Text: S.Hrg. 117-14 — S. 1, FOR THE PEOPLE ACT
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[Senate Hearing 117-14]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 117-14
S. 1, FOR THE PEOPLE ACT
COMMITTEE ON RULES AND ADMINISTRATION
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTEENTH CONGRESS
MARCH 24, 2021
Printed for the use of the Committee on Rules and Administration
[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Available on http://www.govinfo.gov
U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE
44-074 PDF WASHINGTON : 2021
COMMITTEE ON RULES AND ADMINISTRATION
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota, Chairwoman
DIANNE FEINSTEIN, California ROY BLUNT, Missouri
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York MITCH McCONNELL, Kentucky
MARK R. WARNER, Virginia RICHARD SHELBY, Alabama
PATRICK J. LEAHY, Vermont TED CRUZ, Texas
ANGUS S. KING, JR., Maine SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West
JEFF MERKLEY, Oregon Virginia
ALEX PADILLA, California ROGER WICKER, Mississippi
JON OSSOFF, Georgia DEB FISCHER, Nebraska
CINDY HYDE-SMITH, Mississippi
BILL HAGERTY, Tennessee
Elizabeth Peluso, Staff Director
Fitzhugh Elder IV, Republican Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Opening Statement of:
Hon. Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman, a U.S. Senator from the State of
Hon. Roy Blunt, a U.S. Senator from the State of Missouri........ 3
Hon. Eric Holder, Former U.S. Attorney, General and Current Chair
of the National Democratic, Redistricting Committee,
Washington, DC................................................. 15
Hon. Mac Warner, West Virginia Secretary of State, Charleston,
West Virginia.................................................. 16
Hon. Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State, Lansing,
Hon. Todd Rokita, Attorney General of Indiana and Former U.S.
Representative, Indianapolis, Indiana.......................... 19
Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice, New
York, New York................................................. 21
Hon. Trevor Potter, Former Republican Chair of the FEC and
Founder and President of Campaign Legal Center, Washington DC.. 50
Hon. Lee Goodman, Former Republican Chair of the FEC, Washington
Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy 21 and Former President
of Common Cause, Washington, DC................................ 53
Bradley Smith, Chairman of the Institute for Free Speech and
Former Republican Chair of the FEC, Columbus, Ohio............. 54
Tiffany Muller, President and Executive Director of End Citizens
United/Let America Vote Action Fund, Washington DC............. 56
Prepared Statement/Testimony of:
Hon. Eric Holder, Former U.S. Attorney, General and Current Chair
of the National Democratic, Redistricting Committee,
Washington, DC................................................. 78
Hon. Mac Warner, West Virginia Secretary of State, Charleston,
West Virginia.................................................. 82
Hon. Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State, Lansing,
Hon. Todd Rokita, Attorney General of Indiana and Former U.S.
Representative, Indianapolis, Indiana.......................... 93
Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice, New
York, New York................................................. 103
Hon. Trevor Potter, Former Republican Chair of the FEC and
Founder and President of Campaign Legal Center, Washington DC.. 168
Hon. Lee Goodman, Former Republican Chair of the FEC, Washington
Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy 21 and Former President
of Common Cause, Washington, DC................................ 242
Bradley Smith, Chairman of the Institute for Free Speech and
Former Republican Chair of the FEC, Columbus, Ohio............. 267
Tiffany Muller, President and Executive Director of End Citizens
United/Let America Vote Action Fund, Washington DC............. 281
Materials Submitted for the Record:
Klobuchar--Letter from When We All Vote Organization............. 285
Klobucher--Letter from Declaration for American Democracy........ 287
Klobucher--Letter from National Disability Rights Network........ 315
Klobuchar--Letter from End Citizens United Action Fund/Let
America Vote Action Fund....................................... 319
Klobuchar--Letter from Democracy 21.............................. 321
Klobuchar--Letter from Demos..................................... 324
Klobuchar--Letter from Voting Rights Lab......................... 330
Klobuchar--Letter from Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund... 333
Klobuchar--Letter from Denise W. Merrill, Secretary of the State
of Connecticut................................................. 350
Klobuchar--Statement of Damon Hewitt, Acting President and
Executive Director, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under
Klobuchar--Report on H.R. 1, the For the People Act, as
Introduced in the 117th Congress............................... 366
Blunt--Letter from Foundation for Government Accountability...... 519
Blunt--Letter from Opportunity Solutions Project................. 520
Blunt--Article: Americans for Prosperity......................... 521
Blunt--Article: Alabama Secretary of State Leads 15 Other
Secretaries in Expressing Opposition to H.R. 1................. 523
Blunt--Article: American Conservative Union...................... 525
Blunt--Article: An Unconstitutional Voting Reform................ 527
Blunt--Letter from Associated Builders and Contractors........... 532
Blunt--Article: ATR Urges No Vote on H.R. 1, the ``For the People
Blunt--Memo: The Biden Administrations' Immediate Opportunity to
Create A Pro-Enforcement Majority on the Federal Election
Blunt--Article: The Club for Growth.............................. 540
Blunt--Letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.................. 542
Blunt--Letter from Concerned Women for America Legislative Action
Blunt--Statement: Disability Community Fears Paper Ballot Mandate
Will Hurt Voters with Disabilities............................. 545
Blunt--Letter from the Eagle Forum............................... 547
Blunt--Letter from the Faith and Freedom Coalition............... 549
Blunt--Article: `For the People Act' Proclaims Democracy, but
Usurps Democ Choices........................................... 551
Blunt--Letter from Family Research Council....................... 554
Blunt--Article: Raffensperger: Baseless Stolen Election Claims
Don't Justify Federal Takeover With H.R. 1..................... 556
Blunt--Article: What Does Georgia's New Voting Law SB 202 Do?.... 559
Blunt--Article: H.R. 1 Is not `For the People' Sen. Mike Lee..... 566
Blunt--Article: H.R. 1 Would End Bipartisanship at the FEC....... 568
Blunt--Article: H.R. 1/S.R. 1 Seeks to Weaken Voting Standards
and Silence Conservative Voices................................ 571
Blunt--Article: How the House's Election Reform Bill Would
Exacerbate our Polarization.................................... 574
Blunt--Letter from Institute for Free Speech..................... 579
Blunt--Article: Jim Crow is not on the Georgia Ballot............ 581
Blunt--Letter from March for Life Action......................... 585
Blunt--Letter from Honest Elections Project...................... 587
Blunt--Letter from National Association of Manufacturers......... 589
Blunt--Letter from National Association of Wholesalers and
Blunt--Letter from National Retail Federation.................... 592
Blunt--Letter from National Right to Life Committee.............. 594
Blunt--Statement of Secretary of State Bill Gardner Regarding the
Impact of H.R. 1 on New Hampshire Elections.................... 597
Blunt--Article: On Electoral Redistricting Panels, H.R. 1 Would
Require Racial, Gender Discrimination.......................... 599
Blunt--Opinion: H.R. 1 Could Restore our Democracy. As it's
Written now, it Could Hurt it, too............................. 603
Blunt--Article: Pelosi's H.R. 1 is an Authoritarian Outrage...... 605
Blunt--Article: Pelosi's H.R. 1 Bill a Blatant Power Grab for
Blunt--Article: Election Integrity is a National Imperative...... 614
Blunt--Article: Power Over Elections Belongs to Nevada........... 617
Blunt--Letter from Association of Mature American Citizens....... 620
Blunt--FGA Article: Eight Ways S. 1 is Wrong for the States and
Wrong for Americans............................................ 623
Blunt--Letter from Heritage Action for America................... 626
Blunt--Letter from MicroVote..................................... 628
Blunt--Statement from the National Taxpayers Union............... 630
Blunt--Letter from People United for Privacy..................... 631
Blunt--Letter from Public Interest Legal Foundation.............. 636
Blunt--Letter from Susan B. Anthony List......................... 639
Blunt--Statement from Rick Stream, Republican Director of
Elections, St. Louis County, MO................................ 640
Blunt--Letter from Tea Party Patriots Action..................... 642
Blunt--Article: Sorry, Stacey Abrams, H.R. 1 Exemplifies the Need
for the Filibuster............................................. 644
Blunt--Article: The Heritage Foundation Explains the Election
Process if H.R. 1 Passes....................................... 653
Blunt--Yale Law and Policy Review: The Other Voting Right:
Protecting Every Citizen's Vote by Safeguarding the Integrity
of the Ballot Box.............................................. 660
Blunt--Letter from People United for Privacy..................... 678
Blunt--Article: Biden Falsely Claims the new Georgia law `ends
Voting Hours Early'............................................ 685
King--Statement: Disability Community Fears Paper Ballot Mandate
Will Hurt Voters with Disabilities............................. 688
King--Letter from MicroVote...................................... 690
Merkley--Letter from Governor Kate Brown......................... 692
Merkley--Letter from Democracy For All 2021...................... 693
Merkley--Letter from the Environmental Community................. 696
Merkley--Article: H.R. 1 Isn't at all an Unconstitutional Bill... 697
Merkley--Letter from Sierra Club................................. 699
McConnell--Letter from the Office of the Attorney General, State
of Indiana..................................................... 702
McConnell--Letter from John H. Merrill, Secretary of State....... 708
McConnell--Letter from Former FEC Commissioners.................. 710
McConnell--Article: H.R. 1 Could Restore Our Democracy. As It's
Written Now, It Could Hurt It, Too............................. 714
McConnell--Article: Jim Crow Is Not On The Georgia Ballot........ 716
Cruz--Letter from Public Interest Legal Foundation............... 719
Cruz--Letter from Citizens United................................ 722
Cruz--Letter from Concerned Women for America Legislative Action
Cruz--Letter from Family Research Council........................ 725
Cruz--Letter from Independent Women's Forum, Independent Women's
Law Center, and Independent Women's Voice...................... 727
Cruz--Letter from Campaign for Liberty........................... 731
Hyde-Smith--Letter from Mississippi Secretary of State Michael
Questions Submitted for the Record:
Hon. Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman, a U.S. Senator from the State of
Minnesota to Hon. Eric Holder, Former U.S. Attorney General and
Current Chair of the National Democratic Redistricting
Committee, Washington, DC...................................... 735
Hon. Roy Blunt, a U.S. Senator from the State of Missouri to Hon.
Mac Warner, West Virginia Secretary of State, Charleston, West
Hon. Angus King, Jr., a U.S. Senator from the State of Maine to
Hon. Mac Warner, West Virginia Secretary of State, Charleston,
West Virginia.................................................. 744
Hon. Deb Fischer, a U.S. Senator from the State of Nebraska to
Hon. Mac Warner, West Virginia Secretary of State, Charleston,
West Virginia.................................................. 745
Hon. Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman, a U.S. Senator from the State of
Minnesota to Hon. Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State,
Lansing, Michigan.............................................. 747
Hon. Angus King, Jr., a U.S. Senator from the State of Maine to
Hon. Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State, Lansing,
Hon. Roy Blunt, a U.S. Senator from the State of Missouri to Hon.
Todd Rokita, Attorney General of Indiana and Former U.S.
Representative, Indianapolis, Indiana.......................... 749
Hon. Deb Fischer, a U.S. Senator from the State of Nebraska to
Hon. Todd Rokita, Attorney General of Indiana and Former U.S.
Representative, Indianapolis, Indiana.......................... 754
Hon. Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman, a U.S. Senator from the State of
Minnesota to Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center
for Justice, New York, New York................................ 755
Hon. Angus King, Jr., a U.S. Senator from the State of Maine to
Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice,
New York, New York............................................. 762
Hon. Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman, a U.S. Senator from the State of
Minnesota to Hon. Trevor Potter, Former Republican Chair of the
FEC and Founder and President of Campaign Legal Center,
Washington DC.................................................. 765
Hon. Angus King, Jr., a U.S. Senator from the State of Maine to
Hon. Trevor Potter, Former Republican Chair of the FEC and
Founder and President of Campaign Legal Center, Washington DC.. 767
Hon. Ted Cruz, a U.S. Senator from the State of Texas to Hon.
Trevor Potter, Former Republican Chair of the FEC and Founder
and President of Campaign Legal Center, Washington DC.......... 767
Hon. Roy Blunt, a U.S. Senator from the State of Missouri to Hon.
Lee Goodman, Former Republican Chair of the FEC, Washington DC. 772
Hon. Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman, a U.S. Senator from the State of
Minnesota to Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy 21 and
Former President of Common Cause, Washington, DC............... 780
Hon. Roy Blunt, a U.S. Senator from the State of Missouri to
Bradley Smith, Chairman of the Institute for Free Speech and
Former Republican Chair of the FEC, Columbus, Ohio............. 783
Hon. Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman, a U.S. Senator from the State of
Minnesota to Tiffany Muller, President and Executive Director
of End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund, Washington
S. 1, FOR THE PEOPLE ACT
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2021
United States Senate
Committee on Rules and Administration
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in Room
301, Russell Senate Office Building, Hon. Amy Klobuchar,
Chairwoman of the Committee, presiding.
Present: Senators Klobuchar, Blunt, Feinstein, Schumer,
Warner, Leahy, King, Merkley, Padilla, Ossoff, McConnell,
Shelby, Cruz, Capito, Wicker, Fischer, Hyde-Smith, and Hagerty.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE AMY KLOBUCHAR, CHAIRWOMAN, A
U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Chairwoman Klobuchar. I call to order this hearing of the
Rules and Administration Committee on S. 1, the For the People
Act. Today, we are here to consider the For the People Act
legislation that I am honored to lead with Senator Merkley and
Majority Leader Schumer, which has been co-sponsored by every
Democratic member of this committee. I would like to thank
Senator Blunt, our colleagues, and our witnesses for being here
I would also like to acknowledge, in addition to Senator
Merkley, two of our other members who are new to this committee
and are new to the Senate. Senator Ossoff, who, along with
Senator Warnock, was elected in Georgia, where we all know
election issues were front and center, as well as Senator
Padilla, who has his own extensive experience with these issues
from his time as California's Secretary of State. Last month,
when we held this committee's organizing meeting, I announced
that the For the People Act would be the subject of our first
I am also pleased that we took part in very constructive
hearings along with the Homeland Security Committee on the
January 6 attack on the Capitol, and our productive work
Senator Blunt and I are doing together on oversight and
investigations of that day is continuing. In the end, that
insurrection was about an angry mob working to undermine our
democracy. It reminds all of us how very fragile our democracy
truly is and how it is on all of us to not just protect that
democracy but to ensure that it thrives and that democracy is
due for some rejuvenation.
This bill is essential to protecting every American's right
to vote, getting dark money out of our elections as well as
some very important anticorruption reforms. It is about
strengthening our democracy by returning it to the hands of its
rightful owners, the American people. As I said from the stage
on the Inauguration Day--on that beautiful day, which Senator
Blunt did so much to make a success under that bright blue sky
at the very place where you could still see the spray paint on
the bottom of the columns and the makeshift windows that were
put in place--I said, this is the day our democracy picks
itself up, brushes off the dust and does what America always
does, goes forward as one Nation under God, indivisible, with
liberty and justice for all.
Well, we can't do that if anyone's vote is suppressed. At a
time when the right to vote is under attack and special
interests and dark money are drowning out the voices of the
American people, we need to take action. Last November, in the
middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a public health crisis,
nearly 160 million Americans voted, more people than ever
before, in part because the methods of voting, specifically
making it easier to vote, were extended in states across the
country. That was an extraordinary thing. That was progress,
but what was the result? Well, just since the beginning of this
year, now over 300 bills have been introduced in state
legislatures across the country, in nearly every state,
including my own home State of Minnesota. Efforts have been
made to suppress the vote, efforts have been made to introduce
bills that would suppress the vote.
So, as Senator Warnock said in his maiden speech on the
Senate floor last week, ``What's happening. Some people don't
want some people to vote.'' That's what's happening. To take
two examples: A dozen states--including Arizona, Georgia, and
Pennsylvania--have introduced legislation to limit access to
vote by mail, which is how 45 percent of voters cast their
ballots in the last election, and 14 states have introduced
legislation to make it easier to purge voters from the rolls.
At the same time, the huge sums of money spent on elections are
drowning out the voices of voters. According to the Center for
Responsive Politics, spending for the 2020 election cycle was
approximately $14 billion, more than double the 2016 cycle.
Dark money also continues to flood our elections, denying
voters their ability to know who is trying to influence their
vote. These are real threats to our democracy, and the For the
People Act takes them head on in a common sense way to return
the power to the people. That is why the American people
overwhelmingly support the provisions of this bill. According
to a Pew poll from last year, 65 percent of respondents said
the option to vote early, or absentee should be available to
any voter. A poll from the Campaign Legal Center found that 83
percent of likely voters support public disclosure of
contributions to organizations involved in elections. A recent
Morning Consult poll found that 57 percent of voters support
requiring states to establish nonpartisan redistricting
These are not new ideas. Many of the provisions in this
bill have already been adopted across the country in red, blue,
and purple states and have the support of Republican and
Democratic Governors and election officials. They should be
extended to all people in America. 21 states have same day
voter registration, including red states like Idaho, Wyoming,
and Iowa. Kentucky's Republican Secretary of State just
recently praised a bill that would make early in-person voting
permanent. He called it the ``most significant election reform
legislation in the past quarter century.'' 20 states have
automatic voter registration laws, including Alaska and
Even Ohio's Republican Secretary of State has called for
automatic voter registration in his state. 45 states allowed
all voters to vote by mail in the November election, and 43
states have early voting. They should all have early voting.
What this bill does is to take the best of the best and simply
puts in place minimum standards. I know it is not just
bipartisan support in the states. There are nine bipartisan
bills that are part of the For the People Act, including the
Honest Ads Act, a bill that Senator Graham and I have long
tried to get passed, along with Senator Warner, a member of
this committee. I am focused on having a productive discussion
of what is in the bill before us and how we will address the
real challenges our democracy is facing. Based on what some of
my colleagues say, I think I want to briefly respond ahead of
time to that. We may hear about voter fraud, despite the fact
that experts have found that voter impersonation fraud is so
rare that an American is more likely to be struck by lightning
than to commit voter impersonation fraud.
