GOP state officials at U.S. House hearings oppose federal oversight of elections

WASHINGTON — Republican election officials from Florida, Ohio and Louisiana on Friday detailed lawmakers on the U.S. House of Representatives Administration Committee about their states’ successful conduct of the 2022 midterm elections and said they can hold their own elections without interference from the federal government.

Elections subcommittee chair, Florida GOP freshman Rep. Laurel Lee, said the purpose of the hearing was to learn the best practices that states use and make those practices available to other states.

She has opposed federal involvement in state elections and touted requirements set by some states, such as voter identification cards and contingency plans, such as hurricanes, that could disrupt the polling station.

Lee said the Tri-State Witnesses “get the election right and can share some of the policies and practices that made it successful.”

Democrats in the group, however, have pushed for the need for federal oversight, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a provision in the Voting Rights Act that required states that have suppressed voters in the past to get approval from the Justice Department before holding any vote. . relevant legislation.

The top Democrat in the group, Rep. Terry Sewell of Alabama, said more work needs to be done to protect voting rights, especially the rights of black voters and voters of color.

Sewell said if Congress wants to protect the right to vote and encourage people to vote, it must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which restores the section of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court overturned in 2013. in the US Senate.

Securing elections

Lee served as Florida Secretary of State from 2019 to 2022. She said her previous work as an election official makes her passionate about safe elections, and she believes that Republicans and Democrats have a “common goal to ensure that every eligible American citizen has the opportunity to vote.” vote and that their ballots are counted and safe.”

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Georgia, made similar comments.

“There will always be some level of fraud, we will never completely eliminate it,” he said. “But we have to make sure our elections are fair and people feel like their vote really matters.”

Seminole County, Florida election observer Chris Anderson told the commission that the 2022 election was safe and that there were no instances of massive voter fraud.

Anderson added that all of Florida’s 67 counties have been working with the Florida Department of State to strengthen election cybersecurity infrastructure.

“We had cyber navigators from the State Department who met with our IT staff, they scanned our networks, shared best practices with us, and I am very pleased to report that in Seminole County we passed with flying colors,” Anderson. said.

Voting Rights Law

In Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which enacted a prior authorization formula for nine states and several counties and cities that had a history of discrimination against voters of color.

These states included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. The handful of counties included counties in New York, Florida, North Carolina, California, and South Dakota.

One of the witnesses at the hearing, Damon Hewitt, president and chief executive of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, said section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was the strongest provision in the law.

“It stopped the fires before it happened,” he said.

Sewell said her hometown of Selma had just celebrated the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, “a reminder that the bitter struggle for voting rights and equal access to the ballot box is not a thing of the (distant) past.”

She added that since the 2020 presidential election, which had a high voter turnout, many states have moved to enact restrictive voting legislation. Former President Donald Trump made false claims about fraud in this election.

“We should welcome the increase in voter turnout, not respond with new voting restrictions,” she said.

State Voter Identity Laws

Lee dismissed criticism that changes to voting laws made voting difficult.

She pointed out that the same criticism was voiced in Georgia, and the 2022 elections in the Peach State had record voter turnout. The state legislature undertook a massive vote overhaul following the 2020 US Senate and Presidential elections, which were won by Democrats, prompting legal action from civil rights groups and the Department of Justice.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said their states have offered free voter identification cards to remove any financial burden these laws may create.

LaRose said Ohio even introduced a religious exemption under which a photograph is not required for voter identification. He advertised the state’s new voting requirements law.

“We think it will increase participation (voters),” he said.

This law is already facing legal challenges.

But Sewell said that with the repeal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, “there is no federal oversight of the states.”

Rep. Joe Morell of New York, the top Democrat on the House Administrative Committee asked Ardoin why he thinks the federal government should have no oversight of state elections and that states should be able to set their own voting requirements.

“I think states should be sovereign about elections,” Ardoin said.

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