it is unrealistic. senator when i was in the nebraska state legislature, i jarrod the telecommunications committee. it takes time. it takes time to do this in the help america vote act. it takes resources.
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so when we are looking at a complete federal takeover of the election system of the united states of america, we need to understand what is fully involved. thank you. chair klobuchar: thank you. i am back from voting. we have been able to run two votes and have a seamless hearing. i want to thank senator blunt for helping. if any witnesses need a three or four minute break, let us know, or we will finish up unless senators want a second round of questioning. next, senator king. senator king: thank you. as a former governor, i am conflicted because i am a strong believer in state's rights and that states have the ability to make their own laws according to their local needs and local situation. on the other hand, i view many
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of the provisions of this bill as a kind of extension of the 1965 voting rights act. as has been testified, the congress has involved itself in voting and voting rights on numerous occasions. what we are talking about here is protecting the right to vote. i wanted to ask a couple questions. mr. waldman, what is a forward-looking request. you were collecting data, you reported on all these bills filed around the country. i would appreciate it if you would notify the committee, perhaps on a biweekly basis as we move into consideration of this bill, what is happening to those bills that have been introduced around the country. ranking member blunt pointed out some will be enacted and some won't. i think it would help us in our deliberations to learn exactly which of these bills have gone forward in which states. and that will allow us to
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sharpen the provisions of the bill. esther waldman, can you do that, please? mr. waldman -- mr. waldman, can you do that, please? mr. waldman: we can. we can make it useful to the committee. but it is also the case that is a fierce push to enact these bills, happening in plain sight for our eyes. and i would suggest we not more -- suggest we not ignore that either. senator king: i agree, and we shouldn't be waiting for states to be infringing on that right, this should be a protective measure. mr. waldman, you are the guy to ask about gerrymandering. i consider that one of the most serious problems afflicting our democracy. and it happens in both ways. there are democratic gerrymandered seats and there
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are republican gerrymandered seats. the problem is, instead of voters choosing the politicians, politicians choose the voters. talk about the effective gerrymandering in this country, the extent and what it is doing to our politics. mr. waldman: senator, you are exactly right. both parties gerrymandered when they can. and it is a risk to the representation of voters, it is a risk of partisan abuse and a risk of choking off the voices of communities of color that are often the fastest-growing communities. this legislation follows what a lot of states have done and what voters have put in place in a lot of states. it bans partisan gerrymandering. it requires that redistricting be done with standards for representation in communities and other fair standards. it includes commissions, not partisan commissions, to implement this. but even if this legislation is not passed in time to implement
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those, it has very, very valuable national standards to ensure all voters are able to have competitive and representative elections. senator king: i had an problem with gerrymandering is that if you have a district that is heavily democratic were heavily republican, you tend to have members elected who are on the edges of the two parties. you don't win a primary in one of those by being moderate. i think that is one of the things that has contributed to the polarization that we see in congress. have you observed that? mr. waldman: yes, that doesn't seem to be the case, and in legislatures as well. and the rules in this bill don't just affect right now, because redistricting happens every 10 years. and it is going to begin in a few months around the country. if there were abusive redistrict practices and unfair maps
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that are drawn, a bad system can lock in advantage for much of a decade. and it really makes it something where voters don't want to vote if they don't have a real opportunity to be heard. senator king: the supreme court hunted on that issue and i think they had a good case in front of them that they could have handled and advocated their constitutional responsibility. that is another question. i want to thank the witnesses and close with a piece about maine. we have same-day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, no voter id and no fraud. i just wonder about all of these provisions that are being enacted all over the country to chase a fraud, fraud allegations that i have not yet seen validated in any objective form. madam chair, i appreciate the hearing, ranking member blunt,
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and i look forward to consideration of the bill. chair klobuchar: thank you much. we appreciate the maine secretary of state's support for the bill as well. senator hagerty. senator senator hagerty: i direct this question to secretary warner and general rokita. i ask if you agree with me that this bill, by eliminating common sense security measures for voting, by bypassing elected state representatives, is really a power grab by those politicians that are currently in power that wrote this bill to use their power, even it is -- even though it is so thin in a 50-50 senate, to use their power to change the rules so that they stay in power permanently. >> that is what it would appear to me, senator. general rokita: just look at the
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number of the bill. it is hr one and senate bill one. as leader mcconnell said, it is telling what the most important priority is for democrats. i have never seen a group of people complain so much after winning. senator: doesn't using government power to ensure you stay in power sound warrant like the vendor wrote regime or chairman mao's that something in the united states? >> i think the american people see right through it. that is why the senate has got to vote this bill down, if for nothing else just to maintain the credibility of the american people. if you look at these state legislatures and weather bills they are proposing are good or bad or ugly or watch, they are responding to their constituents, the american people. they are closer to the american people than the federal government is, and clearly,
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people felt that because of last-minute rule changes and everything else, the last election wasn't a good one from a process standpoint. the 2018 in 2016 were much better. senator haggerty: i would like to ask three questions that could be answered with yes or no questions. is it accurate that under this bill, it is possible a court in washington dc would redraw every congressional district before the 2020 midterm elections, rather than allowing the elected representatives of those people in those states? general rokita: yeah, that is exactly where this is going. you could argue whether redistricting is good or bad and if it could be done better, but you make it worse by definition when you take it more out of the hands of the people. the fact is, state legislatures are elected by the people.