We may hear about alleged problems with the 2020 election,
despite the fact that in November, the Trump Administration's
Department of Homeland Security, along with state and local
officials across the country, called the 2020 elections the
most secure in American history. We may hear about Federal
overreach despite the fact that Article I Section 4 of the
United States Constitution empowers Congress to ``make or
alter,'' those are the words of the Constitution, rules for
Federal elections, ``at any time.''
We may hear about alleged violations of the First
Amendment, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has
repeatedly held that disclaimer and disclosure requirements are
constitutional and that the Court has never held that there is
a constitutional right to spend anonymously on elections. We
may hear about taxpayer funding of campaigns, despite the fact
that this bill includes a provision stating explicitly that no
taxpayer money should be used to fund campaigns. The subject of
this hearing, the very health of our democracy, is simply too
important to allow these types of misrepresentations to go
At its core, the For the People Act is about three simple
ideas: making voting easier, getting big money out of politics,
and strengthening ethics rules. These are not radical
proposals. These are ideas that nearly everyone in this country
agrees with. With this bill, we can make them a reality and
ensure that Americans have a democracy that works for them.
With that, I am honored to turn it over to Ranking Member
Blunt. Thank you.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE ROY BLUNT, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF MISSOURI
Senator Blunt. Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. Good morning
to everybody here. Pleased that others will be attending as the
morning goes on. Before I begin my comments on today's hearing,
I would like to congratulate Chairwoman Klobuchar on becoming
head of our committee. Senator Klobuchar and I have a long
history of working together to try to make the daily work of
the Senate go better as an institution, and we have worked on
lots of bills outside of the scope of this committee as well.
As all of you know, we have also begun bipartisan hearings on
the events of January the 6th.
As the Senator said, we are continuing interviews,
extensive interviews on that topic, and we are going to be
looking to see what comes next there. I look forward to
continuing the committee's work with her as we look to the
remainder of this Congress. I also want to mention the four new
members that have joined the committee. I would like to
formally welcome Senators Merkley, Hagerty, Padilla and Ossoff
to the committee.
Senator Padilla and I both served as Secretaries of State
and have maybe more of a sense of the many things that you
worry about on Election Day than people who have been
candidates on Election Day but never have had the
responsibility that Secretaries of State and local officials
have. Now to the business of today. It has been 21 years since
the first bill of a Congress has been referred to the Rules
Committee. I think the first bill, the S. 1 bill, is
symbolically important. It is intended to demonstrate the
highest priority of the Senate's majority party.
As the Rules Committee begins its review of the majority's
highest priority, S. 1, we should note that Democrats defended
the last elections as secure without meaningful election fraud
as Senator Klobuchar has done here today. They point to the
high level of voter participation and the ability of states to
make pandemic driven changes. If you follow their view of why
we need this bill, in spite of those two things, it is because
the states are now headed in the wrong direction. They have
been pointing to 253 bills, that became 300 bills this morning,
but 253 bills mentioned in almost every article filed in 43
state legislatures to make it harder to vote. Now, nobody is a
bigger expert on how you should conduct elections than
politicians. When people come to see me who are with the
airline industry, I say, okay, what you are going to find in
Congress is everybody here thinks they are experts on two
issues: elections and air travel.
Elections are something that every state legislator thinks
they are an expert on. Frankly, six or seven bills filed in the
average legislative session by Republicans and that many filed
by Democrats would not be an unusual number at all. The truth
is almost none of those bills become law. In fact, the Brennan
Center, who has been the source of these 253 bills that
restrict voter access, say that so far only two have become
law. One bill in Arkansas further defines the implementation of
photo I.D. requirements. The other bill in Utah requires the
Lieutenant Governor to send the Social Security list of
deceased recipients to county clerks so that they can initiate
the process of removing the names of dead people from the voter
The Brennan Center lists that removal as voter suppression.
I think they also list the bill that Senator Klobuchar talked
about in Kentucky as voter suppression because it takes the
expansion that Kentucky made in the pandemic moment and then
institutes the best of that expansion as part of permanent law.
You can't have both voter suppression and praising the bill at
the same time as an example of how we need to move forward, and
states are moving forward in these areas. Now, it is never
mentioned that over 700 bills have been filed by Democrats in
state legislatures and actually more than 100 of them have
somehow become law.
100 Democrat bills passed into law and 2 Republican bills.
Sounds like there is a little disproportion there. But let me
give you an idea on that one. One of the Illinois bills
requires the establishment of polling places in county jails so
prisoners can vote. The bill that we are looking at really
doesn't have much to do with the topic of how well the
elections were conducted in the last cycle or Democrats
wouldn't be offering the bill at all. One of the goals of S. 1
will be a Federal takeover of the election process. In my view,
that would be an unmitigated disaster for our democracy.
Today's hearing will shed light on some of the destructive
elements contained in this legislation. I have been a former
Election Administrator, first as the Green County Clerk in
Missouri's third largest county, and later as Missouri's
Secretary of State.
I am greatly concerned about the idea that somehow one size
fits all regulations from the Federal Government change a
system that has served our country well since the beginning of
the country. The diversity of our election system is one of the
greatest strengths of our election system. You all have become
perhaps tired of me consistently quoting President Obama in
2016, who made that exact same observation. One of the
strengths of the system is the diversity of the system. S. 1
would force a single partisan view of elections on more than
10,000 jurisdictions around the country.
State and local Election Administrators would be forced to
change how they register voters and which voting systems they
can use, how they handle early voting and absentee ballots, and
how they maintain their voter lists. The bill requires states
to make ballot drop boxes available for 45 days prior to a
Federal election. It even designates the location of the drop
boxes and tells states how the ballots are to be taken out of
the drop boxes and counted. It would mandate unlimited ballot
harvesting, a process where one person collects and submits an
unlimited number of ballots, a system ripe for abuse, as
Democrats in the House of Representatives contended when they
refused the election of a Republican from North Carolina
because of ballot harvesting.
This bill would also require states to allow felons to vote
in Federal elections, and it does allow states that don't want
to do that to have a separate set of voter registration lists,
one for Federal elections and one for other elections. What is
more, this bill would require all of these changes to be made
very quickly, so quickly that, should this legislation be
enacted, chaos will reign in the next election and voters will
have less faith in the integrity of their elections than they
S. 1's path of destruction doesn't stop at Election
Administration, it would result in a partisan Federal Election
Commission, a commission that is designed to be half of one
party and half of the other. Federal moneys would flow into
campaign coffers at the rate of $6, 6 Federal dollars for every
$1 raised up to $200. $1,200 from the Treasury for $200 raised
would be particularly helpful to candidates when they can pay
themselves a salary to campaign, as this bill also allows.
There are only--these are only a few of the things that people
need to be aware of. I am sure they will be aware of much more
by the end of this hearing. There are First Amendment issues.
There are 10th Amendment issues. A Federal takeover of
congressional redistricting, a constitutional issue.
Let me finally request, as a committee, we really worked
through this and other issues based on the principles of fair
play. Now as I said earlier, Senator Klobuchar and I have
worked closely together for a long time and we will continue
to, but on this issue, the first time my staff saw a draft of
this 818 page bill was March the 12th.
After agreeing to the number of witnesses on March the
16th, we were informed at 6:18 p.m. on Thursday, March the
18th, that instead of having the three Democrat witnesses and
two Republican witnesses we would agree to, there would be six
Democrat witnesses, and we could add our witnesses if we could
find them over the weekend. This committee has a long tradition
of respect for the minority party. I hope that custom will be
restored. I am glad to be joined by so many of our colleagues
today, chairwoman, and look forward to the hearing.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Senator Blunt. I
think, you know, our strong friendship will continue despite
our disagreements on this bill. I will want to point out one
thing, the bill has been in existence for years. The version of
the bill that was introduced this year is very similar to the
one that was introduced in the last Congress almost 2 years
The Senate bill actually closely tracks the text of the
House bill which passed the House of Representatives and was
introduced on January 4th, 79 days ago. So with that, we have
both--we are honored to have both leaders here who are members
of this committee. I will first hand this over to Senator
Senator Schumer. This is the first committee meeting I am
attending as Majority Leader because I believe this issue is
so, so important.
Now, the story of American democracy is really messy and
full of contradictions and halting progress one step forward,
one step back.
It was a century and a half before women got the right to
vote, another half century before African-Americans could enjoy
the full rights of citizenship. It took mighty movements and
decades of fraught political conflict to achieve even those
basic dignities and establish the United States as a full
democracy worthy of the title. Progress in the right to vote is
a hallmark of this democracy. When the found--when the Nation
was founded, you had to be a white male property, white male,
Protestant property owner in many of the states.
So a very small percent--if we kept those rules into
effect, let's not change things, we maybe would have 5 percent
or 10 percent of the American people voting, but no, our move
to equality, our move to fairness has been inexorable, but it
didn't happen on its own. It took mighty movements and decades
of fraught political conflict to achieve those basic dignities
and establish the United States, as I said, as a full democracy
worthy of the title, but any American who thinks that the fight
for a full and fair democracy is over is sadly and sorely
Today, now, in the 21st century, there is a concerted
nationwide effort to limit the right of American citizens to
vote and to truly have a voice in their own Government. In the
wake of the November elections, one of the safest in recent
history, Republican led state legislatures have seized on the
former President's big lie that the election was stolen and
introduced more than 250 bills in 43 states aimed at tightening
voting rules under the guise of election integrity. Instead of
doing what you should be doing when you lose an election in a
democracy, attempting to win over those voters in the next
election, Republicans instead are trying to disenfranchise
those voters. Shame on them. In Iowa, where college students
often rely on the flexibility provided by early and mail in
voting, the Republican legislature voted to cut early voting by
9 days, close polls an hour earlier, and tightened rules on
absentee voting. In Wisconsin, where urban and rural precincts
face vastly different administrative burdens, Republicans have
proposed limiting ballot boxes to only one municipality, no
matter what, its size could be 10,000 voters in a rural
Republican county or 500,000 voters in an urban Democratic
voting county--one ballot drop box.
In Arizona, no fewer than 22 separate measures to limit
voting rights have been introduced, including a bill to require
every absentee ballot to be notarized. How are poor people
going to pay for a notary when there is virtually no indication
of fraud. It is one of the most despicable things I have seen
in all my years. Shame, shame, shame. Other things in Arizona,
two bills to ban automatic voter registration and same day
registration, even though neither practice exists in Arizona.
The most reprehensible effort of all might be found in Georgia,
where Republicans recently passed a bill to eliminate early
voting on Sunday. On Sunday, a day when many churchgoing
African-Americans participate in voter drives known as souls to
the polls, what an astonishing coincidence. Outlaw voting on a
day when African-American churches sponsor get out the vote
I would like one of the Republican members on this
committee to give us a plain sense justification for that
restriction, no early voting on Sundays. Why did Georgia
Republicans outlaw? Monday through Saturday, legitimate voters
show up, but Sunday is voter fraud day. Give me a break. Every
one of us, Democrat, Republican, liberal and conservative,
knows what the Georgia legislature is doing. They don't even
have a good justification for it. This is infuriating. I would
like to ask my Republican colleagues, why are you so afraid of
democracy? Why, instead of trying to win voters over that you
lost in the last election, are you trying to prevent them from
Our country has come a long way, supposedly, since African-
Americans in the South were forced to guess the number of jelly
beans in a jar in order to vote, but some of these voter
suppression laws in Georgia and other Republican states smack
of Jim Crow rearing its ugly head once again. It is 160 years
since the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments abolished slavery and
Jim Crow still seems to be with us. The laws, their various
cousins in Republican state legislatures across the country,
are one of the greatest threats we have to modern democracy in
America, according to The Washington Post. These laws could
strain every available method of voting for tens of millions of
Americans, the most sweeping contradiction of ballot access in
the United States since the end of reconstruction.
If one political party believes that when you lose an
election, the answer isn't to win more votes but rather to try
and prevent the other side from voting, we have an existential
threat to democracy on our hands if we don't stop these vicious
and often racist actions. A Third World autocracy, like
Erdogan's Turkey or Orban's Hungary will be on its way. That is
why the country so badly needs S. 1, a bill that would combat
all of these voter suppression efforts, a bill that would make
it easier, not harder, to vote by automatically registering
American voters when they get a driver's license, by
guaranteeing at least 15 continuous days of early voting. A
bill that would limit dark money and corruption in our politics
and much more.
We are going to hear from my fellow Democratic committee
members why the bill is so important, and I expect we are going
to hear the same tired canards from our Republican colleagues,
many of which have no basis in fact--most of which defy belief.
We are going to hear that this bill, gasp, register Americans
to vote is a Democratic power grab. We are going to hear that
it is a Federal takeover of our elections, never mind that the
founders, who my Republican colleagues invoke when it is time
to confirm a right-wing judge, wrote in the Constitution, in
the Constitution, that the Congress has the power to pass laws
to determine the time, place, and manner of Federal elections.
We have been down this road before. Opponents of voting rights
throughout history have always said, leave it to the states,
just leave it to the states to discriminate against African-
Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, younger Americans in
It is shameful our Republican colleagues are proposing
these ideas in 2020. The same kinds of states rights that have
been used from time immemorial to prevent certain people from
voting. Shame, shame, shame. This is not the usual political
argument. This goes to the core of our democracy. The crowning
achievement of the American civil rights movement was a Federal
election law. You might know it better as the Voting Rights
Act. Federal, bipartisan. The truth is that we have passed
scores of Federal election laws and amended our Constitution to
guarantee the franchise to our citizens, often bipartisan, led
by Republican Presidents. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, the
National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the Help America Vote
Act of 2002, the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23d, 24th and 26th
Amendments. All election changes.
That is because in a democracy it shouldn't matter if a
state wants to make it so onerous for a particular group to
vote that it is nigh impossible. Is requiring a notary public
any different than asking people to guess the number of
jellybeans in a jar? I guarantee you the motivation is exactly
the same. It shouldn't matter if a state wants to do it if it
is so, so wrong, so against the grain of our democracy.
Voting rights are sacrosanct. They must be inviolable, and
if Congress has to pass a law or amend the Constitution to
protect the voting rights of our citizens, that is what we
should do. That is what we must do. That is what our democracy
requires we do as one. S. 1, the For the People Act, will be a
priority in this Congress. Thank you.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Senator Schumer.
We now turn to the Republican leader, Senator McConnell.
Senator McConnell. Following up on what the Majority Leader
has just said, the state bills that he refers to, I believe
Senator Blunt has mentioned, only two of them have passed and
they had absolutely nothing to do with suppressing the vote. It
is also noteworthy that this is a solution in search of a
problem. Turnout in 2020 was up 7 percent. The turnout in the
2020 election was the highest since 1900. States are not
engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever.
This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules
of our political system, but even more immediately, it would
create an implementation nightmare, as Senator Blunt pointed
out, that would drown state and local officials who run
elections. This proposal needs all the scrutiny it can get, and
I am glad we are all here to give it that scrutiny.
This legislation would forcibly rewrite the election laws
of all 50 states from here in Washington. Popular policies like
voter I.D. requirements would be banned unless states neutered
them with loopholes. Meanwhile, unpopular and absurd practices
like ballot harvesting, where paid political operatives can
show up carrying stacks of other people's ballots, would not
just be allowed it would be mandatory.
Washington would mandate that every state and county in
America adopt same day voter registration with minimal
safeguards, but it would make it incredibly difficult for
states and counties to conduct routine voter list maintenance
like removing dead people or voters who don't live there any
Then there is the whole question of political speech.
Refereeing campaigns and policing speech are sensitive tasks.
Appropriately, the FEC was designed after Watergate to be
bipartisan--an even split three to three. So let me dwell on
that for a minute.
After Watergate, my party--the Republican Party--was just
about wiped out. The overwhelming Democratic majorities could
have done anything they wanted to. It never occurred to them
that the Federal Election Commission, set up to police how we
run campaigns, would be made a partisan entity. They could have
done it then. Now we are in a 50/50 Senate and a narrow
majority in the House, and this audacious move wants to turn
the judge of our democratic process into a partisan prosecutor.
Talk about shame.
If anybody ought to be feeling any shame around here, it is
for turning the FEC into a partisan prosecutor--the majority
controlled by the President's party--to harass and intimidate
the other side. That is what you ought to be ashamed about.
Over in the House Administration Committee, we are having
an example right now of how that could happen. The Democratic
Majority is trying to overturn a certified election result. I
want to ask how many of our friends on the other side here were
just arguing last month and the month before that certifying a
state election was the gold standard. It is over after a
Apparently not in the House. Of course, the Constitution
gives the House the power to determine who will sit there. That
doesn't mean they should go against everything they were
preaching in the last two months about the sanctity of state
certification and simply ram through someone who lost the
election, according to officials in Iowa. That is what happens,
I would say to my Democratic friends, when you let partisan
bodies regulate elections, and that is certainly not what we
need at the FEC. That is what, among other things, you ought to
be ashamed about.
This bill would also expand the scope of this newly
partisan FEC. More power over more of Americans' speech, more
mandates for private groups to publicize their list of
supporters. Associational privacy is a core liberty. It has
been championed heroically by organizations like the NAACP.
This bill is such an attack on citizens' privacy that even the
left-wing ACLU opposes this bill.
These are big picture problems, but on a practical level,
even if you disagree with everything I just said, the fact is,
as Senator Blunt pointed out, this legislation is just not
ready for primetime. It is an invitation to chaos. Chaos.
State-level election officials, including Democrats, are
sounding alarms left and right.
This messaging bill would create a nightmare if it actually
became law. It would mandate brand new voting machines that
have not even been produced yet. It mandates something that
doesn't exist, let alone certified and approved. It would force
every state to rush through big changes like inventing new,
unsecure, automated telephone systems to register voters. I am
sure prank callers would have a field day with that. This thing
even has something to say about the paper on which local
officials would be able to print their ballots. The kind of
envelope adhesive they have to use.
That is a really important thing for the Federal Government
to dictate: what kind of adhesive they have to use. What a
great idea. Just the prospect of all these silly new mandates
is already keeping local officials up at night, and that
includes, by the way, Democratic local officials who conduct
elections. Of course, this thing would even put American
taxpayers on the hook for transfer payments. Don't be kidded
into thinking there is not Federal money in this bill. Transfer
payments that would go directly to fund political campaigns.
