Skip to main content

tv   Lawmakers Advocates Testify on Voting Rights  CSPAN  April 20, 2021 10:57am-12:00pm EDT

10:57 am
infrastructure. i do have a small glimmer of hope that there is a bipartisan avenue for moving an infrastructure package. in order to get it done, i'm going to -- it's going to take compromise between both sides. president biden and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle must engage in earnest negotiations with republicans. let's put all our cards on the table and bring forward targeted legislation that actually supports american infrastructure. i yield back the balance of my time. thank you. the speaker pro tempore: pursuant to clau
10:58 am
>> included poll tax, other barriers to the ballot box. not surprisingly black electoral participation dropped. in 1880 for example black voter turnout was 81% in north carolina. by 1912, a few years after the state amended its constitution to include the poll tax, and the grandfather clause black voter turnout had dropped to just 1% the states were able to destroy black volter participation by violating the spirit and intent of the 15th amendment while adhering to the letter of the constitution. they did so by deploying race neutral language that used the
10:59 am
legacy of slavery as a approximatery for race. the poll tax, for example, required all voters to pay a fee to cast a ballot. but the poll tax was prey on the endemic poverty created by centuries of unpaid labor, followed by the post civil war codes and sharecropping. the tax -- because of the poverty, it amounted to black laborers paying in 1900 the equivalent of $239 in 2020 to vote. similarly, the literacy test which required a voter to read a section of the constitution explored the consequences of denying education to the enslaved for hundreds of years. and then after the civil war, grossly underfunding black schools. the racial neutral ploy worked. the u.s. supreme court ruled in the 1898 williams decision that the poll tax and the literacy test did not violate the 15th
11:00 am
amendment because they applied to everyone who wanted to vote. that decision of course ignored that not everyone had to deal with the legacy of having their ancestors enslaved for centuries. the result of the court's blessing of a jim crow electorate was that by 1940 only 3% of age eligible african-americans in the south were registered to vote. these states justified erasing millions of american sitens from the ballot box by claiming they were fighting election fraud and protecting democracy. they knew that wasn't the case. the lie of massive rampant voter fraud is serving the same function today as it did during the rise of jim crow. instills fear in a segment of the population that democracy is in peril and thus provides cover for laws that target black voters with race neutral language. in the 21st century, as indiana implemented the first voter
11:01 am
i.d. law in the nation, secretary of state recalled that back in 2001 and 2002 election integrity was a huge issue. there was a fear of votes being stolen, even, he added, if that fear didn't pan out to be true. the fear was still there. in 2021 as georgia passed s.b. 202, state representive admitted that widespread voter fraud wasn't found. it's just that a lot of people's minds that there was. that fictional lock necessary monster has led republican legislators in 47 states to propose 361 voter restriction bills to address concerns about the supposed voter fraud. if left unchecked, this onslaught of pure contractic -- will make the mississippi plan look tame by comparison. thank you.
11:02 am
amarjit sekhon -- chair durbin: thank you, dr. anderson. mr. gardner: thank you, members of the committee. i appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today about a critically important issue that impacts all of us. integrity of our elections, a foundation of our free society. while i certainly support efforts of individual states to improve their own elections, the states have long been testing grounds for innovation and enhancing and protecting the most fundamental right of the citizens in this country. that's our right to vote. with that said, i am deeply troubled and concerned about the direction some in congress would take the states in terms of the conduct of elections. an unjustified federal intrusion into the election
11:03 am
process of the individual states will damage voter confidence, diminishing -- diminish the importance of election day itself and result in lower voter turnout. we only need to look at the history of the national voter registration act of 1993 that was commonly called, the motor voter law to see the federal involvement in the election process does not render the promised results. when the nvra was enacted by congress, it was believed many more united states citizens would be able to vote and thus vote. millions of dollars were spent by the states to comply with that act. it completely changed the voter registration process in the states. in contrast, new hampshire maintained an exemption for the nvra due to having election day
11:04 am
registration at the polling point. and as a result, saw it's voter turnout of voting age population surge to the top tear -- tier of voter turnout among the states. and has consistently maintained this position. the top three states for the past four presidential elections, since the year 2000, new hampshire has been double-digit percentage points higher than the national average. again using voting age population. it will be very important to take a close look at the charts . in a one-size-fits-all federal approach, legislation known as, for the people act, would
11:05 am
trample new hampshire's state constitution which requires all votes to be received, counted, and the results publicly announced on the day of the election. and permits absentee ballots to be used only by voters who will be absent on election day or who have a disability preventing the voter from attending the polling place. the election process in new hampshire is a relatively simple one. the massive federal legislation contemplated by congress will overcomplicate our election system. at tremendous financial cost. it would negate traditions and procedures that have served new hampshire voters well. some for over 200 years. i believe the shots i have
11:06 am
provided based on facts are self-explanatory. and why i believe this legislation, h.r. 1, will hurt -s. 1 will hurt voter participation in the states and especially in my state of new hampshire. chair durbin: thank you, mr. gardner. sherrilyn ifill is the next witness. ms. ifill: good morning, chairman durbin, members of the committee, i'm sherrilyn ifill and president and director counsel of the legal defense education fund. thank you for the opportunity to testify before you this morning. since its founding in 1940 we have been a leader in the struggle to secure, protect, and advance voting rights for black voters. we represented martin luther
