tv Lawmakers Advocates Testify on Voting Rights CSPAN April 20, 2021 12:16pm-2:01pm EDT
1870 was a big turning point for civil rights in america. for black americans. it was in 1870 we saw the very first member of congress, a gentleman by the name of joseph rainey, who was elected to the house of representatives in 1870678 the same year the first black american was elected to the united states senate, hiram rhodes rebel, elected to the u.s. senate from mississippi. all in all, during the reconstruction period, there were 16 black americans elected into the congress. there were over 600 black americans elected to state legislatures. and there were hundreds and hundreds more elected to local positions throughout the country. all of them, every last one of them, happened to be republican.
jim crow was a response to that. white americans who didn't want black americans coming into power and resented their votes as republicans, didn't want them to have the vote at all, despite the fact that the 15th amendment had been ratify. figured out a way to suppress them. once president rutherford hayes, through the compromise of 1877, ordered the withdrawal of federal troops from the south, it paved the way for jim crow. jim crow policies restricted unconstitutionally the right of black americans to vote. and it restricted all kinds of other behaviors put in place by democratic governments in each of those states. it was an unfortunate era, one that lasted for roughly a century. to make sure that black americans could not only not
vote, but they couldn't be elected. michael lancaster is the georgia state director of frederick douglass foundation, the descendant of people who suffered under jim crow. in a recent "washington times" article he stated, quote, comparing absentee ballot changes and i.d. requirements to banning black people from restaurants and drinking fountains is absurd. a civil debate about voting rights is an important conversation to have. but comparing georgia's election reform to jim crow is insulting to my black ancestors who suffered through those dehumanizing segregation laws. there are some others who wrote, quote, it has become clear that even well-intentioned critics of the georgia law have no idea who what the law is. it is clear they have no idea how favorably georgia's new law
compares to moat other states including president biden's home state of delaware. they have no idea that black americans across the country support key part os of it, including that people be able to identify themselves on voting. 77% of americans support i.d. requirements. including 63% of black voters in georgia. all those numbers indicate support for the new georgia voter i.d. requirements. is that correct? >> that's correct, senator. >> if a potential absentee voter in georgia doesn't have a driver's license they could show a state i.d.? >> or one of the other forms of federally accepted i.d. >> if somebody doesn't have that, it could be provided free of charge. >> correct. at any department of motor
vehicle's office or any of the 159 elections boards. but please, if i may, senator, the voter i.d. requirements are not more restrictive for absentees now than they have been, widely accepted and not criticized in the past for georgia. it's precisely the same requirements to vote in person or to vote by absen dee. eit seems incongruent to me to have requirements for one type of vote bug not another. >> i would note in close, secretary of state raffensberger, interested in testifying at this hearing, you've invoked his name, it's disappointing that the secretary of state of that state isn't here to testify in response to
that i also want to thank my friend and utah colleague, congressman burgess owens, a man who has been alive, existed in this country, at a time when jim crow laws were still in effect. and in some ways he's been subjected to some of the same insults underlying jim crow. he's been lampooned, been drawn in caricatures, alongside -- in a brazen act of demeaning someone based on race. demeaning him in a way that ignores the truth, the reality, behind jim crow laws. this was a system of laws designed to help hold black americans back. hold them back in part because white democrats in the south didn't want them to vote.
because they were voting as and being elected as republicans. let's not compare a voter registration law that makes sure dead people can't vote to that. ke we can do better than that and we should. >> thank you, senator lee. i would concede, the era of jim crow in the south was propagated primarily by democrats. southern democrats and segregationists. political alignment changed in america starting in the late 1950's and early 1960's and republicans became more dominant in those states for the most part. what we have today is a party of lincoln which is refusing to join us in extending the voting rights act. that used to be a bipartisan exercise. democrats support the extension of voting rights act in trying to overcome the shelby county decision and making sure that we can review every state's activities as to whether or not they are fair or not fair.
so i would concede the historical point but i don't think the senator stuck with the proposition to the present day. at this point we have senator blumenthal. is he available by remote? mr. lee: if i could respond to that. mr. durbin: you may. mr. lee: republicans never ceased to be the party that believes that the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments matter. and that the inherent digny i have to the immortal human soul is such that it should never be denigrated by subjecting someone based on their race to a lack of civil rights. so it's not fair, it's not accurate, to portray the two parties as having somehow crossed. as if in the 1950's. it's just so not accurate.
southern democrats later became republicans that's true. that didn't change the republican party's alignment on the issue. mr. durbin: my point was the political alignment has changed, that's obviously. secondly, the voting rights act, the nature and subject of this hearing, used to be a 98-0 proposition. now only democrats will vote for it since congressman sensenbrenner is gone. mr. lee: you're talking about section 5 of the voting rights act which subjects some states to preclearance. a designation of preclearance and concerns of a constitutional nature raised by the supreme court of the united states itself, is very different than stated opposition to the voting rights act itself and to the many other provisions that have done some good and still have overwhelmingly bipartisan support. i resent that. mr. durbin: i'm sorry you resent it, senator, but it's a fact that we're dealing with a voting rights act that used to be universal and bipartisan and now
it is not. mr. lee: it is not accurate to say democrats support a -- support the voting rights and republicans do not. we are talking about a particular part of the voting rights act that based on its implementation was leaving some states unconstitutionally in the judgment of the supreme court of the united states in a different position. mr. durbin: i happen to disagree with that opinion, you see it differently. senator hirono by remote. senator hirono is not available? ms. hirono: i am available. mr. durbin: you have five minutes. ms. hirono: i thought senator
blumenthal had been called. you notice that the average length is 2 1/2 year, it's not sustainable. that's why we need to pass the john lewis voting rights act. so perhaps you can tell me, how effective is the current section 2 in protecting people's right to vote in comparison to the preclearance process that was in place under section 5? >> thank you for that question, senator. let me clarify also, just given the last colloquy, the supreme court actually invited congress to update the formula under section 5, it did not strike down section 5. and while i'm very hopeful that senator lee and others are willing to participate in a process to update the formula so we can pass a new preclearance formula under the voting rights act. the difference is that the preclearance formula allows us to stop discrimination before it happens by introducing a federal
process that allows for a neutral review, whether the federal authority is republican or democrat in terms of the attorney general, or the district court in d.c., to review an election law to determine what is racial -- what its racial impact would be. that would happen before the law would be passed. every provision of s.b.-202 would have gone through that process before it became law. instead the law was rushed through. it now exists. we have filed suit along with other organizations. we will litigate that case, likely for more than a year. during that time there are elections in georgia. as i said in the texas case, we were still late gating in 2018 a voter i.d. law enacted in 2014. if we think that's appropriate far healthy democracy to hole scores or hundreds of elections in which potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions of voters, are affected, and that law may ultimately violate the
constitution or the voting rights act or americans with disabilities act, or any of the other reasons why changes have been struck down, that's what the committee has to focus on. we need to deal with these matters before they become law. ms. hirono: i agree with you. the supreme court has before it two cases. i know arguments of opponents of section 2, they would like to very much limit the impact of section 2, bad enough that department of justice under president trump brought how many cases? >> i think there was one, maybe two. ms. hirono: if the supreme court goes along with the arguments made to limit section 2, would -- that would make it even harder. you would have to show different
impact. you should have to show much more than what you currently have which is hard enough to do under section 2, would you agree? >> it would be utterly devastating. a blow to our democracy, a blow to one of the finest moments in this country, which was the passage of the voting rights act in 1965. when the senate passed the voting rights act in 1965, they were clear they meant to get at not only current forms of discrimination that existed in 1965, but it was also designed to get at ingenious forms of discrimination that might be created in the future. congress was forward looking. they understood that voter suppression would not go away and to wipe out that history one an affront over the martyr of the civil rights movement, to mr. lewis, and to those who feel the need when they can't give water to their elderly relatives standing in line to vote. ms. hirono: that's what i called
the kind of cruelty exemplified too often in these kind of cases. the shelby county decision was a 5-4 decision. justice ginsburg wrote, throwing out preclearance has worked and continues to work. it's like not carrying your umbrella in rainstorm pause you're not getting wet. are you ok with a possibly 6-3 decision to further limit the section 2 remedies? >> senator, i hope the united states supreme court has seen what has happened since 2013 when the power of section 5 was gutted that they will understand that they will recognize that there are things perhaps they did not know or understand that are happening in this country. that they will read the record, that they will take account of what the reality is, and they
will respect what i believe president reagan called the crown jewel of civil rights legislation, the voting rights act, to ensure it remains intact and effective tool for combating voting discrimination. ms. hirono: i appreciate the dialogue i had with you and i appreciate, ms. anderson and the others who have testified for the enactment of the john lewis act. i just want to mention one more thing. i have heard some comparisons to hawaii voter laws in se, georgia is better than hawaii. give me a break. for the first time ever, hawaii had all mail-in ballots, the last election. we had the second highest percentage of voter participation as a result. this is why mail-in balloting voting is so important and why we need to look at what the post office was doing in the 2020 elections that made it that much harder and the person who heads up the post office is still
there he needs to be removed. that's an editorial comment. thank you. i think my time is up. mr. durbin: thanks, senator hirono. senator cruz. mr. cruz: thank you, mr. chairman. ms. abrams, it's been over two year, you still refuse to concede you lost the race for governor in georgia in 2018. you said you do not concede the process was proper and that, quote, they stole it from the voters of georgia. yes or no, today, do you still maintain that the 2018 georgia election was stolen? >> as i've always said i acknowledged at the very beginning that brian kemp won under the rules that were in place. what i object to are rules that permitted thousands of georgia voters to be denied their participation in this election and had their votes cast out. i will continue to disagree with the system until it is fixed.