Taxpayer-funded bumper stickers and attack ads. What a great
The American people are really going to like that. Taking
their money and spending it on attack ads, bumper stickers,
buttons, and balloons. Look, even liberals who like this bill
better than I do are admitting all the practicalities need to
go back to the drawing board. This is nowhere near ready for
primetime. It is an invitation to total chaos.
So I will close with this. Senator Klobuchar, I had your
job after the 2000 election. Chris Dodd and I teamed up to pass
the Help America Vote Act. It was a major voting bill. What it
did was to try to encourage making it easier to vote but harder
to cheat. It was a combination of things--well balanced. It
passed 92 to 2. 92 to 2. That is the kind of consensus that can
be built when you approach a subject like the one that is
before us today on the right way.
By contrast, this bill did not receive a single Republican
vote in the House, and I predict it will not in the Senate
should we unfortunately have to vote on it. Both Republicans
and Democrats voted against it in the House.
Now, we have just seen two consecutive Presidential
elections, 2016 and 2020, where chunks of Americans on both the
left and the right took turns refusing to accept the result
when their side lost.
We can't afford to go further down this road. We should be
finding ways to rebuild trust, not destroy it further, but that
is exactly what a partisan power grab would guarantee. That is
what S. 1 is all about. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Senator
McConnell. We do want to clarify that the bill did pass the
House, did receive votes in the House, 220 to 210, with only
one Democrat voting against the bill. By a prior agreement,
Senator Merkley, who is the author of the bill, is going to say
a few words and then we will introduce the witnesses. Thank
Senator Merkley. Thank you, Madam Chair. This is clearly a
very important conversation for our country. It has been since
we were born. Our founders had this revolutionary idea that
instead of power flowing down from kings and being edicts on
the people, it would flow up from the people to guide our
Nation in its current time and in times to come. That power is
exercised through the ballot box, which makes that ballot box
an incredibly important, not just a symbol of Government by the
people, but the core device through which that power is
exercised. Our founders recognized that this could be
I think you have all heard that Ben Franklin in 1787 when
he was leaving the constitutional convention, exiting the door
of Independence Hall, was asked, ``Doctor, what have we got, a
Republic or a monarchy?'' and he replied, ``a Republic, if you
can keep it.'' This is a battle over keeping the vision of our
country, a power flowing up from the people, has been one that
we have had to fight to maintain throughout our history.
It was Lincoln, speaking at Gettysburg, commented on the
fact that, ``we here highly resolve that these dead shall not
have died in vain, that Government of the people, by the
people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.'' Now,
our founding document was flawed, and they didn't give the
power of the ballot box, the power of the vote to every
individual, and we have worked through great struggle to make
sure that that is remedied. Through the 14th and 15th
Amendment, we overcame some of the barriers on race, through
the 19th Amendment, barriers on gender--happening within the
lifetime of my father, I was astounded to learn as a child.
Overcoming barriers that denied Native Americans the right to
vote with Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, and overcoming
barriers of Jim Crow with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
LBJ, commenting at that time, said the vote is the most
powerful instrument ever devised for breaking down injustice.
Many have characterized the power to vote as the most
fundamental right. Robert Kennedy famously saying, ``each
citizen's right to vote is fundamental to all the other rights
of citizenship.'' So here we are now once again, struggling
with the battle on how to defend the integrity of our election
process, the integrity of the ballot box. We have elections
that are afflicted by gerrymandering, which is a direct attack
on equal representation. Political scientists continue to tell
us that the representation in the House of Representatives is
significantly biased by the gerrymandering that takes place in
various states. Every American has a stake in the integrity of
The dark money flowing through our campaigns, the big money
is a source of such cynicism to Americans, that this
unidentified, massive hundreds of millions of dollars is
drowning out their voice. They see those campaign attack ads,
hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, with nobody
knowing where this money comes from, and what they know is that
it isn't power from the people because people don't have
hundreds of millions of dollars. That is power from the
corporations, that is power from the mega rich attempting to
influence the course of our country, not for the people, not
of, by, and for the people, but by and for the powerful. We
have a responsibility to address that.
Then, voter suppression. Well, this is not some, as I just
heard, some silly idea that we should stop voter suppression.
It is fundamental. We took an oath to the Constitution and that
involves defending the right to vote, defending the ballot box.
We are going to see a lot of laws passed trying to take that
away. We know, we all know how easy it is to manipulate the
vote on Election Day. We know because we see it. We see the
long lines in very poor communities, we see difficult places to
reach or moved precinct polling places in areas that are
primarily where black Americans vote.
We see the false information put out by various characters
saying, oh, the election was last week. Sorry you missed it
when actually the election is the coming week. Or saying, here
is the vote, but it is not the accurate vote. The antidote to
the manipulation of Election Day has been to enable people to
vote early or vote by mail. It has worked in red states like
Utah. It has worked in blue states like Oregon.
It has been popular with citizens who want to know that
they can exercise their right without being sent to the wrong
place, without being sent to someplace that has no parking,
without being sent to someplace where there is no staff, so
they have to wait in line for 5 hours without worrying about
whether that November election is in the middle of a snowstorm.
They want to exercise that right and we have a responsibility
to defend their ability to do so. So let's take on these
afflictions in a bipartisan manner.
Until recently, it was bipartisan energy in support of the
vision of election integrity. Let's summon that spirit together
again. Let's summon the spirit that led us to the 14th and 15th
amendments, the 19th Amendment, that led us to the 1924 Indian
Citizenship Act, that led us to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It
is our responsibility. It is imperative that we act, and we act
now. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Senator Merkley.
Before we swear in our first panel of witnesses today, I would
like to make a motion to enter into the record some documents
by unanimous consent. They were submitted by national leaders,
civil rights groups, democracy reform groups, and others in
support of S. 1, the For the People Act. I would like to
highlight three letters in the group, the first from former
first lady Michelle Obama's organization, When We All Vote, in
support of the bill, which has been signed by more than 60
people who are National leading voices in the arts, sports, and
civil rights, including Tom Hanks, Kerry Washington, Lin-Manuel
Miranda, and Issa Rae.
A letter from the Declaration for American Democracy in
support of the bill that has been signed by more than 300
National and state organizations, and a letter from the
National Disability Rights Network, which highlights some of
the challenges voters with disabilities continue to face when
casting their ballot and emphasizes the urgent need to enact
many of the reforms in the For the People Act. I ask unanimous
consent to put these letters in the record. Put them in the
[The information referred to was submitted for the record.]
Chairwoman Klobuchar. I am now going to introduce three of
the witnesses and Senator Blunt will introduce the other
witnesses, the other two witnesses, including one that is with
us today, but before we do that, I will swear in the witnesses.
If the witnesses could please stand, including those joining us
virtually, and raise your right hand. Do you swear that the
testimony you will give before the committee shall be the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you
Mr. Holder. I do.
Ms. Benson. I do.
Mr. Waldman. I do.
Mr. Warner. I do.
Mr. Rokita. I do.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you. Now, our witnesses. Our
first witness today is former United States Attorney General
Eric Holder. Attorney General Holder began his career in public
service in the Public Integrity section of the Justice
Department in 1976. He was later appointed by President Reagan
to serve as a judge on the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia in 1988.
After Attorney General Holder stepped down from the bench
in 1993, he made history as the first African-American to serve
as the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In
1997, he was named Deputy Attorney General by President Clinton
and became the first African-American to serve in that
position. He then moved on to a law firm at Covington &
Burling, and after that, in 2009, he again made history by
becoming the first African-American to serve as United States
Attorney General under President Obama. In 2017, he launched
the National Democratic Redistricting committee and has served
as its chair.
Our second witness today is Secretary Jocelyn Benson.
Secretary Benson was elected as Michigan's 43d Secretary of
State in 2018. Over the last 2 years, she has implemented a
number of major reforms, and this is very important to the
discussion we will be having today about the implementation
issues. She has been able to do this with no issues to
Michigan's elections, including putting in place automatic
voter registration, same day registration, and no excuse vote
by mail for all voters, as well as conducting post-election
Before taking office, she was the youngest woman in United
States history to lead a top 100 accredited law school, after
she was appointed as Dean of Wayne State University Law School
in Detroit at the age of 36. Previously, she was an Associate
Professor and Associate Director of Wayne Laws Damon J. Keith
Center for Civil Rights. She also currently serves as Vice
Chair of the Advisory Board for the Levin Center at Wayne Law,
which she founded with former United States Senator Carl Levin.
Secretary Benson received her B.A. from Wellesley University,
her M.A. from Magdalen College at the University of Oxford, and
her law degree from Harvard Law School.
Our third witness on the first panel is Mr. Michael
Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice at New
York University Law School. He has served in that capacity
since 2005. He began his career in 1989 as the Director of
Public Citizen's Congress Watch. From 1993 to 1995, he served
as a Special Assistant to President Clinton for Policy
Coordination and was the top White House aide on campaign
reform. He then continued to serve in the Clinton
Administration as Director of Speech Writing and Assistant to
the President until 1999.
He has written four State of the Union addresses and two
inaugural addresses. Mr. Waldman has also been a lecturer in
public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of
Government, and practiced law in Washington, DC. and New York.
He received his B.A. from Columbia University and his law
degree from NYU School of Law. I will now turn it over to
Senator Blunt to introduce the two other witnesses.
Senator Blunt. Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. Since you
responded to Senator McConnell's comments, I have just one
brief comment to what Senator Schumer had to say. He said he
would like for any Republican to answer the question of why
Georgia should eliminate voting on Sunday. They are not
eliminating voting on Sunday. It did not pass the legislature.
The Republican Governor, the Republican Lieutenant Governor
even refused to preside over the debate. This is an idea like
most of the 253 ideas out there introduced by some Republican
in some legislature somewhere that will not happen.
You know, we can spend all day talking about legislation
that was filed by Republicans that had--that will not become
law, or we can talk about this bill. I hope we get to where we
talk about this bill. I have two witnesses today, we have
asked, who can talk about this bill with great knowledge of how
this bill will affect states. One of our witnesses, Todd
Rokita, was elected to serve as the Attorney General of Indiana
in November 2020. Prior to that, Todd Rokita served Indiana in
the Congress. As Indiana's Secretary of State, Todd was elected
as President of the National Association of Secretaries of
State in 2007.
Our second witness today, Mac Warner, is West Virginia's
30th Secretary of State. He graduated from the United States
Military Academy at West Point and the West Virginia University
School of Law. Prior to serving as Secretary of State, he
served his country for 23 years in the United States Army and 5
years in Afghanistan with the State Department. I would like to
turn to Senator Capito for any additional comments she might
make about her Secretary of State, Mac Warner.
Senator Capito. Well, thank you, Senator Blunt. I thank all
of you, and I want to thank our Secretary of State, Mac Warner,
for joining us today. He ran a flawless election in 2020 under
difficult situations for everybody. We had more people voting.
We had no disputes to speak of. I want to thank our Secretary
of State for not only being a leader in this area on mobile
voting as well, but also for serving our country. He comes from
a long line of West Virginians, and I am proud to have him here
with us today. Thank you.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Very good. We will start with our
first witness. The witnesses have 5 minutes for an opening
statement. We will begin with Attorney General Holder.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S.
ATTORNEY, GENERAL AND CURRENT CHAIR OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC,
REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Holder. Thank you, Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member
Blunt, and members of the committee. I want to thank you for
the opportunity to appear before you today. You know, for as
long as this country has existed, there have been two opposing
forces that have fought over how we define and confer the
rights and privileges of citizenship, freedom and equality.
Every step that has brought us closer to universal suffrage has
been met by those, often by those who were in power, who want
to maintain an unjust status quo, much in the same way that
reconstruction was followed by the era of Jim Crow.
The progress won by the civil rights movement, including
the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has faced a multipronged assault
that has sought to take us back to an era in which politicians,
not the people, pick who wins and consequently who can
participate in elections. The events of the past few months
have brought into stark focus what has been true for too long.
There is a large and powerful faction in this country intent on
retaining power and who will bend or break the rules of our
democracy in order to do so. The attack on our system of
Government did not begin or end with insurrection at the
Capitol on January the 6th.
For years now, politicians have spread the same lies about
voter fraud and advanced falsehoods about the integrity of our
electoral system. The fact is that there is no evidence of
widespread or systemic fraud during the 2020 election or at any
other time. Yet state legislators around the country have used
these baseless assertions as a pretext to introduce, as we have
heard, more than 250 bills in 43 states that would restrict who
can vote. This new wave of bills is the latest step in a decade
long project to systematically chip away or outright eliminate
key protections for voters in a way that has undermined our
Too many Americans, and particularly people of color, face
discriminatory and onerous barriers to vote. The For the People
Act is a necessary and appropriate response to both the erosion
of voting rights and the advancement of special interests. The
combination of unprecedented partisan gerrymandering during the
2011 redistricting process, the wave of voter suppression bills
passed in the wake of the Supreme Court's disastrous Shelby
County decision, and the threat of dark money unleashed by the
court's Citizens United decision have all combined to create a
political system that does not adequately represent the desires
of the American people.
The For the People Act is the right remedy at the right
time. This bill recognizes that the best solution to abolishing
the undemocratic trinity of issues plaguing our democracy--
gerrymandering, voter suppression, dark money--is to get rid of
all of them at once. By creating a baseline of protection for
voters, rooting out corruption and dark money, and ending the
practice of partisan gerrymandering, this Congress can create a
fair level playing field in our electoral system. This bill
also makes it evident that Congress should pass the John Lewis
Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update the formula
for determining which jurisdictions are subject to Federal
Now taken together, the For the People Act and the John
Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act represent the greatest
pieces of civil rights legislation since 1965 and are badly
needed reforms that will strengthen our democracy. Now, despite
what opponents may say, this bill would not favor either party.
On the contrary, it would create a level playing field for the
American people. The reality is that no matter what political
party you support, what policies you advocate, your voice will
be stronger if politicians are required to be responsive to
Now is the time for Congress to exercise its constitutional
authority to protect the structure of our representative
democracy. Ensuring a true representative democracy is how we
advance equality, opportunity, and justice in areas where too
many Americans are still let down, left out, and left behind.
It is how we make every vote count and how we make every voter
It's making the determination of what kind of country we
want to be: one closer to its founding promise, or a Nation
turning away from our democratic ideals. Passing this bill will
be a critical and necessary step to restoring power to the
people where it belongs. Thank you.
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Holder was submitted for the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Attorney General
Holder. Next, with us today, Secretary Andrew ``Mac'' Warner
from West Virginia.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE MAC WARNER, WEST VIRGINIA
SECRETARY OF STATE, CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA
Mr. Warner. Thank you, Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member
Blunt, and members of this committee. Thank you for letting me
address the implications of S. 1 on the State of West Virginia.
Dubbed For the People's Act, this is anything but for the
people. In fact, it is against the people. It is against the
states, and it is against the United States. First, it is
against the people because it overrules access, and it
overrules checks and balances. My most vehement objection to
this is that by prohibiting electronic transmission of ballots.
It strips the most efficient and secure form of voting for our
military, the people who put their very lives on the line for
our democracy and way of life.
When I was deployed, as were my two sons, my two daughters,
my two sons in law, all of whom served in the United States
Army, it is prohibited--they have had difficulty voting.
Therefore, when I became Secretary of State, I determined to
fix this, and we did it through electronic transmission of
ballots using mobile devices. We proved the technology with our
military and then we extended it to voters with disabilities,
giving them not just the right to vote but the opportunity to
vote. 31 states allow electronic transmission and S. 1 strips
this opportunity for everyone to vote electronically.
How is this for the people? Clearly, it is not. S. 1 also
overrules checks and balances in our election security. It
mandates AVR, including 16 year old, and bans I.D. laws and
shields non-citizens from prosecution. It eliminates the
signature verification. It pushes mail-in-voting without photo
I.D. It promotes ballot harvesting and requires drop boxes. It
delays election results by requiring acceptance of ballots up
to 10 days. That delay and all of these collectively decrease
individual confidence and it increases distrust in our
elections. Second, S. 1 is against the states because it
requires a huge expansion of state legislation and imposes
funding mandates far beyond states' abilities to implement.
It forces decertification of every voting machine in West
Virginia, wasting tens of millions of dollars that you have
provided to us through HAVA funding. It mandates same day
registration, which requires poll books connected to the
internet through high speed broadband, something West Virginia
simply cannot do. We do not high-band, or high speed broadband
in all the precincts of West Virginia. It requires agencies
beyond DMV, such as colleges and social services, to
automatically register people that come in contact with them
and transmit their personal identification information, thereby
increasing risks for hackers. It busts our budgets.
It forces election officials to accept and count ballots
voted in incorrect precincts. It stops states from cleaning up
voter registration lists. West Virginia's Clerk Association
president Linda Huggins said this, ``clerks are unanimously
against S. 1 because deadlines cannot be met, and requirements
are not achievable.'' Clerk Michelle Holley cited unfunded
mandates as showstoppers, and clerk Brian Woods said, ``it
doesn't matter if you are Democrat or Republican, if you want
to keep our democracy intact, you have got to leave it up to
states to run their elections.'' To implement the changes by
January 1st, a special session of our legislature would be
required, which is not practical and would be hugely expensive.
In some take away the ideology and the partisanship, clerks
across West Virginia, most of whom I am told are Democrats, are
against S. 1.
Third, S. 1 is a vast Federal overreach. This 800 page
monstrosity stomps on states rights. The United States
Constitution does say that the time, place, and manner of
elections shall be prescribed by state legislatures. States
have individual approaches based on history, geography, and
cultures that create vastly complex and different election
processes. This broad mosaic provides election security versus
a one size fits all approach. The private right of action
remedy is tremendously problematic, as are the number of
severability clauses that indicate S. 1 is not likely to
withstand judicial scrutiny. The court cases will increase
delays, cause confusion and distrust in our already contentious
and tense election process. In conclusion, S. 1 is not for the
people, especially not for the people of West Virginia.
Federalizing elections has never been done before and for
good reason. Senators, please leave election administration up
to the states. The impossible requirements and unfunded
mandates of S. 1 will create election chaos and further divide
our country. On behalf of the State of West Virginia, as its
Chief Elections Official, I urge you to consider these grave
implications, and I thank you for this opportunity to bring
these various serious flaws and concerns to your consideration.