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d.c. circuit judge's or three-panel appellate judges -- d.c. circuit judges or three-panel appellate judges are removed from the people by design. the framers intentionally noted that the first branch of legislate -- first branch of government, the legislature, be in charge of this for accountability reasons. senator: is requiring a voter to present a reliable form of identification and important method of determining the voters who that voter claims to be and not trying to impersonate someone? general rokita: absolutely. it is 19th and 20th century technology and it is very simple. only a photo allows you to determine you are who you say you are. it is important for confidence. you can argue whether there is voter fraud in your state, it depends if you are looking.
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number two, it is a very difficult crime to spot because the evidence goes away right after the vote is cast. there is no dead body with an outline to make afterwards to prove a crime. it goes away. so it is difficult and prosecutors don't like prosecuting it because it is very different than the run-of-the-mill crimes they are used to prosecuting. that shouldn't be the measure. the measure should be the confidence it brings to the process. and time and again, like the mexico example i gave, the indiana example, turnout was up after preventing -- after presenting a photo id, turnout is up because it tells people we are going to invest in this process like you do when you rent a video or get on an airplane. we care enough about your vote to make sure it is one person, one vote. that is what photo id does. senator: would you agree
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allowing paid by the hour political operatives to harvest ballots and drop them in unmanned boxes would decrease election integrity? >> the answer is yes. general rokita: i didn't mean to step on anybody. yeah, absolutely, that would chaos. that is chaos, waiting in a line, hopefully a short line, is not chaos. this coupled with lawsuits is going to be chaos for 2022 and beyond. chair klobuchar: senator hagerty? thank you. next, senator ossoff. senator ossoff: thank you, madam chair and thank you, distinguished panel, and thank you senator merkley, for your leadership on this issue.
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this is an issue of particular concern, as one of the senators from georgia. and it is with a heavy heart that i report to the committee, and to the panel, for those who are not aware that right now in georgia's state legislature, significant faction of georgia's republican delegation is pursuing utterly meritless blatant voter suppression legislation that is so brazen in its partisan and racial targeting that even georgia's own republican lieutenant governor refused to oversee the debate of this legislation. because it is obvious to all, and indeed, openly admitted by some of these republican legislators, that the exclusive purpose of this legislation is to gain a partisan edge in
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elections, by making it more difficult for black voters and working-class voters in georgia to vote. i take exception to the comment you just made, mr. rokita, the public concern regarding the integrity of the recent election is born of anything but a deliberate and sustained misinformation campaign led by a vein former president unwilling to accept his own defeat who, rather than observing the sacred tradition and necessary process of a peaceful transition of power for a losing candidate of the presidency, under took -- undertook a scorched earth effort undermine public confidence in our elections that was so dramatic and destructive that it culminated in a violent assault on the united date
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capitol. -- united states capitol. former president trump's own senior cabinet officials directly rebutted his meritless claims that there was any level of voter fraud that might have had a substantive impact on the outcome of the election. and i find it disturbing that a chief law enforcement officer from one of our great states would indulge in that kind of misinformation and spread those kinds of conspiracies went public confidence in the integrity of our elections is absolutely essential to sustaining our democracy. i want to turn to the legislation. >> may i interrupt? senator ossoff: no, you may not. chair klobuchar: senator ossoff is given 30 seconds.
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secretary benson: -- general rokita: you're entitled to your opinion, as misinformed as it may be. the difference between my opinion indoors is that my opinion comes with the ability to file lawsuits. senator ossoff: whether our elections have been conducted with integrity is a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion moving along -- matter of opinion. moving along, we have seen a georgia legislation filed intending to make it difficult some to vote that would even bar distribution of water and snacks to people who are being forced to wait in lines that, in georgia, have stretched as long as six or eight or 10 hours, as a function of the inadequate resourcing of election infrastructure and training of election ssent l. what is your view back election personnel --
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election personnel. chair klobuchar: ms. mueller is coming up on our other panel. senator ossoff: mr. holder? >> african-americans atlanta had to wait 51 minutes to vote. white americans had to wait six minutes to vote. the vilification of widespread voter fraud, people say it all the time but simply saying it does not make it so. so these measures they are trying to put in place are really only designed to make it difficult for people they think will vote against them, and make it more difficult for those people to vote without any kind of basis for the concerns that they expressed. senator ossoff: thank you i yelled back. chair klobuchar: thank you. next up, senator hyde-smith? senator: i have a question of the chair.