we have seen marked progress made, unfortunately it was undone in s.b.-202. i will continue to advocate for a system that permits every eligible georgian to cast their ballot. mr. cruz: i'm going to ask you to please answer the question i ask, yes or no, do you still maintain the 2018 election was stole snn that's your language. >> my full language was it was stole fn the voters of georgia. we do not know what they would have done because not every eligible georgian was permitted to participate fully in the election. mr. cruz: you also told "the new york times" that your loss, quote, was fully attributable to voter suppression. ms. abrams, do you know in georgia whether the percentage of african-american georgians who are registered to vote and who turned out to vote, is it higher or lower than the national average? >> it is higher than the national average because georgia
is one of the largest states with an african-american population. mr. cruz: that's not tied to the size of the population. the percentage of georgians registered to vote in 2018 was 64.2%, compared to 60.2% in the national average. the percentage of voters who voted was 5 .3%, higher than the national average of 3%. in 201 do you know which demographic group in georgia had the highest registration percentage and the highest turnout percentage? mr. cruz: i have a guess but i will defer to you for the answer. mr. cruz: the answer is african-americans had the highest registration and the highest turnout despite your claiming that the election was stolen and there was somehow voter suppression. let's shift to the georgia law in particular which there have been mountains of lies spread by both democratic politicians and by the press. does the georgia law reduce the number of early voting days?
yes or no. >> yes. it does so because you have to look at it in toto. it is not simply looking at the number of days that were expanded for 40% of the population which -- 60% of the population has been the norm. you also have to look at early voting runoff dates that were indeed shortened. mr. cruz: is it correct that it increases the mandatory days of early weekend voting? >> it is a partial answer to say that certain days were crinested -- increased in certain counties that had not participated in the use of all those elections. they have been optional. most -- 60% of georgians have been able to vote for the full number of days. 0% will now join and that is a good thing. but at the exact same time the same bill eliminates weeks of early voting during runoff elections and limits -- allows
the elimination of weekend voting. mr. cruz: dublee requiring an i.d. to vote suppresses votes? >> as i have said, written, testified and repeated today, i believe that voter identification is always appropriate. you should know who is voting. what i object to are the ways we are narrowing and restricking who has access to the right to vote and that has been a common and necessary complaint as we noted in 2018, what happened to native americans in north dakota who were denied the right to society because they were required to have the toe identification that included language, perk siths they were not entitled to demand. when we have narrowing of opportunities without expansion of access that is absolutely wrong and i will stand against it in georgia and everywhere. mr. cruz: during the 2020 election, did your organization, fair fight, collect ballots for voters?
and if so, were the people collecting ballots for your organization paid? >> we did not collect ballots, we did not pay people to collect ballots. we sent to voters absentee ballot applications, as did the secretary of state, as did a number of other organizations because in the midst of a pandemic we thought it was important for voters who may or may not have had information about what their rights were to ensure that they have the education and opportunity for engagement in our election. mr. cruz: i want to be clear about your testimony to this committee. your testimony is that your organization did not pay any person in the state of georgia in 2020 to collect ballots for anybody else. >> no, sir. mr. cruz: thank you. mr. durbin: from georgia. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to our panel for joining us. mr. chairman, i'd like to enter
into the record a number of statement which is may clarify for some of our colleagues the motives and circumstances that led to the passage of this infamous law in georgia. mr. durbin: without objection. >> this is georgia's republican lieutenant governor. republican lieutenant governor jeff duncan who said about the law, quote, this is really the fall lout -- fallout from 10 weeks of misinformation that flew in from former president donald trump. he further said, there is solutions in search of a problem. republicans don't need election reform to win. we need leadership. that was on "meet the press." he further said, knee jerk reaction legislation such as not allowing the distribution of water within 150 feet of a polling station just to appease the extreme right corners of legislators' districts and to
avoid primary challenges. ms. adrams, in the exchange you just shared with senator cruz, the question of early voting opportunities was raised. can you please clarify for this committee what has changed about early voting in runoff elections in georgia under this new law and what the impact might be of those chames? >> certainly. in the state of georgia, previously, the law says that elections occur during business hours. most counties, sorry, most -- 60% of voters were able to vote between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., the hour of operation on election day. so for the majority of georgian, the time allowed was from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. the law now mandates it be 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. with the option, the challenge with an optional permission is it is no longer a given and we have a number of counties that have taken options as an opportunity to restrict
access. we celebrate the fact that more voters will have access to weekend voting. but it is not an expansion of a right when 60% of georgians previously enjoyed that right. we know that 78% of georgians were able to vote -- sorry. the mandatory, the actual days an weekend. we know that 78% of georgians were able to vote northwesterlyier voting hours and that's what's being restricted. we no that for example in the state of georgia, we have 159 counties. but some counties have a small population, fewer than 2,000 persons. so it's insufficient to look at the number of counties participating but to look at the population participating. we know in the state of georgia that this law is restricting access to the right to vote. we also know that the optional notion of a sunday vote, for example, was something that counties felt they had the right
to do and we had a number of counties already using sunday voting. so yes, to the extent it is clarified in law it is one thing. to claim it's an expansion of access to the majority of georgians is not only untrue, it is misleading and it is false. mr. ossoff: and isn't it the case where there were previously three weeks of early voting in runoff elections, now there's just one? >> yes. mr. ossoff: fair fight action, your organization, issued a report documenting the history of voter suppression in georgia which, following the shelby county decision which ended the preclearance functions of the voting rights act. since 2013, since that supreme court decision, georgia has closed hundreds of polling places and the average distance vote verse to drive to go vote has more than doubled. and not surprisingly, according to a nonpartisan analysis by the
atlanta journal constitution, black and brown voters have been impacted the hardest by many of these changes and are 20% more likely to misvoting in an election because of the long distances they're forced to travel. i'd like to enter this fire fight action report, georgia's enduring racial discrimination in voting and the urgent need to modernize the voting rights act into the record, with your permission. mr. durbin: without objection. mr. ossoff: can you explain why the closure, changing and consolidation of voting locations without d.o.j. preclearance can be so harmful and why the john lewis voting rights advancement act, which again to just remind everybody on this committee, what we're here to discuss, we are talking about restoring section 4 and section 5 of the voting rights act so the department of justice civil rights division will preclear changes to election procedure and law that may have disparate, disproportionate racial impact. why is restoration of the preclearance function so vital to ensuring harm is not done by
the closure of polling locations such as those we have seen in georgia over the last decade? >> over the last decade we have seen more than 214 polling places closed. we have seen a number of consolidations, a number of shifts. we saw in clayton county at one point an attempt, not clayton county, in macon county, an attempt to move a polling place from a location that was a publicly neutral place to a police station. which was going to have a deleterious effect on the likelihood of voters of color going to vote if they had to go to a police station to cast their ballots. we know that in the state of georgia, 2019 analysis by the "atlanta journal constitution," that the closure of polling places, given the sheer size of georgia and the increased distance people had to travel without access to public transportation led to between 54,000 to 85,000 people who were not able to cast their ballots