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Warner was submitted for the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you. For a different
perspective on the bill, the Secretary of State for the State
of Michigan, Jocelyn Benson.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE JOCELYN BENSON, MICHIGAN
SECRETARY OF STATE, LANSING, MICHIGAN
Ms. Benson. The election of 2020 is behind us. The war on
democracy is escalating and in addition to the ongoing efforts
of democracy deniers to spread misinformation alongside
continued attacks and threats against election officials, a new
battlefront has emerged in state legislatures all across the
country. Yet Michigan's story demonstrates a different path.
Our experience underscores that voters on both sides of the
aisle want reforms like those in the For the People Act. It
shows how with sufficient funding, partnerships, leadership,
and political will, it is entirely possible to efficiently and
successfully implement those reforms. In November 2018,
Michigan citizens voted overwhelmingly to amend our State
Constitution to instill the right to vote absentee without a
reason, same-day voter registration, automatic voter
registration, and an independent citizens redistricting
My office was charged with working with 1,600 clerks across
our state to implement all of these policies in advance of the
2020 election cycle. We did, because these policies are not new
and implementing them is not rocket science. Many states
already have these reforms in place. We conferred with leaders
in those states to learn from their experience, replicate best
practices, and modernize our democracy effectively and
efficiently. We implemented automatic voter registration, for
example, with security protocols in place to ensure that only
eligible citizens were registered.
By November 2020, we increased our number of registered
voters by a quarter of a million. We found that voters on both
sides of the aisle embrace the ability to vote absentee and use
secure drop boxes to return their ballots. The number of people
voting absentee in Michigan increased exponentially from 1.1
million in November 2016 to 3.3 million in November 2020. We
saw thousands of new voters register in the days leading up to
the November election, including nearly 30,000 on Election Day
itself. The majority of those were under 30. In the end, due in
no small part to these reforms, we had the most successful,
secure election in our state's history.
We have also succeeded in implementing Michigan's first
Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission enacted by voters
in 2018. We found that when given the chance, citizens embrace
the opportunity to draw their own legislative districts. The
commission is already at work and you can learn more about
their work at RedistrictingMichigan.org. Now, if Michigan can
do all of this in one election cycle, in the midst of a global
pandemic, and during one of the most significant and highly
scrutinized election cycles in our lifetime, every state in the
country with proper funding and leadership can do the same.
Because while states are laboratories of our democracy,
Federal minimum standards ensure equal protection of every
citizen's right to vote. Yes, every state will face unique
circumstances in incorporating a new Federal floor, but it is
our job to meet those challenges, not to shirk them. Just as
the National Voter Registration Act took a popular state policy
in Michigan, the Motor Voter Law, and made it a nationwide
convenience for every citizen, it will take collaboration,
partnerships, leadership and funding, but it can be done.
Truly, only politics and political will stands in our way.
I want to close by noting that 56 years ago at this very
moment, thousands were marching to Montgomery, Alabama from
Selma to similarly call on their Federal Government to protect
their right to vote against the efforts of states to impede
their access. Many of those brave advocates were beaten and
lost their lives, but their work led to the passage of the
Voting Rights Act, one of the most effective voting laws in our
nation's history. When it was proposed, it was met by many with
the same attacks and critiques that we see today.
Opponents said compliance would be impossible, that it
would be an overreach of Federal authority, but in the years
that followed, those critics were proved wrong, and our nation
became a more perfect union as a result. So clearly, history
instructs in the current moment demands that the United States
Government once again step in and defend democracy.
At this moment, you are our greatest hope, and this
legislation is our best chance to stop this rollback on voting
rights that is sweeping state legislatures throughout the
country. I urge you to act and advance this legislation,
because no matter where a voter lives or who they vote for,
their right to vote should be protected. The future of our
democracy depends on your leadership today. Thank you.
[The prepared Statement of Ms. Benson was submitted for the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Secretary
Benson. The next witness is Attorney General Todd Rokita. Thank
you for being with us.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE TODD ROKITA, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
INDIANA AND FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA
Mr. Rokita. Thank you, Chairwoman, Ranking Member.
Appreciate you inviting me to speak today on behalf of the
citizens of Indiana. My name is Todd Rokita and I serve as the
Attorney General for the State of Indiana. Prior to serving
as--and prior to that, I served as Indiana's Chief Election
Officer, as well as a Member of Congress. Given my experience
as Indiana's Chief Election Officer and in various offices, I
know how elections can and should be run to ensure transparency
and public confidence in elections.
We don't hear enough about the need for public confidence
in our elections in order to make this Republic work. Any
effort to address America's election system must begin with
recognition of a simple fact, that the 2020 Presidential
election was unlike any other in our history. It doesn't need
to be repeated because we shouldn't be having pandemics every
time we have a Presidential election.
The 2020 election involved an effort to convert what has
traditionally been Election Day in our country to a month's
long process of vote gathering, ballot harvesting, last minute
rule and law changes by people not authorized to do so. All of
those resulted in shaken confidence in our electoral system and
a profound unease, if not outright distrust, about the results.
Americans saw mountains of mail in ballots being processed in
cavernous central processing centers. Tens of millions of mail
in ballots overloading the processing capacity of a system in
many states, turning the tabulation of votes into a week's long
process. In case after case, we saw vote watchers and observers
excluded from an opaque, seemingly never ending counting
Many of the problems of 2020 resulted from the efforts of
those without the authority to do so trying to control how the
election was run and changing election rules at the last
minute. This led to an unprecedented number of election
lawsuits that, frankly, have overwhelmed the system. Senate
Bill 1 would increase the number of those lawsuits, both
against states and states suing the Federal Government. The
mandates of this bill are wholly unnecessary, and the
determinations for how elections are operated should remain
with the states, as intended by the framers for good reason.
The proposed changes will open our elections up to
increased voter fraud and irregularities and promote, perhaps
the most egregious provision, the Act's elimination of voter
and photo I.D. laws. Requiring Government issued photo I.D. at
the polls represents a common sense, simple best practice for
election administration and is in place in over 32 states.
Government issued photo I.D. has been the global standard for
documentary identification purposes for decades. I recently
talked with a Hoosier who has dual citizenship. She is an
American citizen, and she is a Mexican citizen. She showed me
her voting card, a special issued card, just for voting that
not only had her picture, but a copy of her thumb fingerprint
that was compared at the voting booth when she had to use it,
had to dip her thumb in ink and use it to compare.
Now, this is Mexico, considered by many a Third World
country that has better turnout than we do, upholding the
integrity of one citizen, one vote there, and here, this bill
making a lot less--a lower standard than that illegal. We are
going in the opposite direction for a free society. Regardless
of which party or candidate a voter favors, all Americans
should have confidence in the outcomes of their elections. No
American's vote should be devalued by fraudulent votes.
Earlier this month, 19 of my Attorney General colleagues
joined me in a letter to your leadership opposing H.R. 1,
similar to S. 1. As we wrote in the letter, the Act has several
constitutional deficiencies and mandates that, if passed, would
federalize state elections and impose burdensome costs and
regulations on state and local officials. The measures proposed
in S. 1 turn our Constitutional election structure on its head.
It would open the door for greater fraud and less confidence.
Our system of Government depends on the electorate having faith
in the outcome of our elections.
Removing voter integrity measures such as photo I.D. laws,
requiring votes to be counted up to 10 days after the election,
requiring that unaccountable commissions and District Court
judges far removed from the states should draw our district
lines, isn't going to solve any of that. It is going to make
the situation worse. Voters should have a voice through their
directly elected representatives in their states on how these
elections should be run. While the bill pretends to apply only
to Federal elections, the simple fact is these changes will
apply across the board because no state can afford to have
separate elections for state elections and Federal ones.
States should continue to hold elections in a matter that
best suits each state, and S. 1 would take control entirely
away from the states. Simply put, if states are laboratories
and that is what our founders intended, and that is what has
been proven time and time again, the passage of S. 1 would make
the states laboratories close, and no innovation would occur.
Should the Act become law, I could tell you the sun won't set
in Indiana before we sue the Federal Government, and I am sure
other states will join. Thank you for your time.
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Rokita was submitted for the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you. Next, for our final
witness, Michael Waldman, the President of the Brennan Center
OPENING STATEMENT OF MICHAEL WALDMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE BRENNAN
CENTER FOR JUSTICE, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Mr. Waldman. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member
Blunt, and members of the committee. Thank you for the
opportunity to testify on behalf of this landmark legislation.
We believe the For the People Act, S. 1, would be the most
significant democracy reform measure in over half a century. It
is the next great civil rights bill and responds to the demand
for racial justice in our country. It is long overdue, and it
is urgently needed now.
Now, as you know, there are a number of reforms in this
legislation relating to curbing the role of money in politics,
to dealing with gerrymandering, to dealing with ethics. I want
to focus on the sacred right to vote, which is in so many ways
at the heart of our democracy and our understanding of
ourselves as Americans.
I ask you to think about what happened in 2020. Despite the
pandemic, despite voter suppression, despite the lies, it was
the highest voter turnout since 1900. As has been said, the
Trump Administration's own Department of Homeland Security
confirmed it was the most secure election ever. This is
something we ought to celebrate.
Instead, what has happened? We had the big lie about the
election being stolen. We had the insurrection driven by that
big lie. Now in states across the country, a wave of legislated
attempts to curb the vote. The most significant attempted
cutback in voting rights since the Jim Crow era. The Brennan
Center has studied these laws for years and found, as has been
mentioned, 253 laws that would in one way or another cut back
on voting. That was last month, seven times higher than the
rate 4 years ago. The number is actually higher right now.
These laws are being pushed hard. It is only March, I should
note, already the Governor of Iowa has signed into law
significant cutbacks, for example, in vote by mail.
In Georgia, the legislature is finishing its work this week
on an egregious bill. There was a public outcry that has forced
changes, but there are still tremendously harmful provisions
that will be moving through the legislature. These laws that we
see across the country affect voters of color, young voters,
poor voters. The intent, I am afraid, is often unambiguous. One
of the sponsors of these bills in Arizona said the purpose was
to make sure that only, ``quality voters'' had the right to
vote, not that everybody would have the right to vote.
That does not strike me as true to our American spirit. S.
1, the For the People Act, deals with this in a very important
way. I want to be very clear. This legislation would stop this
wave of voter suppression cold. It stops it in its tracks.
Congress has the power, the right, the authority,
constitutionally and legally to do this. What this bill would
do is set national standards to ensure that every eligible
citizen has the freedom to vote and the ability to make that
ballot count. It would make automatic voter registration,
already the law in 19 states, Democratic and Republican states,
the law of the land. It would ensure access to vote by mail and
early voting and other things that proved so popular and so
effective in recent years and are used by tens of millions of
It would ensure the right to vote be given to returning
citizens after they are incarcerated so they can rejoin our
society. It would take all these important steps. I note again
that every one of the things in this legislation, every
proposal in this legislation is based on a tested and effective
reform or policy at the national level, at the state-level, and
at the local level. It would bolster election security in
significant ways. As has been noted, you are more likely to be
hit by lightning than to commit voter impersonation in the
We can't allow the conspiracy theory about massive
misconduct to guide policy. I will note also that this
legislation in very significant ways honors the Constitution.
The Elections Clause gives Congress this power. I would note as
well that the Supreme Court of the United States in 2019, in an
opinion by John Roberts, specifically pointed to this
legislation as a Constitutionally sound example of Congress's
power to set election law.
This is part of the great story of American democracy. Will
we live up to our best ideals? Will we build a multiracial
democracy that really represents all people? Will we allow a
drive to take place to turn the clock back, to cut back on
those rights? This legislation would be a significant, and
again, long overdue milestone for our country, and I urge you
to enact it.
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Waldman was submitted for
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Mr. Waldman.
Thank you to all of our witnesses. I will begin the questioning
and then turn it over to Senator Blunt. I did want to clarify
one thing. I have been hearing the word chaos tossed around.
Well, let me tell you what chaos is. Chaos, as we have seen in
the last few years, 5 hour, 6 hour lines in states like Arizona
to vote. Chaos is purging names of longtime voters from a voter
list so they can't go vote in states like Georgia.
Chaos is the State of Texas declaring that you can only
have one drop off box for votes and ballots in their counties,
including huge counties like Harris County with nearly 5
million people. Chaos is forcing people in Wisconsin to stand
in garbage bags in the rain, waiting in line just to exercise
their right to vote. Chaos is people in South Carolina being
told that they have to have a notary public to be able to get a
mail in ballot and having to have it do it through a window of
a hospital while they have got COVID.
Chaos is a law in North Carolina that a circuit court ruled
was so discriminatory against African-Americans that they said
this in a conservative circuit court, that it was designed with
almost surgical precision, their words, not mine, to
discriminate against African-Americans. Chaos is what we saw
happen at the Capitol when people heard for an entire year that
our election isn't sound, and they decided to come here and
take it into their own hands. That angry mob, that was chaos.
What this bill tries to do is to simply make it easier for
people to vote and take the best practices, that we have seen
across the country, and put it into law as we are allowed to do
under the Constitution. So I will start with you, Attorney
General Holder. The For the People Act would ban practices that
states use to purge voters effective immediately.
Can you explain how voter purges disproportionately impact
some voters and why these provisions are so important, given
what we just heard from Mr. Waldman about all of the bills that
have been introduced across the country to limit people to
vote? Is this threat real?
Mr. Holder. The threat is extremely real. I mean, voter
purging occurs in disproportionate numbers, places. I have
looked at a study that indicates that 40 percent of all the
voter purging has occurred in states that were formerly covered
by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There, you know, this desire
to purge voters because people decided not to exercise their
right to vote disproportionately falls on people who are people
of color or people who vote Democratic. So this is something
that I think that we need to be cognizant of. There are
movements to try to keep people away from the polls and purging
people from voter registration rolls is one of the tactics that
is unfortunately used too frequently.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Under Article I Section 4 of the
Constitution, Congress can ``make or alter,'' those are the
words of the Constitution, rules for Federal elections, ``at
any time.'' Is that correct?
Mr. Holder. That is correct. The power that Congress has
under the elections clause with regard to the regulation of
Federal elections is very broad.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. The Supreme Court has upheld this
power as, ``broad'' and ``comprehensive.'' Is that right?
Mr. Holder. That is correct. The court has considered the
elections clause in a number of contexts, and I am not aware of
any instance where the court has said that Congress has somehow
gone beyond that, which it could do with regard for the
regulation of Federal elections.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you, Mr. Waldman, your
organization has done a great deal of work monitoring these
bills that you just discussed. You mentioned some of them are
actually becoming law as we speak. Can you speak briefly to
some of the most egregious bills you have seen just briefly?
Mr. Waldman. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. In Texas, for
example, there is a proposed legislation moving through the
legislature that would require people with disabilities to have
a witnessed note confirming that they have the right to get an
absentee ballot. You see cutbacks on absentee balloting and
vote by mail all across the country. You see them in ways that
are politically very, very targeted. In Georgia, the
legislation that was moving through the legislature until the
last day or so in this form ended effectively no excuse
absentee balloting but preserved it for people over 65, who
tend to vote conservative, who tend to be white. You see laws
of this kind all over that are very precisely targeted, that
look neutral but have a very, very sharp and clear racial and
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Okay. Last year, because of the
pandemic, 45 states, this is for you, Mr. Waldman, did not
require an excuse for voters to request a mail in ballot and 34
states allow for this in every election, including states like
Utah, Montana, Florida. We just saw how critical mail in voting
was and a lot of voters really liked it. They said we want to
keep it. This bill, Mr. Waldman, would ensure that all voters
can request mail in ballots going forward. Do you agree that
all voters should be able to vote by mail and that voter
participation, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, in a
blue state or red state, increases when voters have options to
cast their ballots?
Mr. Waldman. Absolutely. This legislation would preserve
something that was a hugely successful effort. First of all,
even before 2020, tens of millions of people in this country
voted by mail without incident, and it has not benefited either
political party. Last year, many people found it was convenient
and it would be unwise in the extreme to take it away, to take
away from voters something they have found to be very useful in
our newly mobile society, which is not the same as it was when
we set Election Day on 1 day so that you could get to the
polling place in your horse and buggy.
We should guarantee that as something that everybody all
over the country, regardless of where they live as a minimum
standard, have access to vote by mail. It is important to note
you will hear people say this switches everybody to vote by
mail. That is not true. It merely gives people the opportunity
to vote by mail and makes sure that they have the ability to
apply for that kind of absentee ballot.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. My last few
questions to you, Secretary Benson. Secretary Warner, your
fellow Secretary of State, testified that this bill would
somehow create barriers to ballot boxes. Over the last 2 years
in Michigan, you have put in place many of the policies that
are actually included in this bill as we look at best practices
to set national standards, including automatic voter
registration, same-day voter registration and no excuse to vote
by mail for all voters.
By the way, those policies have led my state to be No. 1,
No. 1 in voter turnout, time after time electing Republican
Governors over the years, Democratic Governors, and Independent
Governors in Jesse Ventura. So has your experience, Ms. Benson,
been that these policies have somehow created barriers to
Ms. Benson. No, quite the opposite. In fact, not only were
these policies enormously popular among voters on both sides of
the aisle, both in voting to enact them and also taking
advantage of them, we saw record setting voter turnout in every
election that followed the implementation of these policies,
and that included a statewide primary election in the midst of
a pandemic that did not include any major contested statewide
primary on either side or race. So even absent a highly
contested election, these policies in and of themselves
increased significantly voter turnout on both sides of the
aisle in the State of Michigan within a year of them becoming a
mandate in our State Constitution.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. Thank you to our
witnesses. I will turn over to Senator Blunt.
Senator Blunt. Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. Mr. Waldman, I
think I will start with you. You mentioned, as Senator
Klobuchar did, as others have, that the last set of elections
were the most secure elections ever. You accepted that and have
repeated that. It seems to me based on that there would be no
reason to have this discussion unless you could create a false
narrative, in my view, that somehow states are passing massive
legislation that changes the voting structure to people's
disadvantage. Now, that is different than individual members of
the legislature introducing bills. You said the last set of
legislative bills are more bills than usual.