11:07 am
king jr. in the marchers in selma, alabama in 1965. we litigated seminal cases interpreting the scope of the voting rights act over decades, and we continue to litigate on behalf of and work with communities in the south to strengthen and protect the ability of black citizens to participate in the political process free from discrimination. beyond litigation, we monitor primary and general elections every year through a nonpartisan prepare to vote and voting right defender initiative, and we are a founding member of the nonpartisan civil rights election protection hotline, which is now add american sterd by the lawyers committee for civil rights under law. last year we partnered with lebron james and the more than the vote initiative to recrew young poll workers for the 2020 election to ensure polling places could remain open in black communities despite the covid-19 pandemic, and over 40,000 new poll workers were recruited as a part of that effort. our experience last year outlined in detail in my submitted written testimony
11:08 am
makes clear that contrary to numerous news reports, the 2020 election did not go smoothly. had instead voters overcame a litany of barriers and obstacles with determination and resilience to produce the highest turnout ever reported in a presidential leaks. voters did so during a nationwide pandemic. throughout the spring and summer of 2020, we were involved in numerous lawsuits and other efforts challenging the lack of safe and accessible voting options for black and medically vullnerl voters during the pandemic in texas, louisiana, alabama, and something. our lawsuits resulted in changes in mail-in voting requirements, and curb side voting access significantly increasing voter protections and accessibility. nevertheless, voters stood for hours on long lines to cast a ballot during the primary and general leakses, up to nine hours in some instances. ir-- general elections, up to nine hours in some instances.
11:09 am
the one elderly african-american woman who fainted while waiting in line refused to get into an abblans, insisting she could stay and cast her ballot. polling place closures and consolidations created confusion for voters. robocalls, targeting black and latino voters in flint, michigan and detroit encouraged voters to vote on wednesday rather than the tuesday, november 3 election. the civil rights election protection hotline received over 30,000 calls from voters facing obstacles to voting in the general election. one of the most disturbing features, voter intimidation at levels not seen for decades became a feature. for example during early voting numerous floridians received emails threatening that the proud boys and extremist far right groups would come after voters who did not cast their ballots for the republican presidential candidate. and the efforts that voter suppression continues even after election day, stoked and encouraged by the former president, people across the
11:10 am
country in michigan, arizona, pennsylvania, and more participated in a campaign to disrupt the counting and certification of ballot cast in those states. the violent attack on the capitol on january 6 was the result of concerted efforts to undermine faith in the election and to overturn its result. and since january 7, state lawmakers in dozens of states have unleashed a wave of restrictive voter laws. state legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. georgia enacted a law which among other restrective provisions criminalizes the provision of water to voters standing on line. arkansas and florida are following suit. that bill in south carolina would effectively prohibit the souls to the polls voter participation effort favored by black churches by outlawing early voting on sundays. litigation is the principle pal tool we have available to
11:11 am
challenge voter suppression laws since the supreme court entered the preclears provision of the act in the shelby case in 2013. it is slow and expensive. the average length of section two cases is two to five years during which thousands if not millions of voters are effectively disenfranchised. this is not a model that can be sustained in a healthy democracy. we need congress to act. the framers of the 14th and 15th amendments gave congress the explicit power to enforce the guarantee of equal protection and the protection against voting discrimination based on race. for 100 years after the ratification of those amendments, until the passage of the voting rights act in 1965, congress abdicated its obligation to use this enforcement power as black people were systematically disenfranchised by poll taxes, literacy tests, now congress must once again use this power to fulfill the promise of full
11:12 am
citizenship guaranteed to black americans by the amendments to our constitution. my full testimony has been submitted and provide greater detail and source material i hope will aid the committee in its deliberations. thank you. chair durbin: thank you very much, ms. ifill. now we have president jan jones. mrs. jones: thank you, chairman durbin, ranking member grassley, and distinguished members of the senate judiciary committee. for inviting me to teaf before today's committee hearing. i come before you as a proud georgian and member of the georgia general assembly where i serve as speaker pro tempore of the georgia house of representatives. in georgia, we are making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. we are ensuring voter accessibility, transparency, and integrity. in 2021 we held both primary and general elections, utilizing a new statewide
11:13 am
election system during the first modern worldwide pandemic and with record turnout. all these together along with changes in voter preferences and choices stressed our election system. our obligation was to initiate a comprehensive prerue to ensure our state citizens have the ability to vote easily in a timely manner. strengthening georgia's election processes is not new to 2021. in fact, from 2003 to 2020, since republicans have had control, 59 elections related bills were signed into law. including at least one bill each of every year. to that 2019 legislation addressed concerns primarily expressed by democrats after the 2018 general election. including a process procuring provisional ballots and lengthening the period to nine years before some enacted
11:14 am