and black voters were 20% more likely to be affected by these closures. taken together, the elimination or the changing of polling locations without accommodating those changes for communities that do not have access to public transportation, do not have cars, do not have the ability to drive, this changes their ability to participate in our election. and i do want to clarify something i said earlier, with your permission. it is not the state legislators can change the composition of the board, the board itself, but writ large the way these laws are written, with preclearance instead of being able to wholesale remove access to voting locations, these voters would be protected by a process that looks at things like distance, cost of travel, access to transportation, and the ease of voting being either expanded or constricted, and it should always be our intention in the united states to increase access
to the right to vote, never to restrict it. mr. ossof fmbing: thank you. mr. chairman, i request one more minute. to ask a followup question. mr. durbin: yes. mr. ossoff: the closure of polling places an changing of polling locations at the last minute which anybody who has run for office and anybody who has voted in georgia knows is common causes all kinds of confusion, leads people to show up at the wrong precinct, often through no fault of their own. again, i want to clarify for my colleagues on the other side who have taken a genuine interest in the contents of this new law in georgia exactly what these changes mean. i hope that this is clarifying. under the prior law, voters who showed up at the wrong precinct because of closures or changes could cast a provisional ballot at that precinct. under the new law if they arrive before 5:00 p.m. they are forced
to go to a different precinct. to travel in some cases across town. in some of these county, travel up to an hour to a different precinct in order to cast their vote or risk disenfranchisement. ms. abrams, what does this change in the new georgia law mean for voters who rely on public transportation to vote or have their kids with them or have a shift that they can't miss at work? >> it presumes that people who vote before 5:00 p.m., that those people have universal access to transportation, to information, and the ability to change their behavior. but let's assume you get into line at 1:00 p.m. and you get to the end of the line at 4:5 p.m. tonl discover that you have used all the time you have before your 6:00 shift to cast your ballot. it would no longer permit you to cast an -- cast a provisional
ballot, which was put in place by this very congress to solve for this problem. those out of precinct pr visional ballots would be discarded and that is inappropriate because these are not people who are making the choice not to do what's right. during the 2020 and 2021 election as you know, fair fight has volunteers standing in front of polling locations directing people to new locations because they have been given misinformation or not received information and remember counties changed their information and while this new law attempts to address it, we know the law has not been tested, and thus we do not know that voters will be protected. to penalize voters before we know the protections for their benefits are in place is anti-american. mr. ossoff: thank you, ms. abrams, thank you, mr. chairman. mr. durbin: mr. holly.
>> we have heard an extraordinary number of lies told about this law from the novet united states, all the way down, including members of the committee, including today and also from an unbelievable assortment of for-profit corporations. this has been one of the most incredible organized campaigns to try to influence legislation and all matly overturn it. and of course now the same corporations are taking this effort to states across the country, no doubt soon coming to missouri where we have our election integrity measures adopted by our voters in our legislature and also by referendum will soon, i'm sure, be in their sights. let me just ask you about these lies that have been told other and over, the president of the united states, his big lie that this legislation cut off the amount of time, closed the polls early. that was a lie. we've heard that water is not made available to people waiting in line, that's a lie. we've seen it told over and over
and over. i want to zero in on the corporations. their unprecedented power. why do you think these corporation, many of them, have been so eager to parrot lies that they know are not true, it's not like they don't have whole whole teams of lawyer, these are the most powerful corporations in the world, they have entire legal departments at their disposal. why do you think they've been so eager to lie over and over about this law your legislature adopted? >> thank you for the question. i can't speculate precisely on their motivation. but i can say that if they do have teams of lawyers and people to analyze the bill, they're unjustified -- their unjustified outrage is really ridiculous. and the -- i believe most of these corporations, if they read the bill, and compared our
voting laws to most of the rest of the state, they would know, you know that georgia has an expansive system of voting. we've made it more expansive. i must clarify, senator that georgia -- georgians always have had, for decades, the ability to offer early voting, or not decades, as long as we've had early vote, the hours of up to 7:00 to 7:00. that is -- continues to be the case. what we did was counties that offered fewer than 9:00 to 5:00 early voting hours, we've required them, 134 more counties will offer longer early voting. but it has been disappointing to see some, and i will just say some, in the business community, either not read the bill or feel that they would be punished somehow by some of these
enormous nonprofit organizations that have placed a lot of pressure on them. mr. hawley: let me ask you about the pressure tactics these corporations have brought to bear. we have seen in public what they have done. we've seen statements they have made and the lies they have told. tell me about the companies, what they've been doing in the legislature. i'm sure they have teams, fleets of lobbyists just like they do here in this capitol. what are the tactics they have used there in the legislature to try to influence, intimidate, just give us a sense of what's been going on? >> well, i will say, i worked closely on the bill and participated in the writing of every word of it. and i can say i was quite surprised by a cupple of the companies outraged given that i never heard from a single one of them. and if they had, particularly -- let me also say that by a couple
of the chambers of commerce, the very provisions that they wanted retained in law were retained. in fact we went further by requiring now two saturdays of early voting whereas previously it was only one saturday of early voting. we expanded the ability for voters, for early voting, to vote but yet i -- i honestly, senator, cannot explain their reaction other than to say they must fear some of these organizations that have an unbelievable amount of money. we've seen about $10 million spent already in georgia. inaccurately portraying this legislation. and as you know if you say something often enough, however inaccurate it is, there are those what will begin to believe it. so perhaps they've been influenced by that.
mr. hawley: what you're saying is many of the corporations that are now howling in public and are spreading active disinformation in public and lies, they actually had nothing to say earlier but now they are out there denouncing the law, calling it voter suppression, calling it jim crow, and when they had the opportunity to shape the bill or work on the bill they didn't. now they're mounting a public pressure campaign. now they're saying they're going to go work in other states. now they changed their tune and are trying to ratchet up the pressure. have i got that right? >> i would just clarify by saying that the few provisions, if the chambers of commerce were representing their interests and they were not communicating with us specifically, we retained those provisions, like three weeks of very expansive early voting and in fact expanded the number of hours available. we kept no excuse early voting which i'm sorry to say delaware
in particular, the president's state, does not have, and it neither has early voting. so we retain the few areas and i supported that, those provisions. what i mostly hear is not facts from those who are, to use your word, howling about the bill, but rather incendiary propaganda that doesn't at all align with the facts of the bill. mr. hawley: let me come briefly to you and ask you here, thank you for being here, i'll ask you about a statement you recently released about h.r. 1. you said and i'm quoting you now, our state constitution requires a voter must be present to vote unless a voter is absent from a town or city or physically disabled. this would be taken away from h.r. 1. contrary to our constitution, it would require no-excuse absentee
voting and continue to receive and count ballots after the election. give us a sense of why these provisions are, that are in your constitution are so important in your view for election security in your state? >> i'm sorry. they're important for new hampshire because they're -- it's what has made our turnout what it has been. it's a combination of the trust in the process and the ease of the process. if you take that away from new hampshire, then we're not going to have the turnout that we have had over the years.