Now, actually, I think on the Republican side, 22 bills of
those bills are in Arizona and 22 or so those bills are in
Georgia, which I suspect my back of the envelope calculation
would indicate that the four, five or six bills in other states
is about right. Believe me, politicians believe they are
election experts and there are always bills passed--almost
always bills filed, almost none of which pass.
Every article on this topic cites your organization and all
of this voter suppression legislation that, one, all isn't
voter suppressing, and two, just simply is not going to become
law. It is a great excuse to upend a system that served the
country well for a long time. On the Utah bill, for instance,
that I cited earlier, HB12, requires the Lieutenant Governor,
who is the chief election authority, to provide Social Security
data of deceased individuals to county clerks so they can begin
the process of removing deceased individuals from the voter
rolls. Why would that be voter suppression?
Mr. Waldman. Well, thank you, Senator. When we look at
legislation across the country, we look to see whether the
measure is potentially restricting or suppressing----
Senator Blunt. On the question I asked, why would that
bill, removing dead people from the voter rolls based on Social
Security information be voter suppression?
Mr. Waldman. Because there are frequently errors in the
lists that are used in Social Security and other----
Senator Blunt. So your view would be--your view would be
the Federal Government is not capable of telling the state
which Social Security recipients died and no longer get a
check, so we should turn the entire election over to a Federal
structure? I just don't agree.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Senator Blunt, can we allow the
witness to answer the question?
Senator Blunt. No, no, the witness did answer the question.
The witness answered the question separately, Senator----
Chairwoman Klobuchar. We will clarify----
Senator Blunt. Senator, the witness answered the question
by saying the Federal Government often is in error in giving
information to the states. That was the answer to the question.
On--let's go to the Secretary of State, Warner, who is here,
and the other two as well. We had three different views of this
from two current Secretaries of State and one person, the
Attorney General of Indiana, who was the Secretary of State
until the end of last year. I think to some extent that may
show why one size fits all maybe doesn't ever fit anybody very
Secretary Warner, what would be the challenge? You said you
would have to have a special session in the legislature, you
would think, if this bill passed. Tell me again why that would
be the case?
Mr. Warner. The expanse of this bill would force states to
address these issues, such as the funding to get these new
machines. When this decertifies all the machines we have in
West Virginia, we have to go back and get new machines. That is
quite the process to find that funding, to then put it out for
bids, that sort of thing. I want legislative directive.
Again, that is what our Constitution says. It is going to
be left up to the states. I want that direction from the
legislature to tell me so then I can execute that, the
provisions to implement this vast, as I called it, monstrosity
of a bill. There is just too much in there. The clerks are
extremely against the same day voting--same day registration
aspect of this bill that just would overwhelm them.
As I said, when you do not have the broadband capability
throughout the state, it is an impossibility. Then our
legislature would be up to trying to find a way to address what
Congress is passing down to them, but then meeting the reality.
That is the problem of so much of the discussions going on here
today. It is talking points versus reality.
That is why I always turn to my clerks and my clerks tell
me, unanimously across the board, they are against this S. 1
because of the unfunded mandates and the expanse that it would
impose upon them in the election administration.
Senator Blunt. Attorney General Rokita, you said you
thought there would be immediate legal action by a number of
states. What would be the principal legal focus of that action
as to why this should not move forward?
Mr. Rokita. Thank you, Senator. Of course, the
constitutionality of this all is immediately called into
question, not just with regard to the framers clear intent that
state legislators and legislatures determine these rules, but
also in terms of redistricting, which would be completely
usurped by the Federal Government and particularly unelected
judges. The people have the most power in this situation when
they can hold directly their representatives accountable for
redistricting processes. So that is a huge problem.
The private right of action that is in this bill that was
not in the Help America Vote Act is also a huge problem. When
you have individual citizens, like, for example, a prisoner who
decides that his rights are now violated, as made up in this
bill, can sue the states. Untold amount of litigation will
So it is not just the states against the Federal
Government. This bill would give rights and private rights of
action to citizens for their apparent, not real, grievances,
and that will drive up costs to states significantly.
Senator Blunt. Thank you, Attorney General Rokita. Thank
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Mr. Waldman, 30
seconds. You want to finish answering that question before I
turn it over to Senator Feinstein?
Senator Blunt. You know, I would say, Chairwoman, the 5-
minutes is mine. It is not Mr. Waldman's. I didn't take the 4-
minutes you took before the clock started--or the 1.48
Chairwoman Klobuchar. I simply want to give Mr. Waldman 30
seconds to finish answering the question, and that is my
prerogative as chair.
Senator Blunt. Well, if I had given him 30 seconds to
answer the question or another minute, I wouldn't have been
able to answer my questions within near the 5-minutes that
every member should be restricted to here.
Senator Leahy. Madam Chair, I think the Senator from
Missouri took 6 minutes.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Yes, I was generous in time. I was
generous in the time. Mr. Waldman could you just finish
answering the question? My goodness. What? Could you let the
witness, please, Mr. Wicker. Could you, Senator Wicker, let him
just finish, 30 seconds.
Mr. Waldman. I will be brief. One must be very careful when
purging voters from the rolls to ensure that the lists are
checked and double checked. Unfortunately, there are errors.
That is why voters should have protected rights, as in this
bill, to ensure that they are not being removed from the rolls
when they ought to be eligible and ought to be able to vote.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you. Senator Wicker.
Senator Wicker. Madam Chair, I don't know if my mic is on.
The position of the Chair on the timing in question is
irregular. I've been a member of the Senate now for thirteen
years [technical problems]. The Chair took four minutes after
she made her opening statements for questions. After the
question was answered, she took four minutes to make another
opening statement. Then the clock began. She then took over six
minutes to ask questions. Now she knows quite well, as does
Senator Blunt, that a witness can filibuster an answer and take
up five minutes of a Senator's time. So Senator Blunt was well
within his rights to cut that off, to move on to other matters,
but if the chair in this committee, on this important day where
we have two panels, is going to run this committee in a way
that I have never seen in 13 years, then I will point out that
this is quite irregular.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Excellent. So I will note that
testimony is supposed to be 5 minutes and the time can be
extended by the chair, including for questioning, which I just
did for Senator Blunt. I am sure we can work that out. I will
say what is unprecedented is that we are finally having a
hearing about something big. We are finally having a hearing in
the Rules committee about an actual bill and that everyone is
here in this beautiful room. That is unprecedented. I will be
nothing but more than fair as we go forward, because I
understand how important this is. With that, I turn it over to
Senator Feinstein. Thank you.
Senator Feinstein. Thank you, Madam Chair. In 2013, the
Supreme Court struck down a key preclearance provision in the
Voting Rights Act, which required jurisdictions with a history
of discrimination against minority voters to obtain approval
from the Justice Department before making changes to voting
laws. At the same time, the Washington Post has reported that,
and I quote, ``in 43 states around the country, Republican
lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit
mail, early, in-person and Election Day voting with such
constraints as stricter I.D. requirements, limited hours, or
narrower eligibility to vote absentee according to data
compiled on the onset as of February 19 by the nonpartisan
Brennan Center for Justice.'' Let me ask both witnesses, can
you discuss why it is so important to pass the For the People
Act now? Nobody is here to answer?
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Why don't we--I think they just need
a specific witness to go forward. Why--do you want to take
that, Attorney General Holder?
Mr. Holder. Yes, I would be glad to answer the question. It
seems to me that this is the right time. This is the right Act
dealing, as I said, with that unholy trinity of voter
suppression, dark money, and gerrymandering. These are all
things that are handled by this Act and will make our electoral
system more fair, more responsive, and more available to the
American people. That is why I think this bill should be
Senator Feinstein. Thank you. Last June, California passed
bipartisan legislation to mail every voter a ballot before the
November election in order to mitigate the risk of spread of
COVID. As my colleague, Senator Padilla, I think can attest,
our election was successful. Almost 70.8 percent of voters
participated. That is the highest percentage of eligible voters
since 1952, and there were no reports of widespread voter
fraud, according to the Los Angeles Times. California is not
the only state to recently expand vote by mail. For example, in
2018, Michigan supported a measure that established the right
to vote by mail. I would like to ask Ms. Benson, did this
measure increase access to ballots in the 2020 Federal
Ms. Benson. Yes, it did. Remarkably, we saw one of the most
secure, high-turnout elections in our state as a result of
policies just like that.
Senator Feinstein. Well, can you describe it a bit more, so
we have something tangible.
Ms. Benson. So in 2020, as I mentioned, we saw in
particular the amount of people who voted absentee go from 1.1
million in 2016 to 3.3 million in 2020. That was enormous. We
saw 5.5 million people vote overall in the Presidential
election, but we had four elections in 2020. In every single
one of them, we saw more people vote than ever before, taking
advantage in more numbers than we had even expected, of their
right to vote absentee. In doing so, they utilized secure drop
boxes to return their ballots. They utilized applications that
were mailed to them, to every registered voter in order to know
how to request their ballot. In short, I think Michigan's
experience over the past 2 years is the blueprint for how every
state in the country can effectively and securely take the
policies and the For the People Act and make them real for
Senator Feinstein. Thank you. The recent Solar Winds hack,
and this comes from intelligence, is a reminder of the scale of
the cyber weapons our adversaries possess and our ongoing need
to secure critical infrastructure from attack. In light of this
attack, it is troubling that even after 21 states were warned
they were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016, approximately 10
percent of votes cast in 2020 do not have a verifiable paper
To be clear, this doesn't mean that these votes were
fraudulent, but it does suggest a major vulnerability in the
event of a large scale attack on our elections. For the People
Act would require states to use voter verified paper ballots in
election and conduct risk limiting audit. How would the For the
People Act protect our election systems against foreign
interference and attacks?
Ms. Benson. Well, simply put, you can't hack paper. One of
the reasons we had one of the most secure elections across the
country in recent history is because so many states use paper
ballots that enabled us in Michigan to have more than 250 post-
election audits to affirm that the ballots were accurately
counted by the voting machines. It enables transparency and
enables reliability. Notably, there are systems set up to
enable military and overseas voters to have those same
protections of paper ballots in voting and making sure their
votes are received on time. Again, many states have gone
through this and can provide the best practices and experiences
that underscore how to do this.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Well, thank you. I think we are going
to go--move on. So thank you very much. Next, Senator Cruz.
Thank you, Senator Feinstein.
Senator Cruz. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. This bill is the
single most dangerous bill this committee has ever considered.
This bill is designed to corrupt the election process
permanently. It is a brazen and shameless power grab by
It speaks volumes that this is H.R. 1 and S. 1. That the
No. 1 priority of Democrats is not COVID, it is not
immunizations, it is not getting people back to work, it is not
getting kids back in school, it is keeping Democrats in power
for 100 years. How do they do this? They do this by instituting
a bill that will promote widespread fraud and illegal voting.
Under this bill, there is automatic registration of
anybody, if you get a driver's license, if you get a welfare
payment, if you get an unemployment payment, if you attend a
public university. Now everyone knows there are millions of
illegal aliens who have driver's licenses, who are getting
welfare benefits, who attend public universities. This bill is
designed to register every one of those illegal aliens. General
Rokita, what would the impact be in state elections of
automatically registering millions of illegal aliens to vote?
Mr. Rokita. Well, despite that cost and everything in the
system, it would dilute, it would dilute the votes of every
citizen who was supposed to be voting. So they want the voter
turnout, they want more people to participate, and you cannot
vote in this country unless you are a United States citizen in
a Federal election.
Senator Cruz. The bill explicitly says if an illegal alien
is registered to vote under its provisions, even though it is
illegal for him to vote, that illegal alien will not be liable.
So it anticipates, the Democrats here anticipating, and their
desired effect is to register millions of illegal aliens. Is
that correct, General Rokita?
Mr. Rokita. Yes.
Senator Cruz. It is not just illegal aliens. This bill is
designed to get criminals to vote. A great many states across
this country prohibit felons from voting. This bill strikes
down all those laws. This bill says if you are a murderer, if
you are a rapist, if you are a child molester, we, the
Democrats, want you voting. Every one of those state laws is
struck down. Is that right, General Rokita?
Mr. Rokita. That is correct. If they don't get their way,
then they sue the state, as I referenced in my earlier answer.
Senator Cruz. So apparently the Democrats have determined
that if millions of illegal aliens get to vote, if millions of
criminals get to vote, that that will benefit Democrats because
they understand that that criminals and illegal aliens are
much, much more likely to vote for Democrats. Is that correct?
Mr. Rokita. Yes.
Senator Cruz. Not only that, this bill strikes down photo
I.D. laws. 31-29 states have photo I.D. laws, including, by the
way, the State of Arizona, including the State of Georgia,
including the State of West Virginia, all of which I might
note, have Democratic Senators, but I will tell you, the Senate
Democrats are so interested in maintaining power that they are
asking the Senators from Arizona, from Georgia, West Virginia,
to join a bill that strikes down the photo I.D. laws in their
states. General Rokita, do photo I.D. laws help protect the
integrity of elections?
Mr. Rokita. Absolutely. They give people confidence. They
make sure we hold to the principle of one person, one vote,
particularly one citizen, one vote. In fact, in Indiana, where
we had Indiana's first photo I.D.--we had the country's first
photo I.D. law, voter turnout went up, and it went up because
more people had confidence in the process. In fact, when others
on this panel and other places say that a certain subset of our
country or our electorate can't vote without--with photo I.D.,
that is really a racist statement.
Senator Cruz. Well, you are right that Indiana's photo I.D.
law was a model for the Nation. At the time Indiana passed it,
it was challenged in court. I was Solicitor General of Texas. I
led a coalition of states defending Indiana's photo I.D. law
before the United States Supreme Court, and the United States
Supreme Court upheld that law by a vote of six to three.
The majority opinion was written by Justice John Paul
Stevens, a noted liberal who observed rightly that voter fraud
is a serious problem, that photo I.D. laws protect the
integrity of elections. What the Democrats want to do? They
want to strike down every photo I.D. law in the country to
encourage voter fraud. Not only that, this bill mandates ballot
harvesting. It mandates party operatives being able to go into
nursing homes, collect every ballot there, throw out the
ballots they don't like because there is no supervision over
the ballot harvesting.
The Carter Baker Commission, chaired by Democratic
President Jimmy Carter, said ballot harvesting was a major
source of voter fraud. What do Senate Democrats do? Look at the
Carter Baker Commission say, where do we get fraud? Let's do
more of that. This bill has rightly been called the Corrupt
Politicians Act because it is designed to keep corrupt
politicians in office and everyone supporting it should be
Finally, Madam Chairwoman, I would like to introduce six
letters in opposition to this bill to the record, a letter from
the Family Research Council, a letter from Citizens United, a
letter from Concerned Women for America, a letter from the
Public Interest Legal Foundation, a letter from the Independent
Women's Forum, the Independent Women's Law Center, and the
Independent Women's Voice and a letter from the Campaign for
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Any opposition? Letters will be
admitted in the record.
[The information referred to was submitted for the record.]
Senator Leahy. Madam Chair?
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you, Senator Cruz. Senator
Senator Leahy. It is interesting. The junior Senator from
Texas has said that they are allowing felons to vote, but, of
course, that benefits Democrats. I note that the State of
Vermont has always allowed felons to vote and overwhelmingly
elected a Republican Governor in this last election and has,
even though we are the 14th state, we have only elected one
Democrat to the United States Senate. So it certainly isn't
something that might benefit just Democrats.
We are concerned when state legislatures across the country
are pushing legislation that would make it more difficult for
the disabled, for shift workers to cast ballots or inviting
partisan poll watchers. That is not what is intended. Look at
Vermont, where we have the most honest voting you can imagine.
I thank the witnesses for being here today. I hope we can stop
this sliding backward in the face of a spree of voter
suppression laws across the country.
How do we make it easier, not more difficult for our
citizens to vote? Recent election cycles have seen dramatic
increases in early in-person voting, especially in the COVID
pandemic, and that helped rural areas like Vermont. We boast
that we make voting easier but also safe, secure, and legal.
You can vote early and vote by mail from your home when you
have a ballot delivered to you by two justices of the peace.
Now, Ms. Benson, you serve the people of Michigan, a state
which backers of former President Donald Trump challenged the
validity of your elections, and certainly parts of your
population are as rural as Vermont. So I ask you, do you doubt
the safety and security of your elections, and have you had any
evidence presented to you in the court or anywhere else of
mail-in or early and absentee voting led to widespread fraud in
Ms. Benson. Thank you, Senator. Michigan's experience has
demonstrated that these policies can be implemented securely
and effectively with an eye toward making sure everyone,
citizens on both sides of the aisle, whether they live in rural
or urban areas, can participate in their democracy.
You know, I will emphasize that when it comes to making
sure that every valid vote is counted and that only valid votes
are counted, these policies not only enable that, further that,
but there is plenty of data, facts, and evidence to underscore
exactly how to ensure that is the case.
You can look to not just Michigan, but states all around
the country who have successfully ensured that people can vote
securely through these provisions and that they are
administered securely to ensure that only valid citizens are
able to, for example, register to vote automatically when they
get their driver's license.
Senator Leahy. I think you have done it as clearly as
Secretary Condos in our state has done. I think in many ways
our state is a road map for the For the People Act. Now,
Attorney General Holder, you and I have spoken many times about
the Supreme Court's devastating decision in Shelby County that
gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and led to a spree of
state suppression schemes not seen since the civil rights era.
In fact, some of them, almost immediately after the case
came down. With the For the People Act, we are trying to ensure
states moving toward increased access, not less, but can we
also make sure that under legislative action, states that have
already taken the actions are not penalized or unduly burdened?
Should Congress consider some kind of certification process for
states to show they are already meeting the voting access
requirements of this legislation?
Mr. Holder. Yes, I think having some kind of requirement
that makes states prove that they are, in fact, following the
intent of the law would be something that ought to be
considered. I am very concerned that after the Shelby County
case, for instance, 1,700 polling places around the country
were closed and for no good reason. There were a number of
things that happened post Shelby County that have hindered the
ability of people, especially people of color, to get to the
polls. Having some kind of requirement that shows that states
are, in fact, doing all that they can to make sure that their
citizens have access to the polls, I think would be something
Senator Leahy. Thank you. I will discuss that further with
you one of these days when we have a chance to talk, but I
really appreciate that. Madam Chair, thank you for this
hearing. I think it is vitally important.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Senator Leahy.