voters are removed from the rolls. senate bill 202 is a forward facing approach to elections, implementing measures to increase voter accessibility and fairness. so please allow me to break down some of the key components. for the very first time election superintendents shall continue processing, counting, and tabulating ballots until such activities are completed on election day. to provent the -- prevent the untimely release of returns. it makes clear the business of elections is to be run and funded by the government not tech billionaires and their partisan allies. again, for the first time, georgia law now requires two saturdays instead of one and two optional sundays of early voting. senate bill 202 creates more uniformity of days and hours, early voting, and all 159 counties. now 134 of georgia's 159
11:15 am
counties will offer more in-person voting hours than ever before. i would note georgia's total amount of 17 to 19 days of early voting is more than delaware, district of columbia, new mexico, hawaii, massachusetts, new york, oregon, and wisconsin. for the first time start and end dates for absentee ballot applications will more logically coincide with in-person early voting and practices in other states. this change will increase the likelihood that a voter successfully cast an absentee ballot. 90% of absentee ballot requests in 2020 made greater than 10 days before the election were successfully voted. in contrast, only 50% of requests made fewer than 10 days before the election were successfully voted. this provision increases successful voting.
11:16 am
certainly, though, the legislation does not prohibit poll workers from giving water to people in line and even voters bringing their own food and water along with them as has been the long practice. in fact, the bill does the opposite. it prohibits offering anything of value within 150 feet of a polling place. except for water offered by election officials. this is because in 2018 and 2020 activists and candidates appearing on the ballot aggressively for the first time passed out water, food, gift cards, some with logos affixed to them, at polling locations while voters stood in line. it's a practice commonly referred to as line warming. surely violates the spirit of free elections. the fact is that most states have a prohibition of activities considered to be campaign or electioneering within a protected space ranging from 30 feet in virginia to 100 feet in
11:17 am
california, to 150 feet in oklahoma. finally, i would be remiss if i didn't note the entirely selective outrage i have seen over the last few weeks. as georgia makes our no excuse absentee voting more secure, states like connecticut, delaware, massachusetts, new hampshire, and new york, among others simply don't have any no excuse absentee voting. the shame is theirs to bear, not georgia's. we also eliminated subjective signature maffing for -- matching for absentee ballots as was criticized by democrats and republicans in 2020 and replaced it with objective forms of identification. let me be clear. georgia did not eliminate no excuse absentee voting. it's easy to write alarming words and give misleading sound bites that would lead people away from the facts because the facts simply don't support what many are hearing or seeing about the mainstream sound
11:18 am
georgia elections law. and it's just plain wrong. members of the committee, i look forward to answering your questions and setting the record straight on how we are making it easier to vote, harder to cheat, and ensuring every legal vote counts. thank you. chair durbin: thank you, madam speaker. i'm sorry if i got your title wrong when i introduced you. i think i introduced you as the president. thank you for your testimony. we now have stacey abrams. ms. abrams: thank you, chairman durbin, ranking member grassley, and members of the committee. today's conversation regarding the john lewis act occurs against the backdrop of a resurgence of jim crow side of the aisle voter suppression measures sweeping across state legislatures. grounded in the big lie about fraud and insecurity in the 2020 election. as a necessary reminder, post reconstruction laws noted jim
11:19 am
crow, the targeted black voters never explicitly excluded eligible citizens by race. then and now, the law surgically ends behaviors to limit access. with hundreds of bills sending a significant number of the worse attacks on the right to vote made possible by the supreme court's gutting of the voting rights act of 1965 and the 2013 shelby counter case. that decision was a history of voting discrimination in states to put limits, restrictions, and barriers to participation. state level anti-voting laws across the country in 2021 doesn't see the need, urgent need for the preclearance formula into the moppedern year to reinstate oversight, and to strengthen and protect voting rights wherever suppression occurs. throughout its history, georgia has been among the worst actors
11:20 am
, including malicious prosecution of lawful ballot users in 2010 and intimidation of black voters by deputy sheriffs in 2015. as a preclearance the department of justice, 170 and to reclaim therein extraneous materialtory voting changes in georgia at the state and local level. after shelby removed preclearance, black voters were 20% more likely than white voters to not vote due to poll closures, including an estimated 54,000 to 85,000 voters being unable to cast ballots in 2018 alone after 214 such poll closures. these changes would have been examined by a federal court or the d.o.j. to determine whether they were discriminatory before being put into effect. georgia voters are now anticipating the elections created by 202 which allows on -- relies on misinformation,
11:21 am
falsehoods, to restrict access for voters and targeting communities of color. with dozens after of attacks on the law. i will highlight a view. voters of color in georgia were more likely than white voters to vote by mail for the first time in the last two election cycles. suddenly, 202 shortens the time period for returning an absentee ballot application and imposes new restrictive i.d. requirements that will amcy pli the disabled voters, motor voters, voters of california and black votes. black voters are more than likely to stand in a long line including the eight hours in june of 2020. it volunteers hanging a bottle of water or food to voters while in line. across the country, these state laws target voters of color by restricting access to the ballot for black, latinos,
11:22 am