and i said earlier that the conventional view that anything that makes voting easier will increase the turnout. but those charts i provided, you can see the facts, that is just not the case. many academics say that oregon is the state that is the easiest in the country. everybody mails the ballot, they have multiple days, multiple locations, and -- but when oregon went to that process, they have been -- have had a lower turn utah than new hampshire seven presidential elections in a row. before that, when they didn't have it, they were ahead of new hampshire. five presidential elections. in a row. and so the states are different.
states have -- integrity is important. the belief that the process is honest is important. it's a fine balance. all the states try to obtain that fine balance, try to work within in a prose process that keeps people trusting because if they lose trust in it, they're not going to bother. if it's not of any value to them, it doesn't have anything meaningful for them anymore, they stop doing it. and we're always striving to reach that sort of mid ground that people can trust it, but it's also easy. and we've had the third highest turnout four presidential elections in a row based on voting age population. we were fourth before that you can see in the charts i've given you, you can look at all the states. it works if new hampshire. mr. hawley: mr. gardner, thank
you for your testimony. mr. blumenthal: i'm intrigued by the argument that corporations should have been sooner in their opposition to these restrictions on voting rights and that their social conscience was overdue or that they needed legions of lawyers to tell them that these restrictions infringed on the franchise and curtailed the voting opportunities of people in georgia. the fact of the matter is, as has been established irrefutably and powerfully today, these restrictions will impact adversely and enduringly the right of citizens in georgia and other states where they're being imposed. and the positions of the corporations really are beside the point. what's important is the effect on voters. and their rights. in shelby county, the supreme
court tossed out the preclearance provision of section 5 of the voting rights act which for decades served to protect communities of color from voter suppression as the late justice ginsburg voted -- noted in her dissent, quote, throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet. what we're seeing in georgia right now and in other states around the country in those 361 restrickive laws have been imposed, is beyond a rainstorm. it is a tsunami threatening democracy. we are here because of the supreme court's decision. in shelby county. and the current cor rent of voter suppression bills.
so i think we must act. we should act. on the john lewis voting rights act and the for the people act which would work in tandem and let me ask you, how in fact would they combine to protect voting rights in georgia and other states where they are threatened? >> >> thank you, senator blumenthal. if you look at absentee voting, they go right at the heart of the provisions that we've been spending the morning talking about here in the georgia bill and in many of the provisions that are being teed up in other states that will restrict access or burden access to the vote. ms. ifill: the john lewis voting rights act, where jurisdictions want to consolidate polling
places or eliminate polling places, where they want to impose new voter purge regimes, where they want to impose new laws that those laws first have to go through scrutiny of a federal authority. so one aspect of it in h.r. 1 would create a regime that would immediately provide for greater access to voters across the country by expanding registration, early voting, and absentee voting, and the other would protect voters against discriminatory voting changes that are proposed by state or local jurisdictions. and we need both of those elements to strengthen our voting system and to protect, in particular, minority voters. mr. blumenthal: i think that answer is very, very important because it shows the effects of shelby county are more than just changing the location or reducing the number of polling places. it is an effect on the entire
system on access to the ballot box. i was very critical in the georgia runoffs when there was -- when there were sweeping attempts to suppress the vote through disinformation and intimidation online, particularly targeting communities of color. in fact, i wrote a letter demanding that facebook and twitter take stronger action to fight disinformation in those runoff elections, including fact checks, labeling, and reducing the spread of disinformation. i'd like to ask both ms. abrams and ms. ifill, how would you grade facebook and twitter for their handling of the spread of disinformation during the georgia runoff election? ms. abrams: well, i have been in
long conversation with facebook, in particular, to address the issue of misinformation on the platform. we believe that this is yet another form of voter suppression. ms. ifill: facebook is used very much by african-americans and we had an ongoing conversation. what we've asked facebook to do is simply to apply their own policies. they have policies against misinformation in voting, policies against voter suppression, and we have really pressed them to have a more aggressive and clear internal infrastructure to deal with these matters when they occur. it wasn't just in the special election. i recall actually something that really disturbed me. this was not on facebook. this was on twitter during the counting of ballots in georgia after the november election when the former president was discrediting the process, the license plate of a ballot counter was posted on twitter by someone who wanted to stop the
count and to undermine the legitimacy of the election, something incredibly dangerous to those people who are so bravely just doing their civic duty and counting ballots. so i think they have a long way to go. i think there were certainly improvements over the last few years on both facebook and twitter, but there's still a ways to go to make sure the platform does not allow for the kind of misinformation and intimidation that we saw in 2020. >> thank you. ms. abrams: and i would certainly agree with ms. ifill. >> thank you. senator blumenthal: a long way to go. senator cotton: i want to talk about major league baseball boycotting georgia and moving the all-star game at a cost of $100 million in economic activity and thousands of jobs for georgia's residents. on march 8 when describing the georgia election law you called it jim crow in a suit and tie.
on march 10, well before the georgia election law was passed, you registered the website stopjimcrow2.com. on march 14 you called the georgia election bill a redo of jim crow. the bill passed into law. on march 31, you wrote an op-ed in the "usa today" about georgia's law and your first two words in that op-ed were, "boy cots work." -- "boycotts work." and major league baseball announced the boycott of georgia. in the days leading up to major league baseball's decision to pull the all-star game from georgia, you spoke with baseball executives. you described the law as jim crow 2.0 and you urged major league baseball to speak out. after its decision to withdraw the game from georgia, you conveniently claimed you had strongly urged them not to boycott after the horse is out
of the barn and the damage is already done. so ms. abrams, in sum, you a publicly attacked the georgia law as jim crow no fewer than 10 times before major league baseball withdrew the game. you told corporations that boy cots work -- boycotts work and you told corporation it's if they don't attack georgia's law, quote, i cannot argue with an individual's choice to opt out for their competition, end quote. ms. abrams, after all your efforts to sphere georgia as a -- smear georgia as a jim crow state, do you -- would you not want -- ms. abrams: i would not call georgia is jim crow state. i say the bill has jim crow aspects and i stand by that characterization because we have in great detail and great length why that is so. in line two of the same on ed,
i -- op-ed, i said those who use boycotts to gain access to the very rights we defend, i recognize the boycotts. however, i took a great deal of effort to explain why a boycott in georgia is not the appropriate remedy but i think we should -- when you seek to achieve the outcome of justice and access in the united states. number three, i would say that my conversations with mb mlb db major league baseball was very clear about the fact that i did not think the boycott was necessary. i was very intentional about my language. i continue to be intentional about my language. and while i am not the commissioner of baseball, i'm not the head of a corporation, i am a georgia citizen. and i have every right and responsibility to seek out -- speak out against laws that will have an effect on my community. and, yes, while i certainly regret the decision that mlb made to remove their game from the county and the economic
effect it will have on georgians writ large, i support anyone who will fight to stop this type of bad behavior, the type of racial animus, the type of voter suppression from happening in georgia or elsewhere in the country because to me, one day of gain is -- game is not worth losing our democracy. senator cotton: thank you, ms. abrams. after you told corporations boycotts work, i doubt your words are comforting to the thousands of georgians who will lose their jobs, will have their livelihoods affected by mlb's decision. i want to turn to secretary bill gardner. i stress he's been in office since 1976, longer than three members of this committee have been alive. back in the army we had a term of soldiers that had been in combat repeatedly, not just ira. they're called been there and done. if there's anyone that's been there and done that when it
comes to election laws it is bill gardner. you have repeatedly over decades reviewed election laws. you see what is before the congress now and the for the people act with the sweeping reforms. what do you think this federalization of our state-based election system would do to your elections in new hampshire, secretary gardner? mr. gardner: senator, it would be harmful to our elections in new hampshire. i go back when the federal election campaign act originally passed and the states met a threshold, wasn't going to be affected by it. then, within two years, states were completely taken out of that. we no longer could control the rules for the election of our u.s. senate and house members. and then we went to the voter registration act of 1993.