Next, Senator Wicker.
Senator Wicker. Thank you, Madam Chair. There was a poll
done this month of 1200 likely voters [technical problems] that
turns out the people of the United States don't want this bill.
[Technical problems.] Okay, am I on or not? Okay, now I am
on. I think, Madam Chair, I really think you should start my
Chairwoman Klobuchar. I will. I will. You can start again.
Senator Wicker. You are my dear friend.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. There you are. Alright.
Senator Wicker. Anything I have said is not personal.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. I understand.
Senator Wicker. People of the United States may like the
sound of a bill that says it is going to be easier for people
to vote. I think Senator Cruz is right to an extent, it makes
it easier for some people to cheat in elections, but when you
go step by step and ask the questions, as this pollster did,
the American people object to many, many provisions in this
I would like to ask Secretary Warner and General Rokita
about this. Universal mail in voting. You know, this may be
great for some states, but 71 percent of Americans are
concerned about that and only 26 percent are not concerned.
Remote ballot drop boxes, 74 percent of Americans are concerned
about that. Only 24 percent are okay with it. Preventing states
from regularly cleaning up voter registration file to ensure
that people who have died or moved out of the state are
Preventing states from doing that, 82 percent of Americans
are concerned with that provision in this bill. Only 17 are not
concerned. Yet one of the witnesses for the majority has told
this committee that that using Social Security numbers to
remove dead people is voter suppression. You know, I believe in
eternal life, Madam Chairwoman, but I think once we have passed
on the voting stops. General Rokita, you were a member of the
House when ballot harvesting was an issue, were you not?
Mr. Rokita. I believe it was. We voted against it several
Senator Wicker. Well, as I recall, a member from North
Carolina, Republican was elected in a close election and was
expelled or not seated from the House of Representatives
because he engaged in ballot harvesting, which was illegal
under the law of North Carolina, but would be not only legal,
but required to be legal in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia. That practice by that member who had won the most
votes was denounced on both sides of the aisle as wrong, as
rife for fraud.
The Republican member was not seated on a bipartisan basis
because he engaged in a practice that would be blessed by this
Act. I will ask each of our witnesses in 2 minutes to comment
about whether ballot harvesting, in other words, letting
hundreds of people go out there and pick up ballots to bring
them in and trust them to do that. What do you think about
that, Mr. Secretary?
Mr. Warner. I am completely against it, Senator. Thank you
for the question. The Carter Center has addressed these issues.
The further we get away from Election Day with the mail in
ballots and so forth, that is where the fraud is most likely to
occur. The gold standard in elections is voting in-person at a
polling precinct under the supervision of trained poll workers
on Election Day. That is where we need to go.
Only if there is a good reason for doing something other
than voting on Election Day, then that is where you open up
early voting or open up absentee ballots, but that should be
for a reason, a legitimate reason as prescribed by the state
legislature. Each of our states has different character, and
the people in it, different history. In West Virginia, the 1960
Presidential election was bought by John F. Kennedy and they
bragged about that for years. They took that as a sense of
pride. That is in our character and we need to overcome that.
We are not proud of that anymore. That is where the ballot
harvesting, the mail in ballots, all that, we want to keep a
tight rein on it. Our legislature is well aware of that. That
is where I want to get my guidance, from the state legislature,
and not go toward automatic voter registration, the mail in
ballots, the same day registration. All these provisions that
are in this bill, our legislature is against them.
Senator Wicker. Quickly, General Rokita. There is a post
that says allowing political organizations and activists to
collect thousands of ballots and deliver them unsupervised with
the county clerk, 83 percent of Americans are concerned. Is
this legal or illegal in Indiana and is it a good idea?
Mr. Rokita. It is illegal in Indiana and it is a terrible
idea. I look back to Senator Feinstein's argument for
California. It is not that California mailed these ballots out,
live ballots to every voter. They mailed out to every name on
the voter list.
If like this bill, you don't cleanup that voter list, that
means you are going to have tens of thousands, maybe millions
of ballots out there that are live, associated with people who
shouldn't vote, meaning they are dead, they moved away, they
are in prison, except for Vermont, I guess, but what have you.
So that is why this is a terrible idea. They need to have
professional, partisan paid campaign paid ballot harvesters
going around collecting those live ballots and trying to get
them cast. This bill does not allow you to challenge those
Senator Wicker. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Next up is Senator King, who is with
us remotely. Senator King? Okay, I think we will be joined by
Senator King later, but we will now turn to Senator Merkley.
Senator Merkley. Thank you very much to all of our
witnesses. I wanted to turn to Michigan Secretary of State
Jocelyn Benson, and I wanted to understand, with your automatic
voting registration system, do you have a system to make sure
people are aware of the requirements to be a legal voter and
that instructs them to opt out of being signed up if they don't
meet all the requirements?
Ms. Benson. Yes, we do, but we don't just have that. We
actually have six checks in place, multiple different places
and positions to ensure that only valid citizens are being
registered to vote through this process. As we have implemented
over the course of the past year and a half, we found that to
be enormously successful through those checks, and again,
leading to the registration of nearly a quarter of a million
new eligible citizens, registered voters in the State of
Senator Merkley. So have there been any sort of examination
or studies of Michigan that have turned up significant numbers
or any numbers at all of folks who are noncitizens registering
to vote under the AVR system?
Ms. Benson. No, but, and again, there is a procedure in
place to ensure that if there is, you know, one error, that it
is quickly found by one of the other checks. That is why six
checks through multiple partnerships has been critical to
ensure that if there is an issue, that it is found and
addressed long before that person either, you know, is in a
position to wrongly feel that they have the ability to
participate. So, in other words, the checks and balances that
we have in place in our state prevents----
Senator Merkley. So tell me--I am going interrupt you,
because I know my time will run out quickly, but tell me again
how many more people got registered because of AVR?
Ms. Benson. 250 million, and notably because of Real I.D.
which is in place, of course, and being implemented, and a
number of other things, people have got to show documents in
order to get their driver's license. Those documents also
Senator Merkley. Okay. I am going to cutoff your--keep your
answers real short, if you are if you are able to for me. That
would help me out. So one of the concerns that has been noted
is cybersecurity. We are worried about this in all sorts of
contexts, transferring information. Do you have any--you don't
have to give me all the details, but are you working to address
cybersecurity to make sure that we don't have voting systems
that are hacked?
Ms. Benson. Yes. Thankfully, through our successful
partnerships with the Federal Government, we have got all the
more resources to be able to do that.
Senator Merkley. Another question that comes up is the cost
of implementing this. That is certainly a legitimate concern.
The complexity of modifying existing computer code. In terms of
how long it took you and the cost, were you able to cover it
with the funds from the America Votes Act or was it a big
burden on the State of Michigan?
Ms. Benson. It was not a big burden. It does take funding,
but notably the $2 billion, approximately $2 billion allocated
to states through this Act would address many of those issues.
The funding goes not just to the implementation but also
educating voters about how to take advantage of these new
Senator Merkley. So it wouldn't be an imposition on the
states if we passed the funds to enable them to hire the help
needed to get this done, if what you are saying----
Ms. Benson. Absolutely right.
Senator Merkley. So you have road tested this. I want to
make sure one point is very clear. How many people were found
to have signed up illegally to vote and voted in a Michigan
election in the 2020 election?
Ms. Benson. None.
Senator Merkley. None, zero. So when my colleague from
Texas says that this bill is about registering millions of
illegal aliens and yet we are basing a model based on the good
work that Michigan and Oregon and other states have done, and
you found zero, we can just discount that as some sort of
hyperbolic speech, not a real recounting of how this system
works. Is that correct?
Ms. Benson. Yes, I recommend that.
Senator Merkley. Okay, well, I think it is really important
to get past the hyperbole. You empowered hundreds of thousands
of people to vote in Michigan. I didn't get the Michigan number
you gave me. I think you said 250 million, but that wasn't AVR
in Michigan. What was the number in Michigan of how many new
voters under AVR?
Ms. Benson. That is correct. A quarter--a quarter of a
Senator Merkley. Okay. Yes, thank you. So 250,000 people
were empowered with this right to vote to make sure that the
obstructions were knocked down. Not a single illegal voter.
That seems like exactly what this Congress should be defending
and making sure happens across this country, taking the good
work that has been piloted in states like Michigan.
Ms. Benson. I agree, yes. Again, the system works with
proper funding and enough partnerships. There is no reason why
every state in the country can't follow our lead and implement
the provisions of this Act.
Senator Merkley. There is one last question here. I think
these are legitimate concerns that have been raised that we can
learn from the experience of states that have gone through this
process, but some voting machines would be decertified, in part
because they don't produce paper ballots, or some voting
machines would be certified for that reason. Are paper ballots
integral to the system of having high integrity elections?
Ms. Benson. Yes, they are, because you can't hack paper.
The more incentives we have to improve the security of our ways
of tabulating those paper ballots, the better off our democracy
Senator Merkley. We would like to have American made
machines to also ensure there is not some internal backdoor
corrupting our elections. Is that right?
Ms. Benson. Yes, Senator.
Senator Merkley. Yes. Thank you very much. Your experience
was very instrumental. Very instructive. Thanks.
Senator Blunt. Senator Capito.
Senator Capito. Thank you, Senator Blunt, and thank you for
the hearing. Secretary Warner, all of us want to have the
ability to participate in our elections and democracy and have
great faith in this and not be disenfranchised. We have heard
from Michigan and Indiana and West Virginia that certain things
are working in their states. Great. If things are working in
their states, we should keep doing that. I note in your bio,
Secretary Warner, that you say that 313 outdated, duplicate,
out-of-state, deceased, and convicted felon voters have been
eliminated. At the same time, in a state probably one fifth the
size of Michigan, you have also registered 246,000 new voters,
67,000 of which are high schoolers. You don't have same day
registration. You don't have the other provisions that she has.
So I think that we have tailored the way we want to get new
and energetic voters on our rolls and get rid of the voters
that are no longer eligible to vote. So congratulations to you
on that. The specific thing I would like to talk about is your
mobile voting app. You have talked about your overseas service
members with electronic voting, but I think it is also
important to know that you have expanded the use, with the help
of the legislature I believe, of online voting for disabled
I have heard from our deaf and blind community in West
Virginia about what S. 1 would do to prevent them from using
this tremendous increased accessibility voting option that you
have pioneered in the State of West Virginia. So if you could
briefly share your concerns about the impact that this bill
would have on military voters and voters with disabilities.
Mr. Warner. This bill would absolutely eliminate the
opportunity for military people overseas, for voters overseas,
and for what you just mentioned, the voters with certain
disabilities, especially the blind community and folks who are
physically not able to get to the polling locations, that is
where we have enabled them to vote using a mobile device that
is tailored to their specific situation.
I visited one quadriplegic who physically could not get out
of his bed to go vote, 35 years old, said for the first time in
his life, he felt like an American where he could vote using
this. So S. 1 would eliminate that option.
Senator Capito. That would eliminate those folks' ability
to vote. Now we are talking about accessibility to voting, and
this eliminates our military out of our country and certain
folks with disabilities in our state to be able to vote at the
most convenient and test technology tested way. I would also
note, in the State of West Virginia in the 2020 election, with
all this--without this bill, you increased the number of voters
by about 130,000 that actually came to the polls. Is that about
a correct statement?
Mr. Warner. Yes, we had over 800,000 people vote, and we
have just over 1 million active voters. So we had a tremendous
Senator Capito. Okay. I want to followup on something you
said in your statement, something Senator Merkley said about
the decertification of certain machines. Now, I understand in
West Virginia, all of ours are paper.
Mr. Warner. Yes, we have a paper trail auditable. Yes, we
Senator Capito. Okay, so why would our machines be
decertified under this legislation?
Mr. Warner. This bill requires that all machines meet the
VSG 2.0 system, and no state has the machines ready to meet
that because this was just passed a month ago by the EAC. So we
are all getting used to what those requirements are. We would
have to go out and buy new machines to meet this new standard.
Senator Capito. So you are telling me every state would
have to buy new machines?
Mr. Warner. You are correct. Under this----
Senator Capito. Every state would have to buy new machines?
Mr. Warner. Yes.
Senator Capito. Remember the funding that we put in to Help
America Vote Act to make sure that you are up to the point
which you are right now today.
Mr. Warner. Yes.
Senator Capito. So I am going to ask a question. I know
this is a dangerous thing, but I have no idea--I have no idea
what the answer is going to be here, but there is a provision
in this bill that says that we are going to politicize the FEC,
and we are going to make it instead of even three Republicans,
three Democrats, the majority party will be able to have a
majority vote at the FEC. So I would like to ask Mr.--I am
going to ask everybody, yes or no. Do you agree with that
provision in this bill, Mr. Holder? Yes or no?
Mr. Holder. I do. The FEC has proven to be totally
ineffective in the way that it is constructed now.
Senator Capito. So that is a yes?
Mr. Holder. Yes.
Senator Capito. You are in favor? Okay. Ms. Benson?
Ms. Benson. Yes.
Senator Capito. Mr. Waldman?
Mr. Waldman. Yes.
Senator Capito. Mr. Warner?
Mr. Warner. No.
Senator Capito. Mr. Rokita?
Mr. Rokita. No.
Senator Capito. I cannot believe that three out of the five
witnesses thinks that it is a good idea to take a nonpartisan
FEC Commission, and politicize it, and make decisions about
elections when you can use your majority vote to ram anything
through. That, to me, is a major red flag in this legislation.
Senator Blunt. Senator Padilla.
Senator Padilla. Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the time being,
and I would request in advance maybe an extra minute as one of
the other prior state chief elections official serving in this
committee right now. Let me begin by commenting on remarks made
earlier by Minority Leader McConnell. So glad that he made
reference to the Help America Vote Act that he worked on.
As I recall him speaking, he said it was both crafted and
passed not just on a bipartisan basis, but specifically given
the approach to make it harder to cheat--excuse me, easier to
vote and harder to cheat. Well, the second part has clearly
been accomplished, folks. Voter fraud in America is exceedingly
rare. Study after study, investigation after investigation,
report after report shows that. Anybody with evidence or proof
to the contrary needs to step up and bring it forward. Easier
to vote and harder to cheat.
We still have a lot of work to do on the first part. Voter
purges. Discriminatory voter I.D. laws. Long lines that no
voter should have to suffer and wait to exercise their
fundamental right to vote. Let alone the false choice too many
voters were forced to make last year in either protecting their
health and their lives versus exercising their right to vote
during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have a lot of work to do still on making it easier for
eligible citizens to register, to stay registered, and to cast
their ballot. Anybody who agrees with Minority Leader McConnell
in thinking that the 2020 election went so well, then you have
to also denounce the hundreds of bills that have been
introduced, even though they have not been passing yet, but
they have been introduced, that would have the effect of making
it harder for eligible citizens to participate.
Now let me jump to three questions for the three witnesses
pretty quickly and let me ask the three and then we will get
their responses. I am learning how to manage my time as a new
member around here. The first addressed to Mr. Holder. Now I
will bypass the preamble and just ask the question in reference
to the flurry of bills that we have seen since the start of
this year coming off of the November 2020 election. How these
recent proposals further highlight the need to create a Federal
baseline of voting rights and access to the ballot that should
apply across the country. That is No. 1.
No. 2, question for Mr. Waldman. Some folks have argued,
well, separate apart from S. 1 and H.R. 1, there is the John
Lewis Voting Rights Act. Isn't that enough? While I think
restoring the teeth of the Federal Voting Rights Act is
critical, Mr. Waldman, can you explain why it is necessary to
create a baseline of voting rights through S. 1 rather than
only implementing new preclearance requirements for state and
local jurisdictions to go through the Department of Justice in
the Defense of Voting Rights?
Last, two questions for Secretary Benson. Hello, Jocelyn.
As Michigan's chief elections official, you obviously have a
vested interest in ensuring the proper administration of free
and fair elections in your state, as your colleagues across the
country. So does the For the People Act wrest control over
elections away from state officials and local elections
officials and Federal elections, as some have argued?
If you have a minute as well to quickly comment on your
experience with the independent redistricting commission, that
is one area that California has led on as well. Thank you.
Ms. Benson. Thank you. Senator Padilla. You know, with
regards to the implementation, I think what we have seen is
that with proper funding and with, you know, all the things
that we have learned from other states in place, it is possible
to implement all of these policies. You know, it amazes me how
so many of the arguments we have heard today were made against
the Voting Rights Act of 1965, almost verbatim, the overreach
argument, and I will underscore that in Michigan, you know, we
had a state policy, the Motor Voter Law that the VRA expanded
nationwide, that, again, same arguments were raised. It is not
possible. It is an overreach. It is a Federal takeover. It
wasn't the case.
It actually dramatically improved our system of election
administration all across the country. So these arguments have
been made before and they haven't proven to play out in
reality. You know, I will direct anyone I know, my time is
limited, to MichiganRedistricting.org to also see the enormous
success we have had implementing a citizen's redistricting
commission in Michigan.
We have basically essentially found that when you give
citizens the ability on both sides of the aisle to draw their
own legislative districts, they embrace that ability with good
intentions. We have, through this commission, effectively
eliminated gerrymandering in our state.
Mr. Waldman. Senator Padilla, we need both this legislation
and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure
equal access to the ballot for all Americans and to ensure that
there is not racial discrimination in voting.
As you note, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
deals with the restoration of preclearance, which is a fairly
specific thing relating to past racial discrimination and how
it plays out in voting, but this legislation, too, by setting
national standards and ensuring that we can't have cutbacks in
access to voting, that unfortunately also have a very direct
tinge of discrimination, that can happen as well.
I will note that Representative Lewis, when he was still
with us, was very involved in the writing of this legislation
when it was in the House of Representatives.
Senator Padilla. Mr. Holder.
Mr. Holder. With regard to this need for baselines, I think
that is extremely important. We keep hearing about this cry
about voter fraud. It simply doesn't exist. Simply because you
say it doesn't necessarily mean that it exists. I look at
Texas, for instance. I mean, Senator Cruz wanted to talk about
that. The Attorney General, Ken Paxson spent 22, according to
NBC News, spent 22,000 hours looking for voter fraud, found 16
cases of false addresses on registration forms. He talked about
the late Justice Stevens, who said that his vote upholding
voter I.D. laws because of a concern about fraud was the worst
opinion, the worst decision he ever signed on to.