asian american and pacific islander, and native american communities n texas, arizona, and michigan each are considering laws to restrict voting rights on people of color. when the fundamental right to vote is left to the political ambition and prejudices of state actors, one who is rely on suppression to maintain power, several intercessions stands as the appropriate remedy. simply put, the john lewis voting rights advancement act is essential to the protection of democracy. protecting voting rights has been an endeavor since the actment of the voting rights act in 1965. our first obligation is to the fundamental standards of democracy which must be aggressively nonpartisan. actions taken to restrict access, more participation, or discourage enengagement are antithetical -- add vote kating
11:23 am
for voting rights not to ensure the success of a single party or ideology but for debate. it is my hope we will honor the legacy of my late friend, congressman john lewis, and the lives of those lost in the fight for a more perfect union by enacting legislation into law. i thank you for the opportunity to take part in this discussion. chair durbin: thank you, ms. abrams. let me concede at the outset that jim croat its worst was more violent than the situation we face today. i don't want to recount all of the horrors of that bigotry and racism that occurred in that era. i think the bottom line question which we are addressing in this hearing is whether there is a design or an intent in legislation that is being considered and passed in many states, including the state of georgia, to limit or restrict the rights -- right to vote of minority populations.
11:24 am
with the intent of having influence on the outcome of the election. i think that goes without saying. clearly there is a difference in the witnesses who appear before the committee. but i'd like to ask, stacey abrams, for example, the speaker pro tempore, mrs. jones, said earlier that the new georgia law made it easier to vote in the state. can you -- you have recounted a few instances, but can you think of elements in the law that was signed by governor kemp which do the opposite? ms. ifill: first this is falsity that the proposed -- this is an expansion of rights. let's be clear. the state of georgia, 60% of georgians live in counties that already have, for example, two saturdays of early voting. what has been changed now additional counties will join the ranks and that is a good thing. at the same time those counties will join those ranks, they have reduced mandatory dates.
11:25 am
they have eliminated weeks of early voting during several runoffs. and let's be very clear several runoffs in georgia were predicated on of eliminating the right to vote for african-americans. and they eliminate access to a mandatory weekend voting day. another example is the falsity that this expands hours for voting. yes, it codifies that you can vote between 9 to 5, business hours. for 78% of georgians, prior to this bill, the hours for voting for early voting was 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. this actually eliminates hours of voting. and mandates only a shortened period of time. that was the misunderstanding that i think is still misunderstood by "the washington post." early voting hours that exceed that are optional and not mandatory. we have 778% of voting -- 78% of voting who experience longer voting hours. in addition, there is a narrative that says that the
11:26 am
use of a social security number is allowed for returning your absentee ballots if you don't have access to i.d. let's be clear, can you not apply for an absentee ballot with your social security number. you must have some point of identification that are unavailable to current 200,000 georgians. those are just a few of the issues. i will certainly address the criminalization of the handing of water. we have to be clear that in the state of georgia eight-hour lines for communities of color has become not an usual circumstance, we feel between four and eight hours long. people do not also come prepared to stand in line for the whole other business day. they certainly don't often bring their food with them and this ignores the fact that the overworked poll workers inside that building do not have the time to come out and hand out refreshments since they are busy processing so many voters who have been underserved. those are a few examples of why this bill is malicious in its
11:27 am
intent. chair durbin: mrs. jones, i would like to ask you to respond to this question. there was an allegation made by the former president of the united states relating to the voting in the state of georgia. he went so far as one point in the recorded conversation to say that 5,000 dead people had voted. it was said there were only two they could find, that was two too many. i would like to ask you if you would comment on the 2020 election. do you believe there was voter fraud in georgia as president trump alleged? mrs. jones: i'm here to discuss what's in senate bill 202. not relitigate the 2018 election in which my former colleague, stacey abrams, never conceded, nor am i here to reliterategate the 2020. what i can say is that the bill
11:28 am
does increase accessibility, 47 counties have no two saturdays of voting and will be required to now under this bill. additionally, not one single georgian will have reduced hours of voting and early voting because it allows up to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. but what it does do is mandate from 9 in the morning to 5 p.m. and we have 134 counties with less or fewer voting hours for early voting. it absolutely does increase the amount. chair durbin: if i could follow through on that. the reason for my question is this, i'm trying to understand the logic behind new voting laws, which would give less time to request absentee ballots, restrict new i.d. requirements for absentee ballots, illegal for eleaks absentee ballot applications and the like. in light of the 2020 election. i believe the truth was spocken
11:29 am
and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise when he suggested that the election in 2020 following the old law was absent any major voting fraud and should not be questioned in terms of results. if the election -- if the premise was 2020 was sound, why are the changes that restricted certain practices that created opportunities for people to vote in georgia? mrs. jones: thank you, chairman durbin, for the question. since 2003, 59 elections bills have been passed by the georgia general assembly. at least one each year. after the 2018 elections, we had an elections bill that addressed some of the concerns expressed by democrats. in this bill, after a worldwide pandemic, record turnout, new election system, once again we are coming back to address concerns expressed by both democrats and republicans.