that act, people of new hampshire, the local officials wanted voter registration to be an in-person process. the only way to maintain that in-person process if we became exempt from the national voter registration act and so we passed legislation, made it retroactive to the date of that act. that was the only way to get exempt so we can keep our election process the way new hampshire wanted it. we were sued, not by anyone from new hampshire, because both parties were agreeable then, but from -- an organization in new york city. and we ended up -- the federal government gave an exemption to us so that we no longer had to comply within v.r.a. that's made all the difference. if you look at the chart, you can see what happened in new hampshire starting in 1996. the first time a presidential election happened after the national voter registration act. and new hampshire, from that point on, has been at the top of
the country. because we don't allow people to register by mail unless they are absent, they're out of town or out of the city or they're disabled. we have our rules as we've applied all these years and you can see what it has resulted. fourth presidential elections -- four presidential elections in a row, third highest in the country. the winds before that, five -- the ones before that, five. we were fourth in the country. you can go back, you can see from those charts. so then we went to the help america vote act. we became exempt from parts of nvra because of -- because we were exempt from nvra we did not have to comply with the help america vote act. we are one of the states in the country that doesn't have provisional ballots. we have gone out of the way to help the people of new hampshire. the proof is in the pudding the turnout. the same with this.
now -- now, they want to -- if you were to pass this, you're completely taking away a process that has developed in new hampshire for many, many years, works in the state. why would you want to do it when the turnout is as high as it is and listen to this all. it's a pretty sad story in a way because you have the state of georgia. there's a new england state, rhode island, that actually had a lower turnout in 2020 than georgia. but states have different ways of doing it that works. that's why i said at the beginning. i don't want texas to have to be like arkansas or california. but why should we be made to be like california, in particular, or other states? we have a way of doing it that works for the people of new
hampshire. the turnout is the proof that it works. and this kind of federal legislation is harmful for our way of voting. senator durbin: thank you, mr. gardner. i appreciate your testimony. thank you, senator cotton. senator booker. senator booker: stacey abrams, real quick. the difference between absentee voter i.d.'s and voter participation. i think there are things muddled in that. i would really appreciate if you would give some clarification why the georgia laws are limiting particular voters access. ms. abrams: thank you, mr. senator. when you address voter identification when you are walking to a polling place, you are demonstrating who you are for the purposes of receiving a ballot, but you are not asked to surrender that piece -- that proof. you are not asked to give it to a poll worker who will then be able to retain it in perpetuity.
you show it to prove wh you are and then you pro -- who you are and then you proceed to the voting booth. georgia for 15 years had a similar situation with regards to voting by mail but instead of requiring you to put identification in an envelope that would be clearly marked for anyone seeking to steal your identity, it instead said you could use a signature verification process. we took exception to the signature identification process after 2018 and in 2019 and 2020, those changes were made to make it more equitable and fair to all participants. that was a change that was necessary and it worked. in fact, it worked so effectively we saw more people successfully voting by mail. but to now change it to an identification process where you have to surrender your identification, you have to surrender it in an envelope which is clear for someone to steal your identity, where they
can open it up and get a photo copy of your information or a distinctive numbers that will allow them to steal your identity is absolutely -- should create a deep fear in any person considering this. it's not an apples to apples comparison. there's no other form where we say these pieces of information will sit in a box or sit in an office for -- there's no provision for how long and who can have access to it. it's a very real difference with an absolute distinction that can cause harm to voters. in addition, signature mismatch allows for those thousands of voters who admittedly do not have the requisite identification to submit and it gave them an opportunity process to use and it's worked for 15 years. there is nothing that occurred in 2020 and 2021 to discredit that process except it finally works for most voters. and in particular, voters of
color for the first time in georgia's history successfully used it to actually help change the outcome of an election. my challenge is not with whether it's a democratic victory or a republican victory. it is that it is a harm to voters. and disproportionately will harm voters of color who most likely lack the identification. but we should be concerned about disabled voters and older voters who will now have to sacrifice their personal private information in order to participate in an election and that should be deeply concerning to every american. senator booker: thank you, ms. abrams. really quickly to ms. ifill. just in terms of the landscape of our nation in voter i.d. laws and with regard to challenge to voters, how does the georgia bill fit into that? and can you give me in the final minute and 20 seconds a landscape where this is concerning in terms of the changing we're seeing and the
effect they're going to have on the right for franchise? ms. ifill: thank you, senator booker. i think people confuse this idea of ideas though we are talking about one thing. georgia is one of only four states that requires a photo i.d. for absentee voting. yes, many states require voter i.d. but not all states require government-issued photo i.d. there are 12 states that require i.d. but it's a nonphoto i.d. it can be a utility bill, other forms of identification that connects you to your address. there are some states that require no i.d. to vote. unless you are voting for the first time. those include maryland and massachusetts, minnesota, pennsylvania, vermont, west virginia, and of course, there are other vote by mail states, oregon and washington. so it's really important to understand when people talk about whether you're for our against i.d.'s, there's i.d.'s and there's i.d.'s. the question is are you requiring people to have the kind of onerous i.d. you have to
get by going to the motor vehicle bureau even if the i.d. is free. you have to pay sometimes to get your birth certificate because you may not have it. you have to travel to a motor vehicle bureau. in the 21 contiguous counties in the black belt in georgia, the motor vehicle offices are only open two days a week. some only open one day a week. so that's really the concern about the i.d. it's the kind of i.d. that's required. we should not presume that all states that voter i. -- require voter i.d. require government issued i.d. it's some i.d. that connects you with your address. senator booker: thank you, mr. chairman. i will not encroach on the time and yield time to the great, gregarious, wise senator from louisiana. >> i think -- senator durbin: i'll yield to senator kennedy instead. senator kennedy: thank you, senator booker. you are a fine american, sir.
ms. abrams, can you hear me? i don't know where to look. i hate these zoom hearings. ms. abrams:ie -- yes, sir. senator kennedy: in terms of voter confidence in our electoral system and perception of voter integrity and voter -- and election -- let me start over. i'm sorry. in terms of the confidence that americans have in their electoral system, do you think we're better off having an election day or an election month? ms. abrams: i think we're better having a process that allows every single american the opportunity to participate in elections and given that the initial notion of an election day was based on an economy that no longer exists for millions of americans and given the fact that we have americans who are limited in their access because in states like georgia there is
no paid time off for voting, i think we have to make every opportunity to make voting accessible to every american. there is no other -- senator kennedy: let me stop you because i got -- ms. abrams, i got a bunch of questions for you. before we get off the subject and get me off. so you're ok with us not knowing, say, weeks or months after an election who the winner is? ms. abrams: yes. senator kennedy: ok. talking about the georgia bill, help me understand -- and i'm not interested in a 30,000-foot view. that's not meant to be a criticism. i'm speaking to myself, i guess. i'm not interested in platitudes. tell me -- you're against the georgia bill, i gather, is that right? ms. abrams: i'm against certain provisions of it, yes. senator kennedy: you called it a racist bill, am i right?