There is simply not--there is simply not any indications of
fraud to the extent that would justify the very draconian
measures that have been put in place and that this Act--this
Act would prevent from being put in place. That would separate
people from their ability to affect the direction of the
Nation. It would return power to the people.
Senator Blunt. Senator Padilla, I think you maximized your
time. Congratulations. Senator Fischer.
Senator Fischer. Thank you, Senator Blunt. In the 2020
Presidential election in the State of Nebraska, we saw an
excellent job done in administering the vote and we had record
turnout. We saw over 960,000 people vote out of 1.26 million
registered voters. I am so proud of the job that Nebraska has
done. As I sit here today and I listened to my colleagues on
the other side of the aisle and the witnesses that they brought
forward, as well as my colleagues on my side of the aisle and
the witnesses that we have brought forward, it sounds like
states are doing a great job.
We hear that there is very little or no voter fraud. We
hear that the voter turnout was tremendous in this last
election, which all of us want to see. We want people to
exercise their right to vote. We want that to happen. So I
would just ask for us to think about why in the world would we
give up state control of our elections to the Federal
Government? Most everybody in here is saying in their own
fashion that our elections are working. Yet we are saying, oh,
you know, my heavens, we have to have the Federal Government
take over control. I vehemently disagree with that.
As I look through this bill, my staff worked overtime
trying to get through the 800 some pages, but what we saw were
proposals that I think are done in a political fashion. What we
have seen is a lot of confusion in this bill. In some cases, I
would say sloppiness in how this bill was written. Senator
Merkley brought up one point about that the states have to
purchase the paper backed voting machines that are compliant
with new standards.
I believe you, Secretary Warner, you also spoke to that. We
have conflicting deadlines in this bill that we discovered. In
one section it says this has to happen by January 2022. In
another, it conflicts with that. I see chaos, I see chaos in
trying to meet these requirements for a 2022 election. For
example, these machines don't even exist yet. So you tell me
how we are going to get this implemented. You tell my elected
officials in Nebraska, our Secretary of State and his very
competent staff, how we are going to be able to meet all this.
I would imagine before we are through here, we are going to
find a lot more, a lot more.
As Senator Wicker pointed out, when the American people
hear what is in this, they do not support it. We all want fair
elections. We all want more citizens to vote. That is what
keeps a democracy strong, but to try and portray this as
something that isn't is just pretty darn disingenuous.
Secretary Warner, I would ask you, in your written testimony,
you identify the unrealistic deadlines that I mentioned that we
see in S. 1, and it makes it difficult for states to meet that.
Can you speak to some of the challenges, for example, to
when we look at the decertification of millions of dollars
worth of equipment that I mentioned? Can you quickly--well, I
have used a lot of time already, but can you speak to that?
Then I will have a number of written questions to you, because
these--we can't just sit here on both sides and speak in
grandiose terms. We need to get down to the nuts and bolts in
this and figure out what is going to happen and if it is even
Mr. Warner. Thank you, Senator. I think you have
articulated the sentiment, especially of the people of West
Virginia, with the problems with this bill. On the equipment
itself, it just--since it doesn't exist, you have to get
through that process of the vendors actually developing that.
They say and it is anywhere between 12 and 36 months. So that
would shoot way past even the January 2022 timeframe. Then
there is the whole process of acquiring that equipment. Then
there is the training the clerks and then the clerks training
the poll workers on that. It is just unrealistic and that is
one of the major concerns that our clerks have expressed to us.
Senator Fischer. You know, I saw much of this when I was in
the Nebraska legislature, I chaired the Transportation
Telecommunications committee. We had to implement Real I.D. and
Nebraska was one of the first states to be able to get that
done. It takes time. It takes time to do the Help America Vote
Act when that came out. It takes resources.
So when we are looking at a complete Federal takeover of
the election system of the United States of America, we need to
understand what is fully involved here. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Warner. Yes, ma'am.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. I am back from
voting. We have been able to run two votes with us having a
seamless hearing. I want to thank Senator Blunt for helping me
with that. If any of our witnesses need a three or 4 minute
break here, let us know because we will just finish up unless
Senators want to have a second round of questioning of this
panel. So next is Senator King.
Senator King. Thank you, Madam Chair, I appreciate it and
appreciate the recognition of the voting. As a former Governor,
I am sort of conflicted here because I am a strong believer in
states' rights and the states have the ability and need the
ability to make their own laws according to their local needs
and their local situation. On the other hand, I view many of
the provisions of this bill as a kind of extension of the 1965
Voting Rights Act. As it has been testified, the Congress has
involved itself in voting and voting rights on numerous
occasions. Really what we are talking about here is protecting
the right to vote.
So I wanted to ask a couple of questions, Mr. Waldman. One
is a sort of forward looking request. You are collecting data.
You have reported on all of these bills that have been filed
around the country. I would appreciate it if you would notify
the committee perhaps on a bi-weekly basis as we move into the
consideration of this bill, what is happening to those bills
that have been introduced around the country.
Ranking Member Blunt pointed out that some of them will be
enacted and some won't. I think it would help us in our
deliberations to learn exactly which of these bills have gone
forward in which states, and that will allow us to sharpen the
provisions of the bill. Mr. Waldman, can you do that for us,
Mr. Waldman. We certainly can. Indeed, our website already
tracks the path of these bills, but we will make it very useful
and useful to the committee, but it is also the case that there
is a very fierce push to enact these bills happening in plain
sight in front of our eyes. We ought not, I would suggest,
ignore that either.
Senator King. I agree with you. I think if we are talking
about enacting a law to protect the right to vote, then we
shouldn't have to wait for states to be infringing on that
right. This should be a protective measure. There hasn't been a
lot of discussion, and I suppose, Mr. Waldman, you are the guy
to ask about this, at least when I have been here at the
committee meeting this morning about gerrymandering. I consider
that one of the most serious problems afflicting our democracy.
It happens in both ways. There are Democratic gerrymandered
seats. There are Republican gerrymandered seats. The problem
is, instead of the voters choosing the politicians, the
politicians choose the voters. Talk to me about the effect of
gerrymandering in this country, the extent of it, and what it
is doing to our politics.
Mr. Waldman. Thank you, Senator. You are exactly right.
Both parties gerrymander when they can, and it is a risk to the
representation of voters. It is a risk of partisan abuse. It is
a risk of choking off the voices of communities of color that
are often the fastest growing communities.
This legislation follows what a lot of states have done,
what a lot of voters have put in place, in a lot of states. It
bans partisan gerrymandering. It requires that redistricting be
done with standards for representation of communities and other
fair standards, and includes commissions, nonpartisan
commissions to implement this, but even if this legislation is
not passed in time to implement those, it has very, very
valuable national standards to ensure that all voters are able
to have competitive and representative elections.
Senator King. One of the hidden problems with
gerrymandering is if you have got a district that is all
Democratic or heavily Democratic or heavily Republican, you
tend to have members elected who are on the edges of their two
parties. It is--you don't win a primary in one of those by
being moderate. I think that is one of the things that has
contributed to the polarization that we see in the Congress.
Have you observed that?
Mr. Waldman. Yes, sir. That does seem to be the case and of
course, in legislatures as well. The rules in this bill don't
just affect right now, as we know, because redistricting
happens every 10 years and it is going to begin in a few months
around the country. If there are abusive redistricting
practices and unfair maps that are drawn, those can lock in a
bad system, can lock in advantage for much of a decade. It
really does make it something where voters don't want to vote
if they don't have a real opportunity to be heard.
Senator King. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court punted on
that issue when I think they had a good case before them that
they could have handled, and I think abdicated the
constitutional responsibility. That is another question. I want
to thank all the witnesses today.
I just want to close with a little piece about Maine, we
have same day registration, no excuse absentee voting, no voter
I.D. and no fraud. I just wonder about all of these provisions
that are being enacted all over the country to chase a fraud,
fraud allegations that I have not yet seen validated in any
objective forum. So, Madam Chair, I appreciate the hearing,
Ranking Member Blunt, and look forward to consideration of the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Well, thank you very much, Senator
King. We do appreciate the Maine Secretary of State's support
for this bill as well. Next, Senator Hagerty.
Senator Hagerty. Thank you, Chair. I want to direct this
question both to Secretary Warner and to General Rokita. I want
to ask you if you agree with me, that this bill, by eliminating
common sense security measures for voting, by bypassing elected
state representatives, is really a power grab by those
politicians that are currently in power that wrote this bill to
use their power--even though it is so thin in a 50-50 Senate--
to use their power to fundamentally change the rules of the
game so they stay in power permanently?
Mr. Warner. That is what it would appear to be, Senator.
Senator Hagerty. General Rokita, do you agree?
Mr. Rokita. Yes, and you can just, like, look at the--
excuse me, look at the number of the bill. It was H.R. 1 and
Senate Bill 1. As Leader McConnell said, it is very telling
what the most important priority is for Democrats. I mean,
frankly, I have never seen a group of people complain so much
Senator Hagerty. Doesn't using Government power to ensure
you stay in power sound more like the Maduro regime, or
Chairman Mao's regime, than it does something would happen here
in the United States?
Mr. Rokita. Yes. I think the American people see right
through it. That is why the Senate has got to vote this bill
down just to maintain, for nothing else, maintain their
credibility with the American people.
As you look at these state legislators, and whether the
bills that they are proposing are good or bad or ugly or what,
they are responding to their constituents. They are responding
to the American people. They are closer, frankly, to the
American people than the Federal Government is.
Clearly, people felt that because of the last minute rule
changes and everything else, the last election wasn't a good
one from a process standpoint. The 2018 and 2016 elections were
Senator Hagerty. General, can I keep you on point for just
a few more minutes? I would like to ask three quick questions,
and I think they could probably be simple yes or no answers.
General Rokita, is it accurate that under this bill it is quite
possible that a court in Washington, DC. would redraw every
single congressional district in all 50 states before the 2020
midterm elections rather than allowing the elected
representatives of those people in those states?
Mr. Rokita. Yes, that is exactly where this is going. You
can argue whether redistricting is good or bad and if it could
be done better, but you make it a lot worse by definition when
you take it more out of the hands of the people. The fact of
the matter is, state legislatures are directly elected by the
people. District Court Circuit Judges or three panel appellate
judges are the most removed from the people, by design in terms
of the judiciary, but it is the responsibility, as the framers
intentionally noted, that the first branch of Government, the
legislatures, be in charge of this process for accountability
Senator Hagerty. Yes, I can tell you the people in
Tennessee would agree with you. We would not want to cede our
power to set the rules of elections to the district court here
in Washington, DC. Next question is requiring a voter to
present a reliable form of identification an important method
of determining that a voter is who that voter claims to be and
not trying to impersonate someone else?
Mr. Rokita. Absolutely. Yes. It is 19th and 20th century
technology, and it is very simple. Only a photo allows you to
determine that you are who you say you are. It is important for
confidence, but you can argue whether there is voter fraud or
not voter fraud in your state. It depends if you are actually
looking No. 1. Also, No. 2, it is a very difficult crime to
spot because the evidence goes away right after the vote is
There is no dead body with an outline to make afterwards to
prove a crime. It goes away. So it is very difficult, and
prosecutors don't like prosecuting it because it is very
different than the run of the mill crimes that they are used to
So that should not be the measure. The measure should be
the confidence that it brings to the process. Time and again,
like the Mexico example I gave, the Indiana example I gave,
where turnout goes up after the election--after presenting a
photo I.D. is valid because it is telling people, you know
what, we are going to invest in this process like we do when
you go rent a video, as you used to do, or where you go to get
on an airplane. We are going to care enough about your vote to
make sure that it is one person, one vote. That is what photo
Senator Hagerty. Yes. One last question. Would you agree
that allowing paid by the hour political operatives to go out
and harvest ballots and drop them in unmanned boxes would
actually decrease election integrity?
Mr. Warner. Absolutely, Senator. The answer to your former
question was, yes.
Mr. Rokita. It would absolutely----
Senator Hagerty. General Rokita. General?
Mr. Rokita. Sorry, I didn't mean to step on anybody, I was
going to--yes, absolutely. That would be chaos. That is the
real definite chaos, waiting in a line, hopefully a short line
is not chaos, but this kind of stuff coupled with the lawsuits
that are going to come with this bill, that it is going to be
chaos for 2022 and beyond.
Senator Hagerty. Thank you.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Senator Hagerty, you are done? Okay,
thank you very much. Next, Senator Ossoff.
Senator Ossoff. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to
our distinguished panel for your testimony. Thank you as well
to Senator Merkley for your leadership on this issue. Madam
Chair, as you know, this is an issue of particular concern as
one of the Senators from Georgia, and it is with a heavy heart
that I report to the committee and to the panel for those who
are not aware that right now in Georgia's state legislature, a
significant faction of Georgia's Republican delegation is
pursuing utterly meritless, blatant voter suppression
legislation that is so brazen in its partisan and racial
targeting that even Georgia's own Republican Lieutenant
Governor refused to oversee the debate of this legislation
because it is obvious to all and indeed openly admitted by some
of these Republican legislators that the exclusive purpose of
this legislation is to gain a partisan edge in the elections by
making it more difficult for black voters and working class
voters in Georgia to vote.
I take exception to the comments that you just made, Mr.
Rokita, that public concern regarding the integrity of the
recent election is borne of anything but a deliberate and
sustained misinformation campaign led by a vain former
President unwilling to accept his own defeat, who, rather than
observing the sacred tradition and necessary process of a
peaceful transition of power for a losing candidate for the
Presidency, undertook a scorched earth effort to undermine
public confidence in the integrity of our elections that was so
dramatic and so destructive that it culminated in a violent
assault on the United States Capitol.
Former President Trump's own senior officials, cabinet
officials, directly rebutted his meritless claims that there
was any level of voter fraud that might have had a substantive
impact on the outcome of the election. I find it disturbing
that a chief law enforcement officer from one of our great
states would indulge in that kind of misinformation and spread
those kinds of conspiracies when public confidence in the
integrity of our elections is absolutely essential to
sustaining our democracy. I want to turn for a moment now to
the legislation before us----
Mr. Rokita. A minute to respond to that?
Senator Ossoff. No, you may not. I would like to turn now
for a moment to Ms.----
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Senator Ossoff, give him 30 seconds
Senator Ossoff. Go ahead, sir.
Mr. Rokita. Yes, Senator. I mean, that is true. I mean, we
are trying to have a constructive debate. You are not adding to
it by cutting people off after invoking their name. I would say
that you are entitled to your opinion, as misinformed as it may
be, but I share the opinion of millions of Americans. The other
difference between my opinion and yours is mine comes with the
ability to file lawsuits.
Senator Ossoff. Well, whether our elections have been
conducted with integrity is a matter of fact, not a matter of
opinion. Moving along, I would like to ask Ms. Muller. We have
seen in Georgia some of this legislation filed intended to make
it more difficult for some to vote, would even bar the
distribution of water and snacks to people who are being forced
to wait in lines that in Georgia have stretched as long as 6 or
8 or 10 hours as a function of inadequate resourcing of
election infrastructure and training of election personnel.
What is your view, Ms. Muller, of this sort of voter
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Yes, that--Ms. Muller is coming right
up on our next panel, but why don't we ask one of our other
Senator Ossoff. Sure. Mr. Holder.
Mr. Holder. Yes, I think that I am very concerned about
that. I have looked at studies that show that African-Americans
in Atlanta had to wait 51 minutes to vote, white Atlantans had
to wait 6 minutes to vote. There is no indication of widespread
voter fraud. You say it, people say it all the time, but simply
saying it doesn't make it so. So these measures that they are
trying to put in place are really only designed to make it
difficult for people who they think will vote against them,
make it more difficult for those people to vote without any
kind of basis for the concerns that they express.
Senator Ossoff. Thank you, Mr. Holder. Thank you to the
panel. Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Senator Ossoff.
Next up, Senator Hyde-Smith.
Senator Hyde-Smith. Before we start, I have a question of
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Sure.
Senator Hyde-Smith. Earlier, Senator Schumer, the Majority
Leader, had requested a response from Republican members of
this committee as to things that were happening in Georgia?
When is the appropriate time that I can respond to the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. You could respond right now, Senator
Senator Hyde-Smith. Thank you very much.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you.
Senator Hyde-Smith. Senator Schumer's question was he was
wondering why on Sundays, Georgia would not participate in an
electoral process of gathering signatures, of registration and
things on Sunday. I would just like to respond to that. Georgia
is a southern state just like Mississippi. I cannot speak for
Georgia, but I can speak for Mississippi on why we would never
do that on a Sunday or hold an election on a Sunday. You know,
this is our currency. This is a dollar bill. This says the
United States of America, In God We Trust. Etched in stone in
the United States Senate chamber is In God We Trust. When you
swore in all of these witnesses, the last thing you said to
them in your instructions was, so help you God. In God's word,
in Exodus 20:18, it says, remember the Sabbath and keep it
So that is my response to Senator Schumer. Thank you, Madam
Chairwoman. Now I will begin with my questions. Also, I have a
letter that I would like to have entered into the record. You
know, I am really concerned how this legislation would
negatively affect the integrity of the election system.
I recently received a letter from our Secretary of State in
Mississippi, Michael Watson, and he was concerned that the
various provisions in this Act provide new pathways for
election fraud, undermine the First Amendment right to free
speech through censorship of campaign activity and restrict
states authority to conduct local elections.
So given Secretary Watson's role as Mississippi's chief
election officer, I would ask that the entire letter from
Secretary Watson be entered into the record.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Without objection, entered in the
[The information referred to was submitted for the record.]
Senator Hyde-Smith. One of the specific concerns raised by
Secretary Watson was the bill's effect on Mississippi's voter
I.D. law. Voter I.D. was adopted by the people of Mississippi
in 2011, and not only did we adopt it, we made it an amendment
to the State Constitution. It was passed by an overwhelming
margin, and the voter I.D. has been implemented with success in
Mississippi. We have provided Government issued I.D., free of
cost to our citizens, not only to vote, but any other thing
that they might need a Government I.D. for. Our Secretary at
that time, Delbert Hosemann, worked closely with the Obama
Justice Department and beginning in the drafting of the phases
of the enabling law through the final implementation.