11:30 am
the bill absolutely will reduce the long lines and it will make clear that there has to be -- it makes clear there has to be proper notice so that voters can know if a precinct has changed. it has to require notice at the old precinct location with a four foot by four foot sign also at the new location. there are many provisions in it. let me just mention specifically with regard to your question about shortening absentee hour days to request absentee ballot. as recommended by the association of county commissioners, which is a bipartisan group, and the u.s. postal service our timing to request an absentee ballot allows someone to request one the friday before the regular election, which almost certainly meant they would have an unsuccessful vote. this moves it back to 10 days, which is more expansive, i will admit, 11 days, than what the
11:31 am
u.s. postal service recommended, which was 14 days. but i do believe will result in more successful absentee ballots cast regardless of whether one lives anywhere in the state. and whether they are a democrat or republican. chair durbin: i would just say in conclusion that giving georgia voters under the new law less time to request absentee ballots and shutting down the number of drop boxes from 94 to 23, can not make it easier to vote for create more opportunity. i think just the opposite is the case. senator grassley. senator grassley: speaker jones, did you look at any other states for guidance or inspiration in provisions of s.b. 202? mrs. jones: yes, sir. we most certainly did. we wanted to make sure that although our voting system is
11:32 am
more expansive than many in the country, particularly in the northeast, we wanted to make sure any changes we made were mainstream, common sense, and made it easier, more fair, more transparent, and secure for a voter regardless of their geography or which ever party they tended to vote for. and i do believe this bill does that. like most states in the union, we do have a voter i.d., which is commonsense regulation and required to pick up a child from daycare, board a flight to go visit grandmother. it's to cash a check. i think the bigger issue for the 3% who do not currently have a either a driver's license or a free, i emphasize, free voter i.d., i'm most concerned about their ability to participate in society as a
11:33 am
whole. that's perhaps where we should give our efforts to is not undermine the security of elections for absentee ballots but rather help the few that don't have one to obtain one. senator grassley: also, do you speaker jones, can you tell me what s.b. 202 does to reduce lines to vote? 10 examples you can give, give me one or two. mrs. jones: thank you. particularly in the june primary when we had a brand new election system, election officials, poll workers were learning how to utilize the machines, we did have some long lines in some areas of the state. they were primarily in counties that are democrat run. but regardless of that, what we did was we have required that at any single point in time in
11:34 am
the next general election if there is a line of one hour or longer, at the next following subsequent general election the election superintendent for that county must either split the precinct, add poll workers, machines, or all of the three. senator grassley: i would like to ask senator -- secretary gardner, iowa and new hampshire brag about first in the nation. one for caucus. one for primary. in fact, h.r. 1 or its state equivalent, s. 1, is passed, if so, what effect do you think that would have on the ability of our states to preserve their first in the nation status? mr. gardner: senator, s. 1 would not specifically have an
11:35 am
effect. however i made the statement that it could put the new hampshire primary in a perilous position. and i stand by that statement. senator grassley: let me ask you one other question. your state has voting laws that are seen as restrictive. yet as you told us in your opening statement it's consistent that some of the consistency has some of the highest turnout elections in the country. would you agree with me that voters tend to turn out more for elections when they have more confidence that their vote will be counted appropriately? and what effect has your voter i.d. provision had on turnout? mr. gardner: absolutely. the trust and confidence voters have in the process is a huge
11:36 am
boost to turnout. and new hampshire had a voter i.d. law for the first -- in the 2012 presidential election. so 2020, six months ago, that was the third presidential leaks we had voter i.d. -- election we had voter i.d. we had in 2012 the highest turnout since 1960 in new hampshire. over 14% higher than the country as a whole, and higher than we have had in over a half century. in 2016 we even went higher that that. -- than that. 14.5% higher than the country as a whole. the second presidential election using voter i.d.