ms. abrams: i think there are provisions of it that are racist, yes. senator kennedy: tell me specifically -- just give me a list of the provisions that you object to? ms. abrams: i object to the provisions that remove access to the right to vote. that shorten the federal runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks. a voter can request and return an application. senator kennedy: slow down for me because our audio is not real good here. can you start over for me? ms. abrams: certainly. it shortens the federal runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks. it restricts the time a voter can request and return an absentee ballot application. it requests that a voter has a photo identification or some other form of identification that they're willing to surrender in order to participate in absentee ballot process. senator kennedy: if i could stop you. that's where they're going to
not comparing signatures but to voter i.d.? ms. abrams: yes, sir. as ms. ifill pointed out, we would require the fourth state in the nation to require forth i.d. -- senator kennedy: what else? ms. abrams: it eliminates drop box availability. it bans nearly all out of precinct votes. senator kennedy: bans what, i'm sorry? ms. abrams: bans nearly all out of precinct votes. you get to a precinct and you are in line for four hours and you get to the end of the line and you are not there between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., you have to start all over again. senator kennedy: is that everything? ms. abrams: no, it is not. no, sir. it restricts the hours of operation. because it now, under the guise of sending a standardized timeline, it makes it optional for counties that may be -- may not want to see expanded access to the right to vote, they can
now limit their hours instead of those hours being from 7:00 to 7:00, it may be 9:00 to 5:00 which may affect voters who can't vote during early voting. it -- senator kennedy: ok. i get the idea. i get the idea. let me ask you this. let me approach this another way. if a state decides to require a voter to prove who the voter says he is or she is, you consider that racist? ms. abrams: not at all, sir. voter identification has been part of the american theory of democracy almost from the -- senator kennedy: you're ok with it? ms. abrams: i support voter identification, yes. senator kennedy: ok. how about ballot harvesting? and i heard earlier you were talking about letting the elders collect -- i'm not talking about that. i'm talking about where the parties -- and believe me, both parties do it and probably are doing it -- pay operatives to go
out and help people with their ballots and collect their ballots, are you ok with that or are you against that? ms. abrams: i don't think it's an either/or situation. it depends what the conditions are, what the rules are. but making it easier for those who want to participate in elections to do so safely and securely -- senator kennedy: you're ok with ballot harvesting? ms. abrams: no, sir. i did not say that. that encompasses a wide range of behavior. senator kennedy: sorry. i'm trying to get down from the platitudes and understand what you're for and against. ms. abrams: sir -- senator kennedy: help me with this. let's suppose that republican party wanted to hire people to go out and knock on doors of voters and say, have you -- have you voted yet with your mail ballot and they say, no, and then the operatives are sent -- told to contact the voter and
say, let me help me with your ballot, if you have questions i can suggest who you might want to vote for and after you vote, i'll collect the ballot for you and make it easy, is that ok? ms. abrams: sir, i'm both an attorney and a former legislator and it is not simply the words that you're saying -- senator kennedy: i'm an attorney and current legislator but keep going. ms. abrams: my point is, you and i both know the context, the rules and the structure matters. now, in the very narrow circumstance that you just described, if there are no controls and if it turns into buying votes, of course i object to that. if you look at the piecemeal components you're describing and if we are talking about how do we make it easier for voters to participate in elections, i'm not certain what that looks like. but what you described is very specific and narrow construct,
it sounds like you are in violation of a number of rules. senator kennedy: one last question. our chairman has really indulged me. do you think it was a smart thing for president biden to do when he called everybody who supported the georgia bill a racist? ms. abrams: i think this bill is grounded in racial language. i think the language we're senator kennedy: how do you know that? it's an honest question. how do you know that? ms. abrams: because for 15 years the republican party of georgia not only sanctioned but celebrated its vote by mail provisions. it was only after voters of color for the first time in 15 years successfully used those provisions in favor of the party that they disproportionately support that those rules changed. it's that for years, for more than nearly two decades, we have early voting hours that supported voters that were perfectly fine. it was only after communities of
color used those provisions. senator kennedy: why did that hurt white people, black people, brown people? ms. abrams: it hurt everyone. i -- senator kennedy: that's a long way from calling the president a racist because they support a state that -- ms. abrams: sir, i'm responding to the question you asked me. my point is when your motivation is grounded in the race of those who are engaging in behaviors that you disagree with, that is racist. particularly when it's targeted at communities of color by people in power. senator kennedy: i agree with that. i agree with that. i agree with that. though the chairman has gaveled me, i ask you, how do you know that's what they meant? ms. abrams: we asked them not to do because we showed them what the effect is and they refused to answer and they refused to abide. i worked with these people for 11 years. i don't believe every single
person who supported this bill has deep racial anments in their hearts for their purposes. when it is your racial predicate, then, yes, you should be held accountable and those bills should be stopped. senator kennedy: sorry i went over, mr. chairman. senator durbin: thank you. senator padilla. senator padilla: thank you, mr. chair. i invite my colleague, any colleague, actually, who would like to discuss the intory cassies of election -- i served as chief elections officer for not just the most populous state in the nation but home to the largest, most diverse and inclusive democracy of any state in the nation, even if it takes some alligator sausage and california wine to bring us together. speaking of, mr. chair, this hearing is a continuation of the quality conversation that was
begun by the rules committee prior to the most recent state work period. of which i'm a member. as it majority leader schumer, minority leader mcconnell. and other leaders on this topic. i raise that because -- and that hearing, some of our republican colleagues raised the frame of working to make it easier to vote but harder to cheat. as if it's some sort of mantra or guiding value. it was referenced that was inspired by part in action on election reforms after the 2000 presidential administration, had seen and heard firsthand of secretaries of state in recent years use that mantra, easier to vote and harder to cheat.
it seems like we've done a heck of a job on the second part. harder to cheat. investigation after investigation continues to document that voter fraud in america is exceedingly rare. the easier to vote part still requires a lot of work. i thank you, mr. chair, for prioritizing this topic for a hearing in this committee today. i hope action by congress in the very near future, the easier to vote part requires a lot of work. i'll tell you what the science are, that we have a lot of work to do. the long, long lines we see in multiple states on general election night. the movement in some states for fewer days or fewer hours or fewer locations to vote as time
goes on. the shame in some states where -- we can debate the value of a voter i.d. law but when these laws are written in such a way that a concealed weapons permit allows you to get into a voting booth but a state-issued state university i.d. does not, we know there's an agenda behind the impact of these laws and on and on and on. i tell you what does help. amplifying, increasing the opportunity to vote by mail for eligible voters. as was done in new hampshire, which is a big part of their increase in participation in 2020. i can assure you it was a big part of california's record turnout in 2020 as well. offering eligible voters more days, more hours, more flexibility of where to vote in person if that is their choice.
the acceptance of more vote by mail ballots that are postmarked on or before election day even if they arrive after the election. the implementation of postelection audits to continue to buttress election integrity, etc., etc. mr. chair, we have the playbook on how to strengthen our democracy. maintaining the security and, our elections while facilitating more participation. but sadly, the term voter fraud, the potential for voter fraud is used as a pretext to do the opposite. now, several of our colleagues have also referenced how 2020 was an election year that saw record registration across the country, record turnout in many, many states across the country, nationally as a whole. why are the proposals making their way through congress necessary? well, you have to ask the same
question. when we see the -- as of march 24, as of march 24, 361 bills introduced in 47 states that would restrict opportunities to vote in our election. i know some of our colleagues said, just because they're introduced doesn't mean these measures will see the light of day. five have already been enacted. 29 have been passed by at least one chamber and more still under consideration. mr. chair, that's a long preamble in the leadup to my main question for our witnesses here. and i begin with saying what more people should recognize, and that is that voter suppression is rooted in white supremacy. during the jim crow era we know that racially targeted and racially motivated voter
suppression was often blatant. legislatures adopted overtly racist policies like literacy tests and poll taxes in an effort to shape the electorate. today's voter suppression playbook is still rooted in white supremacy and motivated by the same factors as their jim crow predecessors but looks different. overtly racist policies have been replaced by facially neutral ones like mandated in-person voting requirements, the decommissioning of polling sites and manipulated discriminated voter i.d. laws, as i mentioned. just because these new voter suppression tactics are facially neutral, it can be harder for people to recognize and understand that pernicious effects. so my question for ms. ifill, ms. abrams and professional
anderson is simply -- can you explain, can you share how these race neutral policies have nonetheless disproportionate racial impacts? >> well, if i might begin, senator, again, thank you. ms. ifill: let's talk about a provision we haven't talked about today which is that this law, sb-202, provides for unlimited challenges to the legitimacy of voters. i'm sure many people are aware there are organizations who make it their business to challenge voters to determine whether a voter will in fact should have been able to cast a vote. there was 360,000 challenges after the november election in georgia. and the georgia secretary of state found that there was no substantial findings that supported any widespread voter fraud through those challenges.