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senator schumer, the majority leader, requested a response from public and members of this committee as to things that were happening in georgia. when is the appropriate time i can respond? chair klobuchar: you can respond right now. senator hyde-smith: senator schumer was wondering why on sundays, georgia would not participate in an electoral process of gathering signatures, registration and things on sunday. i would like to respond. georgia is a southern state like mississippi. i can't speak for georgia, but i can speak for mississippi on why we would never do that on a sunday, or hold an election on sunday. this is our currency. this is a dollar bill. this says, the united states of america, in god we trust. it is in stone in the u.s. senate chamber, in god we trust.
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when you swore in these witnesses, the last thing said in your instructions was, so help you god. in god's word in exodus 20:18, it says "remember the sabbath and keep it holy." that is my response to senator schumer. thank you. i will begin my questions. also, i have a letter would like entered into the record. i am really concerned with how this legislation would affect the integrity of the election system. i received a letter from our secretary of state in mississippi, michael watson. he was concerned the various provisions in the act provide new pathways for election fraud and undermine the first amendment right to free speech through censorship of campaign activity and restricting state authorities to conduct local elections. given secretary watson's role is mississippi's chief election officer, i asked the letter the
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secretary be entered into the record. chair klobuchar: without objection. senator hyde-smith: when concern raised by secretary watson was the effect on voter id. voter id was adopted by the pull of mississippi in 2011. we made it an amendment to the state constitution. it was passed by an overwhelming margin. and voter id has been implemented with success in mississippi. we provided government-issue id for citizens to vote or for any other thing that might need government id for. our secretary at that time worked closely with the obama justice department and beginning in the drafting to final implementation, the result of this collaboration is that the mississippi voter id law is working successfully, while such policies in other states have been embroiled in litigation.
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however, the legislation before us today would nullify mississippi's successful voter id law. under s1, and a federal election, an individual could register and vote on the spot without showing proof of identity or residency or age. mr. rokita, how would allowing individuals to vote in a federal election without confirming identity or residency lead to further undermining voter confidence? general rokita: the implications are obvious. more cheating and more potential for abuse coupled with aggressive ballots harvesting, as this bill promotes, and doesn't allow prohibitions against, you can see where this is going. i go back to what leader mcconnell said which was true
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when we implemented the help america vote act about 20 years ago. it improved the process because it was bipartisan. yes, make it easier to vote but harder to cheat. what this bill does, and i don't take the premise it is hard to vote, there has to be some basic responsibilities for the individual in a free one of those has to be taking reasonable common sense initiatives to cast your ballot. we continue to improve on that. one of the huge avenues we can continue his technology, but if you don't couple that improvement of the voting process by using technology with individual accountability, then all you are doing is making it easier to cheat. the help america vote act, yes let's make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. this bill is make it easier to cheat, period. >> i agree with you on that.
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i just did a press conference in mississippi. one person had gone to vote and was told you have already voted. she saw where someone had signed her name. she looked above it, and her deceased father had already voted that morning as well. the fact that voter fraud is president -- is present, it does make a difference. i've got one minute. this bill would also create a complicated multi-ballot system for states like mississippi, given that voter id is part of our state constitution. the state will require voter id for voting on state and local issues, even if the law prohibits it for federal elections. this will create conflict and rules that will make voting much more complex and time-consuming for voters running our elections. if our goal is to reduce wait times at the polls, this
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multiballot system combined with same-day voter registration would drastically increase the amount of time it takes to vote. how will the conflict between this bill and state law create problems and make voting more difficult in west virginia? >> i think west virginia is very similar. you discussed the process in mississippi. i was seeing the people in west virginia. this process of same-day registration is the thing the clerks mentioned to me the most that would complicate their administration of the elections. the id does not present problems. on this morning's news, there was talk about bringing your id to get a covid shot. so it is a problem to vote? no. we implement and voter id -- imp lemented voter id in west virginia. no complaints.
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people would typically come into the polling precinct and hand people their id before they were asked. when we have voter identification laws, it adds competence to the process. this bill goes in the wrong direction. >> thank you, mr. secretary. i yield. >> thank you, senator hyde smith. that concludes our panel and we will move on to the second panel. i want to thank all of our witnesses. thank you and we will take a minute to switch out the panel. i thank all of you for coming and testifying. i can see people are virtual waving. i am waving back. thank you.


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