11:37 am
and 2020 it was the same. when voter i.d. was going through the legislature, there were people saying that 10% of the population was not going to be able to vote. it would hurt certain groups more than it would hurt other groups. there were polls that nonprofits like pew, public, came and testified in our hearings saying that it could be 11% decline. in our state it was just the absolute opposite. as i said three presidential elections, averaging, you have to go back half a century. those are the facts on that issue. in new hampshire. chair durbin: thank you, mr. gardner. senator white house, remote. senator whitehouse: as you know
11:38 am
i been trying to ask why about things. and i can't help but wonder why after the trump administration top election security official and georgia's own election officials vouched for the integrity of the last elections did seemingly ever republican-controlled legislative body in the country, as if on command, to file and move voter suppression bills. 361 of them by one count. when you see group behavior, it's often interesting to look through the motivation. well, you have the big lie that the election was stolen. which allows for skepticism to be brought against elections even if it's not founded in fact. and at the same time you have unpopular policies demanded by
11:39 am
a republican donor elite that has every interest in building an electorate that will give the donor elite its policy rather than giving up on their policies in order to attract voters. as our friend reverend warnock says, limiting voters serves this particularly when limiting voters is to make sure that some people aren't voting. of course dark money is that donor elite's weapon of choice. we see the conservative dark money groups have already announced $39 million in spending campaigns to restrict voting rights at the state level and block passage of the for the people act. and that number is likely going up because these very same groups spent over $100 million in dark money during just the 2018 election cycle. at the state level we see two particular groups, very
11:40 am
prominent, one the state policy network, and two, the american legislative exchange council, the so-called alec. alec is toxic enough to exxon severed its ties to them. when exxon thinks it needs to clean up its act by severing from you, that's a pretty strong signal. alex has signaled out representative jones for phrase calling her an alex legislator. alec is funded by coke industries. it has received millions of dollars from right-wing foundations like the charles g. koch charitable foundation, the bradley foundation, and also through the identity laundering donors trust and donors capital fund. it's working now with the heritage foundation on a $24 million campaign to produce model voting legislation for
11:41 am
state legislatures like georgia's to adopt. and even to hire lobbyists in what they call crucial states. alec has create add secret working group on election related matters, mitchell who many people will remember for her role backing trump's effort to flip georgia's election results. so alec has its hands all over this. there is also the georgia public policy center, which is the local affiliate of the state policy network, the representative jones has said, i want to publicly say how much i appreciate georgia public policy foundation. we rely on georgia public policy foundation's research and work. they have been an invaluable, invaluable resource to us. guess what? alec is an official associate organization of the state policy network with the georgia public policy center.
11:42 am
and the s.b.m. has paid for dozens of its think tanks to become alec members. there is a lot of back and forth between the dark money alec and the state policy network. like alec state policy network is largely funded by big corporations and right-wing family foundations including the koch brothers, waltons, the coors family, and of course the identity laundersers, donors trust and donors capital fund. there are lots of other familiar names moving into this space. the heritage foundation, coke funded dark money groups' political arm, heritage action for america, announced plans to spend $24 million on a two-year effort to shape state's voting laws and work at the federal level to block the for the people act. in march, heritage action boasted that heritage action recently launched an effort to strengthen georgia's election
11:43 am
laws and restore voter confidence in the state, including a $600,000 tv ad by digital advertising and grassroots initiative for an initial total investment of $1 million. that's a quote from them. at the same time we have the so-called honest elections project, which is leonard leo's new outgrowth of his vast dark money network. that has pledged tens of millions of dollars into conservative election efforts. elections project is an alias group that can use all of the anonymous funds given to its pre-existing judicial education project, which leo used to steer bradley foundation grants into coordinated amicus brief efforts that i cronticled elsewhere. the honest election projects for georgia, a string of press releases urging georgia to investigate its 2020 results and take up voter suppression
11:44 am
legislation and congratulated the state for enacting s.b. 202 last month. last is true the vote, a group who recruits poll watchers, finding suspicious activity, is focused on voters in neighborhoods of color. like the other groups, it's largely opaque coming through anonymous donations by a donor trust as well as the bradley foundation, and the state policy network. there is this complex interlocking network of billionaire right-wing dark money that i think tends to signal why the whole herd would have moved at once based on no actual evidence of fraud or dishonesty in the elections. chair durbin: thank you, senator. senator whitehouse: has my time expired? chair durbin: i'm afraid it is. senator whitehouse: i will
11:45 am
yield my remaining time. chair durbin: senator graham. senator graham: thank you. to my dear friend, sheldon, i appreciate your consistency. so would account for the elephant herd is apparently marching in one way. h.r. 1, i believe, is supported by most every liberal group in the country. most of my democratic colleagues support h.r. 1. why? what motivates you? redistricting. under your proposal you would take redistricting away from state elected officials and give it to some independent commission. what's that got to do with voting? that's about trying to change the ability of red states to be able to draw new lines based on population shift. h.r. 1 has a 6-1 match for low dollar donation. what's that got to do with voting? nothing. it's got to do with political
11:46 am
power, trying to have the federal government subsidize campaigns favorable to you. it's 6-1 match had been in place in my recent election, south carolina would have probably had over $1 billion spent. i think the people of south carolina deserve better than that. i raised $110, my opponent raised $132. if you had a 6-1 mchmavep it would have been about $1. that's cruel and probably violates the geneva convention. h.r. 1 is not about writing wrongs. it's about power. it's about trying to grab power. and i can understand why people want to grab it. i don't understand why people on our side would willingly sit on the sidelines, we are not. but we are here today to talk about the voting process. mr. gardner, you're sort of a ledgend in your part of the world. i think rightly -- legend in your part of the world. i think rightly so. it's my understanding you oppose h.r. 1 in the senate equivalent, is that correct?