if that was the case, 360,000 challenges failed to produce anything significant, why does sb-202 now provide that anyone can make unlimited challenges to the legitimacy of voters? this is a form of voter intimidation that can often be used to target black and latino voters, to target voters who are from immigrant communities. what is the predicate, what is the underlying basis for that provision of the law? why create this system in which anyone can engage in these unlimited challenges to voters? we know that this will disproportionately be targeted at communities of color. and, yet, it's in sb-202. it's not connected to any evidence or predicate that it is necessary. it is not narrowly tailored. it's not designed to actually get at voter fraud. it's actually designed to create an unlimited system of voter
intimidation that will be targeted at black and brown voters. senator padilla: ms. abrams. ms. abrams: i would only add that we know that of the 364,000 challenges, one of the provisions that are included in this is that the counties that were able to legally dismiss these challenges for lack of evidence and lack of basis are now going to be penalized by the state if they do not engage in fearing that cannot only terrifies voters but often push them out of the process because they're unaware how these processes work and they can be terrified if they participate it will imperil their ability to participate in work or otherwise. so as ms. ifill pointed out, this is one more example in addition to the number we have given earlier that demonstrates
how difficult it is to behave with integrity when you are being attacked with impunity by those who use racial animus and mere presence as a threat to democracy. i would actually like to see the rest -- to dr. anderson who can connect the dots between jim crow before and jim crow 2.0. dr. anderson: thank you so much. thank you, senator padilla, for your question. the challenges that ms. ifip has prescribed -- ifill has prescribed were in the jim crow constitutions, such as the one in north carolina, that allows any voter, anybody to go up and challenge the veracity, the validity, the legitimacy of a voter. that was intimidation. that kind of engagement, that kind of harassment is what we see replicated in this bill.
one of the things is the limbation of drop boxes. the drop boxes were really designed to deal with the pandemic and designed to deal with the fact that the post office was being deliberately undercut in terms of its ability to deliver absentee ballots in a timely fashion. so the rise of drop boxes provided access to voters to be able to engage in this election process. what we saw -- what we see with sb-202, however, is it eliminates in atlanta where the majority of black voters are, you see we went from 94 drop boxes to 23. and those drop boxes are now to be housed inside, in buildings that can be closed. this is how you can limit access to the ballot box. while writing race neutral laws. these are not as race neutral as
the poll tax was or the literacy law was. it wasn't that we don't black laws to -- voters to vote but that's what we're seeing right now with the voter suppression laws. it is in response to those massive wave of black voter turnout that happened in 2020 and the 2021 election. senator durbin: thank you. senator tillis. senator tillis: thank you, mr. chair. thanks to the witnesses for being here. speaker pro tempore jones, thank you for your leadership in the georgia legislature. i know a little bit about georgia. both my kids were born in. i lived in atlanta. i got a lot of family down in south georgia. over the past several weeks, i heard a number of reports. i also heard several comments today that seems to me that we're not properly characterizing many of the aspects of senate bill 202.
what would you consider to be some of the more blatant mischaracterizations you hard today or heard reported in the press? ms. jones: thank you, senator tillis. i'll go through a few of the most recent ones. no i.d. is surrendered to vote absentee. the exact same voter i.d. requirements that are in law and have been in law to vote in person are now simply going to apply to absentee voting. senator tillis: mrs. jones, if i may, how does that work? if you go to a poll location, they ask for an i.d., you have a government-issued i.d. or i guess other acceptable forms of identification, how does that mechanically vote in an absentee process? are they copied and submitted with a ballot, how does that work? ms. jones: no, sir. if one has a pen, a ball point
ink pen, and you can take the number on your driver's license or the number on your free voter i.d., or i might add -- i would like to clarify someone said a utility bill could not be used, you could use, if you don't have the other two, which 97% of georgians do, you can submit a copy of a utility bill, one of the federally allowed forms of i.d. this is not a hardship. senator tillis: ms. jones, i want to ask you. when we hear people talking about an unreasonable requirement -- north carolina, i think our driver's license number is somewhere around eight or 10 digits. you're saying provided you have a writing instrument and you can write down 10 or 12 digits, let's say yours is a little bit longer, then you satisfied the i.d. requirement on the absentee ballot? ms. jones: yes, sir.
that's true. senator tillis: people said -- i think it was ms. abrams said she focused on the 9:00 to 5:00 window for voting. it sounds to me like in the law that was more or less established as a floor and that you provided the options for local boards of elections to do 12 hours, 7:00 to 7:00 voting, is that correct? ms. jones: that's correct. we had 134 states that offered fewer hours than 9:00 to 5:00. so it is expanding the number of hours available for early voting. senator tillis: how about the assertion that was mentioned by one of the other witnesses -- i can't recall who it was -- that said that providing water to your elderly parents or grandparents could get you in jail, is that a part of this bill? ms. jones: no, sir. the -- just as has been in long time current law and is in most states and probably your state, there is a protected distance that was frankly being gamed and
manipulated during the last two election cycles by activists and candidates handing out items of value, sometimes with their logo on it, and this simply puts -- senator tillis: it's another mischaracterization. all this stuff is mischaracterization. i think it's important to point out that -- in georgia, you have just under four weeks of early voting, is that correct? ms. jones: we have three weeks of early voting which is quite expansive. senator tillis: that includes saturday and sunday option, is that correct? ms. jones: it mandates two saturdays in senate bill 202. senator tillis: and two sundays? ms. jones: and only 16 counties utilize sunday voting in 2020. but all 159 counties are able to utilize if they so choose.