11:47 am
mr. gardner: yes. senator graham: 30 second or less, why? mr. gardner: well, first of all we don't have any early voting in new hampshire. and for all of the studies that showed that early voting actually helped turnout, i can show you plenty of academic studies that show the opposite. that just because you make voting easierp -- easier does not raise the turnout automatically. and we have election day that is a day for everything in new hampshire. it goes all the way back to the beginning. our constitution predated the federal constitution. and it ends that day. it's our tradition. because every polling place, the chief election officer has to, that evening, of the election, read publicly the
11:48 am
votes cast for every county cash date on the ballot and that's the end of it. and our early voting -- it's called early voting is just not allowed under our -- senator graham: you believe it would be a power grab when it came to new hampshire voting, is that fair to say, by the federal government? mr. gardner: yes. the same thing with no fault absentee. it's the same thing. senator graham: thank you very much. the carter-baker commission looked at voter fraud and voting in 2008. they found that there is no evidence of extensive fraud in u.s. elections. but both occur and it could affect the outcome of close elections and many other findings. the absentee ballots remained the largest source of potential
11:49 am
voter fraud. that's what the carter-baker commission said. not me. the carter-baker report said, recommend to reduce fraud, recommend prohibiting third party organization candidates and political party activists from handling absentee ballots. i think that's related to ballot harvesting. my question for miss abrams, do you -- ms. abrams, do you support voter identification laws? ms. abrams: yes. senator graham: do you -- ms. abrams: every state requires some form of identification. it narrows the set of permissible -- senator graham: the answer is yes is a concept. do you support the idea that voting should be limited to american citizens? ms. abrams: yes.
11:50 am
senator graham: do you support we should have -- do you support ballot harvesting? are you familiar with that term? ms. abrams: i'm familiar with the term to discuss a voo right of efforts. for example native american reservations where they are precluded from access due to under funding to reach in a timely fashion location for voting, i do believe that it's appropriate for tribal elders to collect the ballots and retrieve them and use a source of delivery to provide those ballots and thus provide native americans to participate. senator graham: do you support it beyond native american voting. ms. abrams: as i said i believe it depends on the situation. and that the term that's being used describes a variety of behaviors. each of those by halvors should be examined for utility and for varassit. to the extent they help voters participate more often in a lawful manner, they should be
11:51 am
permitted. senator graham: do you believe the republican majority in georgia, house-senate, when they are making the changes to your state voting laws, do you think they are motivated by trying to suppress african-american vote? ms. abrams: i have seen it happen sometimes they are. other bills that have been truly bipartisan in nature that looked at -- senator graham: that's -- do you believe that's the motivation behind these laws? ms. abrams: i believe the motivation behind certain provisions in s.b. 202 are a direct result to the increased participation of communities of color in the 2020 and 2021 election. i have participated for 11 years. we served together. almost every year there was a voting law. when those voting laws are mutual -- senator graham: i'm out of time. do you think the speaker of the house, speaker pro tempore, the lady, jan jones, is motivated
11:52 am
by trying to limit the african-american voters in georgia? ms. abrams: i believe there is ration animus that generated those bills. i would not assume that's shared by every person. the result is that racial animus exists and it eliminates the light rite to vote. regardless -- the ability of people to participate in elections, that is problematic and that is wrong and should be rejected by all. chair durbin: senator klobuchar. senator klobuchar: thank you very much to our chair. to our witnesses. i'm just looking at the facts. i think we need to get these facts straight. in the 2020 election more than 160 million americans voted. more than ever before. and in fact, the trump administration's homeland security official charged with protecting elections deemed the election the most secure election in american history. is that correct, ms. abrams?