senator tillis: is the provision for drop boxes driven more by the logistics of where you can secure the drop box to prevent tampering? what was the -- the prior witness said you went from 90 to 24 in atlanta, fulton county. [indiscernible] ms. jones: i live in foulton county. we never had drop boxes before 2020. they were purely put in place by the election -- state elections board out of social distancing concerns. while i certainly am optimistic we won't have social distancing concerns at the time of the next general election, but should we have them, the law also allows for the state elections board to take them back to the way they were during the pandemic which was outside of early voting locations. but for security reasons, we had drop boxes that were overflowing because they were not monitored. no one was watching the camera
on them. this will make sure that every vote counts. senator tillis: well, that seems rational to me. mr. chair, i have to associate myself with senator lee's comment. this has been a contentious hearing and these sorts of hearings can you. this committee rightly has -- members with their differences on it. i really believe we need to start getting the facts on some of this -- on some of the voting laws. i don't think setting the premise with jim crow 2021 is a particularly productive way to get people to talk about states like delaware that's only currently -- currently implementing early voting. states like north carolina, we have a the first to cast ballots in the last election cycle. you can cast your absentee ballot in september. we do allow for weekend voting. we have a lot of early voting sites. yet, when i was speaker of the house and the gentleman that went behind me had had those
bills, even by members of the committee, being jim crow bills. we had increased participation among the african-american demographic and minority demographic. there does seem to be a number of states that i'm sure will never have a hearing on here. i think ms. abrams said they're behind 8-ball. i think they're right. i think if we have some of the restrictions we've seen in other states, southern states, then we would be probably rightfully insulted. yet, they get a pass. i hope that the people of georgia and that the american people will get past some of the misinformation, the 361 bills that's been referred to repeatedly in this hearing. if you look at it, i for one think cleansing voter rolls to prevent dead people from voting is not a bad idea. and if you start decomposing, the record's going to be open, i will provide something, without objection, that really breaks down these bills to say maybe some are going outside the lanes but not 361. these are games that are being
played. i've got an article here that, without objection, i'd like to submit where fundraising on aspects of the georgia bill that never made its way into law. i don't even know if there was a serious amendment ever considered. it looks like a lot of people are creating a lot of noise at the expense of identifying legitimate areas where we feel like voters don't have the right to vote. i believe in north carolina characterizing our laws, a law i ratified, a law that was passed by almost 70% vote in a majority democrat state. in fact, republicans are third behind unaffiliated. almost 70% supporting voter i.d. laws and integrity laws. i think the georgia law has more to do with election integrity than voter suppression. i hope we can get to the point where we find the real defenders. we've not had these circular discussions where i'm sure fundraising emails will go out and people will be talking about
protecting voter integrity but they're not getting anything done. speaker pro tempore jones and the rest of the witnesses, thank you for being here today. thank you, mr. chair. senator durbin: thank you, senator. thanks for everyone for participating in this. yes. jim crow 2021 is a provocative title. it certainly raised the interest level in this committee, the participation today is an indication of that. i think this is a serious issue. i'm glad professor anderson was with us. she put it in historic context. there was a time in our history when people were boldly stating what their intentions were with efforts of voter suppression. not so often now. yet, we have to be honest and take a hard look and senator tillis stepped out. measures like the north carolina law that required strict voter i.d. and limited early voting which a federal court found, and i quote, targeted african-americans with almost surgical precision, closed
quote, and determined that the state legislature, quote, enacted the law with discriminatory intent. that is not from the 19th century noreen the 20th cent -- nor even the 20th century. a texas law implemented mere hours after the shelby county decision, a law that was determined to violate the u.s. constitution by a federal court because it wrongfully discriminated against the state's black and latino voters. here's what troubled me, and i tried to say at the outset. it appeared that the people who run the elections in georgia in 2020 were willing to stand up to the president of the united states when he personally called the head -- the secretary of state an availed threat, suggested he might be guilty of a crime if he didn't set out to find the votes necessary to make donald trump the winner in georgia. and he resisted that effort. i respect him very much for it. i think it took a lot of fortitude on his part. particularly as a republican. i understand he was criticized
by many republicans in georgia. many of the same republicans who then went into legislative session and passed this bill. in the process stripped him of authority which he had before. he paid a price for standing up and saying that. and the troubling thing that's never been answered -- asked over and over and never answered -- what was the incidents of voter fraud in georgia that caused that legislature to come in and change so many versions of the voting law after 2020 and after the special election in 2021? there wasn't any instance of voter fraud. the senator from north carolina raised question of dead people voting. how often does that occur? well, president donald trump said to rafensburger, we think there are 5,000 dead people who voted on the rolls in 2020. the secretary said, there are two, mr. president. two out of nearly five million votes. it's just -- it defies logic to
think we're in a position now where we're changing the laws in the state after it produced record turnouts and after so little fraud and still the efforts are being made to make a substantial change. do i understand senator blackburn is online? senator blackburn: yes, mr. chairman. i had to leave the hearing and come back. so, yes, i am available now. senator durbin: senator, we were just concluding the hearing but i want to give you your chance so take your five minutes, please. senator blackburn: thank you. i appreciate that. i want to say thank you to our witnesses because they've been incredibly patient with us today because this is such an important hearing from us. i am one that served on an election commission before i was in elected office. i did that in my county. i know how incredibly important it is to make it possible for everyone to vote. mr. gardner, i appreciated your
comments on how your focus is on making the -- it easy for people to vote while still making those votes safe. and i believe everybody should have their opportunity to vote. i have a pickup truck. for about 25 years, the license plate on that pickup truck said vote because it was a way for me to send that message to everybody registered to vote. i will say it's been a little bit distressing to me today listening to this hearing. i got into the room for a few minutes. to hear the premise of this hearing as if there is some assault on the right to vote in this country. and we know that we have had record voter turnout. and my colleagues across the aisle know that we have had
record voter turnout in recent years. and this is -- to say that it's jim crow laws, in my opinion, that is not a valid premise. and i find it unfortunate that there are some who've continued to push that and push it on the state of georgia. i think we have to look at the leadup to this and the things that have been said. look at "the washington post" and their comments about president biden when he falsely claimed that georgia's recent voting reform law -- and i'm quoting -- ends voting hours early so working people can't cast their vote after their shift is over, end quote. president biden went on to describe georgia's election law as, quote, jim crow in the 21st century, unquote, which appears to be the inspiration for this
hearing. the problem is, as we've discussed several times, "the washington post" gave president biden's remarks on this issue four pinocchios. in other words, they say that was a lie. quote, one of the biggest changes in the bill would expand early voting access for most counties, unquote. that's the georgia public radio report on the georgia voting law. quote, for most counties you will have an extra weekend weekday and your weekday hours will be later, end quote. the voting hours that president biden claimed ending early voting actually did the exact opposite. it expanded these voting opportunities. unfortunately, president biden's repeating of the lie had rapid
real-world consequences. you look at this with major league baseball. so this repeated lie caused the all-star game in atlanta to die. and i would have loved to have asked senator warnock and probably will how he will answer to his constituents for the loss of that game. and ms. abrams, i do have a question that i wanted to come to you on. when you heard the comment, the repeated falsehood from the president that this is something that would hamper voting rights and the comments about the georgia law, does this hurt or help your cause for access for voting to more individuals? ms. abrams: with all due respect, senator, to "the
washington post", i disagree with your characterization. for early in-person voting, 70% of counties already had more than the eight hours of early voting. what sb-202 did was codify -- senator blackburn: i don't mean to interrupt but thank you. thank you for that. because i do have another question. i want to go to ms. jones on. as i mentioned, i served on a voter -- on an election commission. and my question for representative jones is about the voter rolls and the updating of the voter rolls. we took this as a very serious responsibility and worked hard at updating voter rolls. when you talk about the legislation that is being pushed, they would disallow counties to update their rolls. therefore, mailout ballots would go to people, as we saw in 2020,
that no longer lives in an area or people, individuals that are deceased. and people saw hundreds of these on social media. so talk with me about how this process of going through and cleaning up these rolls adds and underpins the accuracy and the integrity in the elections. dr. anderson: thank you. it's important so -- ms. jones: thank you. it's important that you have the voter rolls that are not only cleaned up but there's some security on the back end because we did have voters receive multiple absentee ballot requests for previous occupants of their home or their apartment. and so that is why we also put the reasonable requirement in
absentee ballots that they list their driver's license number or their free voter i.d. there are other provisions. if there are' the 1 -- if they're the 1% or 2% of gans don't have -- georgians don't have. we want every voter to cast a vote, and we want every legitimate vote to count. senator blackburn: well, and that is imperative in preserving the one-person, one-vote rule is making certain the rolls are correct so that only people who currently live in an area are able to vote in that state or in that county for those elections. so that you eliminate a lot of the voter fraud. voter laws should make it -- the elections more secure. and they should make it more difficult to cheat. that is how we preserve the
integrity in the election system. and everyone that's entitled to vote should be able to vote. secretary gardner, i do have a question -- senator durbin: senator -- senator blackburn: i'm going to submit -- yes, sir. i'm going to submit my question to secretary gardner because you've been generous with your time and the hearing has run very long so, mr. chairman, thank you for letting me get a couple of questions in. senator durbin: thank you, senator blackburn. and mr. gardner will receive the question. i hope anyone who receives a question, the witnesses will respond in a timely fashion. i want to thank the witnesses. this has been a four-hour hearing, which is unusual in the senate judiciary committee, and is evidence of the interest in this issue as we expected. it is clear that we have work to do. the question is whether we will do something in a bipartisan way to restore the voting gh