11:53 am
ms. abrams: that's correct. senator klobuchar: former attorney general barr stated there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 election. is that right? ms. abrams: that is also correct. miss klobuchar: my problem is this, why do you think 361 bills have been introduced in 47 states that would restrict access to the polls when the way things were running was working for the people of this country. they were voting by mail like never before. exercising their way to vote, right to vote. they did it safely. why did this happen? ms. abrams: with all due respect to secretary of state gardner, i would actually refer back to senator whitehouse's commentary. that is this. we saw an increased participation from communities that are considered, unfortunate or that are not favorable to republican victories. no one is entitled to win. i am a person who is a living
11:54 am
example. there is no entitlement to vicktry. but we are all entitled to participation. what these laws have done in stunning and uniform fashion is reduce entitlement to participation. they have done so by targeting behaviors that are specifically attributable to communities that voted in opposition of republican values. that is not to say every person of color intends to vote democratic. it's not to say every democratic person votes democratic. when the majority in those communities exercise their right, we have seen them targeted. when laws are targeted to behaviors of communities of color that's not only reminiscent of the mississippi jim crow laws played out. those are intentionally a resurgence of voter suppression similar to jim crow which is why we use that language because we cannot leave our history behind. senator klobuchar: as reverend
11:55 am
warnock said earlier, maybe it broke down to some words. that is some people don't want some people to vote. ms. ifill. can you tell me how rare voter fraud is? i think there was a recent editorial in a major newspaper talking about since 2000 oregon has sent out more than 100 mail-in ballots and documented only about a dozen cases of fraud rounded to the seventh decimal point, that's.0000001 of the pal lots. lele it ms. ifill: ms. anderson: you have a better chance of being struck by lightning. president carter spoke out about the report referenced earlier. he believe the report was being distorted to support the provisions of s.b. 202. in fact what the report called for was a deeper study of vote by mail. they were basing their study on 2005 to 2008.
11:56 am
and the report specifically noted that we have two states, oregon and washington state, that do all voting by mail. and there is no significant voter fraud in those two states. voter i.d. for absentee voting, that's actually quite unusual. there are only three, i guess now with georgia, four states that require photo i.d. for absentee voting. that's what we are talking about with s.b. 202. it's rare and unusual. senator klobuchar: you know we are going to be marking up the senate 1 in the rules committee, which i'm pretty familiar with this bill. could you explain, ms. ifill, yes, it has very important standards for voting given what we are seeing the assault on voting across the country. why given we have not had any federal campaign legislation passed since mccain feingold basically dishandled by the courts, it's time to also focus on alt dark money flooding into our politics as well as ethics
11:57 am
rules that are necessary for all of us. and that used to be a bipartisan issue. ms. anderson: i think senator klobuchar, it's important to see this a all as a piece. this is about access to the political process. this is about ordinary people having access to the political process. we think of the right to vote as sacred. the casting of the ballot, counting. but there are force that is neutralize the ability of that ballot to have meaning, then congress needs to examine that also. so its citizens can feel they truly have a role in our democracy and have their voice heard. it can't be a sham, it can't be a shell when activists marched and risked their lives for the right to vote during the civil rights movement, they weren't just looking at the ceremonial act of casting a ballot. they truly believed that being able to participate equally in the political process will a -- would allow them to meaningfully change the condition of their lives and communities. and so everything that they are
11:58 am
on the ability to give that vote meaning it seems to me is relevant and important for this committee to consider. senator klobuchar: one very fast question with a fast answer, ms. abrams. one of the things as i prepare for this hearing that i'm chairing next month, one of the arguments made, it will be so hard for states to enact these. however we already have 43 states with early voting, 21 states with same-day registration, 19 states with automatic voter registration. 45 states that allowed all voters to cast ballot by mail last year. in 2018 michigan approved many changes to its election procedures that went into effect before the november 2020 election. would you agree that states like georgia and others have been able to implement these changes in a correct way without a problem? ms. abrams: absolutely. chair durbin: senator cornyn.
11:59 am
senator cornyn: my first question is for ms. abrams. ms. abrams, is the georgia election law that speaker jones talked about, is it a racist piece of legislation? ms. abrams: i think there are components of it that are racist because they use racial animus as a means of targeting the behaviors of certain voters to limit their participation in election. senator cornyn: you believe that the georgia legislature made deliberate attempts to suppress the minority vote? ms. abrams: yes. senator cornyn: georgia has a no-excuse absentee voting provision in that law. as mrs. jones said in her written statement, connecticut, delaware, massachusetts, new hampshire -- >> keeping with our long-term commitment to lively gavel to gavel coverage of congress. we'll have to leave this program here. you


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on