The result of this collaboration is that Mississippi's
voter I.D. law is working successfully, while such policies in
other states have been embroiled in extensive litigation.
However, the legislation before us today would nullify
Mississippi's successful voter I.D. law. Under S. 1, in a
Federal election, an individual could walk into a polling
place, register and vote on the spot without ever showing any
proof of identity or residency, and for that matter of age.
Mr. Rokita, I am going to put this one to you, how would
allowing individuals to register and vote in a Federal election
without ever confirming their identity or residency lead to
further undermining voter confidence?
Mr. Rokita. Well, thank you, Senator. Yes, the implications
are obvious. More cheating, more potential for abuse, couple
that with aggressive ballot harvesting as this bill promotes
and doesn't allow prohibitions against. So you can see where
all this is going. I go back to what Leader McConnell said
during his opening remarks, which was true when we all
implemented the Help America Vote Act about 20 years ago and it
improved the process because it was bipartisan.
Yes, make it easier to vote, but make it harder to cheat.
Senator, what this bill does--and by the way, I don't take the
premise that it is hard to vote. There has to be some basic
responsibilities for the individual in a free Republic. One of
those has to be taking reasonable, common sense initiatives to
cast your ballot. We can continue to improve upon that, of
course. I think that one of the huge avenues we can continue to
explore is technology.
But if you don't couple that improvement of the voting
process, like using technology, with individual responsibility
and accountability, then all you are doing is making it easier
to cheat. So where the Help America Vote Act was, yes, let's
make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, this bill is let's
make it easier to cheat, period.
Senator Hyde-Smith. I agree with you on that. I just did a
press conference in reference to Jennifer Jackson in
Brookhaven, Mississippi, who called me. She had gone to vote,
and she was told, ``You can't vote.'' You have already voted.
She saw where someone had signed her name. She looked above it
and her deceased father had already voted that morning as well.
So the fact that voter fraud is prevalent, it is rampant, and
in close elections, it does make a difference. I have got just
a few minutes. One minute. This bill would also create a
complicated multi-ballot system for states like Mississippi, as
you referred to.
Given that voter I.D. as part of our State Constitution,
the state will still have to require voter I.D. for voting on
state and local issues, even if the law prohibits it for
Federal elections. This would create a system of multiple
ballots and conflicting rules, which will make voting much more
complex and time consuming for voters and those running our
If our goal is to reduce wait times at the polls, this
multi ballot system, combined with the same day voter
registration, would drastically increase the amount of time it
takes to vote. Secretary Warner, how will the conflicts between
this bill and state law create problems and make voting more
difficult in West Virginia?
Mr. Warner. Well, I think West Virginia is very similar as
you describe the process and the people in Mississippi. I think
I was hearing and seeing the people in West Virginia in a
similar light. This process of automatic or the same day
registration and that voting is the thing that the clerks
mentioned to me the most that was going to complicate their
administration of the elections. Then the I.D. does not present
problems. I found it ironic that on this morning's news there
was talking about bringing your I.D. to get a COVID shot.
We are requiring people to bring an idea to get a COVID
shot but says that it is a problem to vote. No, people don't
have problems. We implemented voter I.D. just a couple of years
ago ourselves in West Virginia. No problems whatsoever with the
implementation. No complaints.
In fact, people would typically come into the polling
precinct and hand people their I.D. before they were even asked
because that was the expectation. When we have the voter I.D.
laws, it adds confidence to the process. So this bill
complicates the entire process going in the wrong direction
from where we need to go.
Senator Hyde-Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. Warner. Thank you.
Senator Hyde-Smith. I yield.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Senator Hyde-
Smith. I think that concludes our panel. We are going to move
on to the second panel. I want to thank all of our witnesses.
It was a good morning on a critically important bill. So thank
you, and we will just take a minute to switch out the panels.
Thank all of you for coming and testifying before us. I can see
our people who are virtual waving and I am waving back.
Alright, thank you.
Well, thank you very much, and we are going right through
today, so we really appreciate our second panel. I am going to
just mention who they are, then swear them in, and then give
them their righteous and rightful introductions. So with us
today is the honorable Trevor Potter, the former Republican
chair of the Federal Election Commission, who is here to
testify for the bill, the honorable Lee Goodman, former
Republican chair of the Federal Election Commission, who will
be on the other side against the bill.
The third is Fred Wertheimer, the President of Democracy
21. I believe, he has been working on these issues for over 50
years, but we will let him tell us that. Then we also have with
us the honorable Bradley Smith, former Republican chair of the
Federal Election Commission. Then Tiffany Muller, the President
of End Citizens United.
The purpose of the second panel is to focus on the campaign
finance and the ethics portions of the bill, where the first
panel was focused on the voting portions of the bill. So if the
witnesses could stand, including our remote witnesses, so I
could swear you in. Raise your right hand. Do you swear that
the testimony you will give before the committee shall be the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you
Mr. Potter. I do.
Mr. Wertheimer. I do.
Mr. Smith. I do.
Mr. Goodman. I do.
Ms. Muller. I do.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you. You may be seated. Today
on our second panel is Mr. Trevor Potter. Mr. Potter is the
former Republican Chair of the Federal Election Commission. He
is also the President of the Campaign Legal Center, which he
founded in 2002. Mr. Potter was appointed to the Federal
Election Commission by President George H.W. Bush in 1991,
where he served as a Commissioner until 1995. He served as
General Counsel to Senator John McCain's 2000 and 2008
Presidential campaigns. He has authored several books and
manuals on lobbying, regulation and disclosure, campaign
finance, and Federal election law. He has chaired numerous
American Bar Association election law and lobbying regulation
committees and task forces and is currently a member of the
ABA's Standing committee on Election Law.
He has also served on the Common Cause National Governing
Board and currently serves as an adviser for the American Law
Institute and Issue One. He received his undergraduate degree
from Harvard and his law degree from the University of Virginia
School of Law.
Fred Wertheimer is the Founder and President of Democracy
21, as I mentioned. In 1971, he joined Common Cause, where over
the course of 24 years he served as the organization's
Legislative Director, Vice President for Program Operations,
In 1997, Mr. Wertheimer established Democracy 21, which has
played a role in the enactment of the Bipartisan Campaign
Reform Act of 2002, and the Honest Leadership and Open
Government Act of 2007, and the establishment of the Office of
congressional Ethics in 2008. He has served as a fellow at
Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and
Public Policy, and also as a visiting lecturer at Yale. He has
served as a political analyst, and he has participated as a
lawyer in every major Supreme Court campaign finance case since
1976, including Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. FEC. I
think we can concede here that he is qualified to be a witness
in front of this body. He received his undergraduate degree
from the University of Michigan and his law degree from
Tiffany Muller is our--will be speaking last on the panel.
She is the President and Executive Director of End Citizens
United. She has been in this role since 2016. She became the
first openly gay public official in Kansas in 2004 as a member
of the Topeka City Council, where she led successful efforts to
expand anti-discrimination protections.
After working for Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Ms. Muller
ran a political research firm in Florida. She served as Chief
of Staff to two Members of Congress. Prior to joining End
Citizens United, she was a Deputy Political Director for the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign committee. She received her
undergraduate degree from Washburn University and her master's
degree from the University of Maryland. Now I will turn it over
to Ranking Member Blunt to introduce the other two witnesses.
Senator Blunt. Thank you, Chairwoman. Welcome to all of our
panelists. The two I get to introduce, Lee Goodman. Mr. Goodman
previously served as Chairman of the commission, the
Commissioner, and Commissioner both of Federal Elections
Commission. He has served as the Legal Counsel and Policy
Adviser to the Governor of Virginia, the Attorney General of
Virginia, the Associate General counsel to the University of
Virginia and General Counsel to a number of political
organizations. His experience covers a broad range of policy
oriented subjects, including Federal and state campaign finance
laws, ethics laws, and election administration. We are glad to
have him with us as well.
Another former commissioner of the Federal Election
Commission, Bradley Smith. Professor Smith is the Founder and
Chairman of the Institute for Free Speech and is the Josiah
Blackmore and Shirley Nault Professor of Law at Capital
University in Columbus, Ohio. Again, he previously served as
the Commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission, including
Vice Chairman in 2003 and Chairman in 2004. Thank you,
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Well, thank you very much. Each
witness will now be recognized for 5 minutes for their opening
statement. We will begin with the Honorable Mr. Potter.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE TREVOR POTTER, FORMER REPUBLICAN
CHAIR OF THE FEC AND FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF CAMPAIGN LEGAL
CENTER, WASHINGTON, DC.
Mr. Potter. Thank you, Senator Klobuchar and Senator Blunt,
for the honor of appearing before you today in support of S. 1,
the For the People Act. The Campaign Legal Center, of which I
am President, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization
dedicated to advancing American democracy through law. Many of
S. 1's provisions have bipartisan origins and have broad
bipartisan public support, with majorities of voters from both
parties saying they back provisions in the legislation.
I do not believe this bill benefits one party over the
other, but it does benefit the American people by making their
Government and election process more accessible and
Let me give you a few examples of the bipartisan roots of
key provisions of S. 1. The FEC reform provisions are drawn
from a bipartisan bill introduced in the last three Congresses.
Digital disclosure provisions are drawn from the Honest Ads
Act, introduced in the last two Congresses with bipartisan
support, and reforms to strengthen the Foreign Agents
Registration Act have a similar bipartisan background. Super
PAC coordination provisions echo those included in bipartisan
bills and are similar to bipartisan state measures, such as a
2019 bill introduced in West Virginia by a Republican State
Senator and passed with bipartisan support, and signed into law
by that State's Republican Governor. Provisions that would end
shadow lobbying tracked the bipartisan bills previously
introduced and implement recommendations from a bipartisan
American Bar Association task force.
I would like to note one critical component of S. 1 that
CLC believes is particularly important: reform of the FEC. The
Federal Election Commission has grown deeply dysfunctional, and
our democracy is suffering as a result. During my time at the
FEC, I remember only one agency deadlock on an enforcement
matter. Deadlocks now occur with great frequency, almost
routinely if the matter has significant political or legal
My written testimony to this committee details the rise of
these deadlocks over the last decade and the numbers are stark.
Some will try to argue that things aren't as bad as the record
shows, but in doing so, they play games using numbers that
equate routine commission votes, such as approving the minutes,
with votes on major enforcement matters. Or, they average
commission votes over the FEC's whole history when the
deadlocks are almost all in the last 10 years.
The failure of the FEC to muster a majority in recent years
to enforce campaign finance laws has resulted in an explosion
in secret spending by C(4)s and other groups that do not
disclose their donors. In the 2020 election cycle, dark money
groups spent $1 billion in political advertising or other
expenditures, including $600 million transferred to Super PACs
to spend, thereby blatantly laundering the money to prevent
disclosure of the donors.
The open involvement of Federal candidates and office
holders in raising funds for their supposedly independent Super
PACs raises the very real danger of corruption. Some people
will tell you that FEC Commissioners who refused to support
transparency are only protecting First Amendment rights, but
the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in Citizens United, that knowing
the source of funding of political advertising is a crucial
right of voters. ``Requiring groups like Citizens United, which
was not a political committee, to disclose their donors is
constitutional the Supreme Court said in that case.''
Yet, the FEC has repeatedly deadlocked on disclosure
issues, whether to write regulations implementing the
disclosure holdings of Citizens United or in multiple
enforcement matters involving disclosure.
S. 1 would therefore restructure the FEC to address well-
documented problems by changing the number of FEC
Commissioners, improving the Commissioner's selection process,
strengthening the enforcement process to prevent Commissioners
from deadlocking on making investigations at an early stage,
and making meaningful judicial review of FEC action or inaction
easier. I believe these changes will allow the FEC to function
as the crucial and effective watchdog it needs to be. Thank
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Potter was submitted for the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. Next up, we have
the honorable Lee Goodman. Thank you.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HONORABLE LEE GOODMAN, FORMER REPUBLICAN
CHAIR OF THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, WASHINGTON, DC.
Mr. Goodman. [Technical problems.]--one point of
clarification. Chair Klobuchar, you announced that I was here
in opposition to S. 1. I can tell you that in 800 pages of
legislation, I am sure there are some elements of the bill that
I could speak in favor of.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Excellent.
Mr. Goodman. However, there are provisions in the campaign
finance section that--can you hear me now?
Chairwoman Klobuchar. We could hear you before. You are
Mr. Goodman.----outweigh many of the benefits of the bill.
I also believe that the bill misfires and is inadequate in many
ways to address, for example, in the foreign meddling approach
using the Honest Ads provisions. The central feature of the
bill that I believe makes the bill objectionable for the
American people, is its vast expansion of the type of speech
Americans wish to engage in, subjecting them to public and
compulsory disclosure and doxing. It does that in two central
First, it imposes on the compulsory exposure regime of the
FEC a requirement that citizens disclose who they are, who
their donors are, who their members are any time they make a
``campaign related disbursement'' in an election cycle of
$10,000 or more, and a ``campaign related disbursement'' is
defined as any communication, any public communication that
would include pamphlets, direct mail, robocalls, TV broadcast,
and online. Any time somebody funds a public communication,
even if it is focused solely on legislation, but it
nevertheless mentions a politician in connection with that
legislation in a favorable or unfavorable light, also known as
the PASO Standard: promote, attack, support or oppose. That is
an extremely vague standard on which to regulate the American
people's desire to speak and to exercise their First Amendment
right to speak if they so choose anonymously on policy and
issues. You don't have to look very far in the law to find good
examples of how vague that standard is. It would represent a
vast expansion of speech regulation in America to everyday,
ordinary policy speech.
The second area that this bill expands public compulsory
disclosure and exposure of citizens and groups when they want
to speak is under the Honest Ads provisions.
The Honest Ads provisions require that any time an
individual or organization desires to speak about any matter of
public policy, in the bill, it discusses ``issues of national
importance.'' Any time you want to spend $500 to do so online,
you must disclose who you are, you must disclose the leaders of
your organization, your address, and details about your
communication to the public. Yet it does so under the purported
interest of preventing foreign meddling. Yet it targets the
speech of American citizens and it imposes on American media
companies all new liability, both civil and criminal liability,
because one bill makes American media companies both the
policemen of foreign speech that might end up on their online
platforms and subjects them to potential criminal sanctions if
they fail to do so.
So while it starts as a proposal for Russian meddling, it
imposes restrictions on all American citizens and media
companies. It is under inclusive to even effectively address
active measures by foreign countries because it covers only
paid ads, not the free posts that occur on social media. It
affects only large platforms. Yet there are thousands of
smaller platforms that reach hundreds of millions of Americans.
It does not address that. It does not address print media,
direct mail, robocalls and other forms of communications. It
imposes all new standards on media companies, and it also has a
fundamental contradiction with the Foreign Agents Registration
Act, which exempts the media for carrying foreign propaganda.
United States Courts have ruled this law unconstitutional--
excuse me, a very similar law in Maryland.
All of this expansion of speech regulation must be
understood in the current context, in the times in which we
live, where we have heightened political polarization and
intolerance in America, because that informs the degree of
chill and restriction on actual speech that will occur if this
expansion of speech regulation takes effect. Thank you, Chair.
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Goodman was submitted for
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. Our next
witness, Mr. Wertheimer.
OPENING STATEMENT OF FRED WERTHEIMER, PRESIDENT OF DEMOCRACY 21
AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF COMMON CAUSE, WASHINGTON, DC.
Mr. Wertheimer. [Technical problems.]--to testify today.
Also I want to thank Senate Majority Leader Schumer, lead
sponsor Senator Merkley, and Chairwoman Klobuchar for their
leadership on S. 1, which we consider an essential bill for
democracy reform. There is nothing new about the campaign
finance proposals in S. 1. I testified before this committee in
2012 for the DISCLOSE Act, the major campaign finance
provisions that have been before the Congress and the Senate,
at least since 2017 and earlier. In many other cases, campaign
finance reform proposals were passed in the House.
In 2019, I testified before the House Administration
committee. The Senate majority in the last Congress chose not
to consider this bill and not to hold hearings. I first
testified before this committee in this room in 1973. As I was
waiting to testify, a newly elected Senator, Senator Joe Biden
of Delaware, testified and spoke on behalf of public financing
of elections. He described public financing as the swiftest and
surest way to purge our election systems of the corruption,
that whatever the safeguards, money inevitably brings.
Senator Biden continued to be a leading voice for public
financing of elections throughout his career. Congress enacted
the Presidential public financing system in 1974 with a
bipartisan vote and after the Senate twice had passed a similar
bill that was blocked by the House. The new system worked well
for decades. Almost every major party candidate used the system
for seven elections. Three Republicans and two Democrats were
elected President using this system. President Ronald Reagan
benefited most from this system, using it three times. The RNC
and the DNC voluntarily requested and accepted public funds to
help finance their convention for decades. The system broke
down in 2000, when the growth of the costs of campaigns simply
outweighed the benefits that the system provided.
Congress never revised the system. The campaign finance
system today is flooded with funds coming from influence
seeking billionaires, millionaires, lobbyists, bundlers,
business executives, dark money groups, Super PACs, and special
interest PACs. As a result of Supreme Court decisions, the
American people have been treated to the spectacle of the top
donor and his spouse in the 2020 elections, giving $218 million
to influence the 2020 elections.
The next leading individual donors provided $153 million,
$72 million, $68 million, and $67 million respectively. The top
hundred donors to Super PACs provided $2.1 billion. The
national median family income in the United States in Fiscal
Year 2020 was $78,500. The current system may benefit the
interest of the donors, the Super PACs, dark money, nonprofits,
and the candidates that are being supported, but it does not
benefit the interests of the American people.
S. 1 addresses this problem by providing an alternative
financing system that gives candidates the voluntary option to
finance their campaigns with small contributions matched at a
six to one ratio. There is a big difference between the
Presidential system and this system. The Presidential system
was financed with tax revenues. The new system prohibits the
use of tax revenues to finance the matching funds. The system
would be financed entirely by a small surcharge on penalties
and settlements paid to the Government by corporations,
corporate executives, and wealthy tax cheats. The system also
does not have spending limits and therefore it does not run
into the problem that the Presidential system ran into. Thank
you very much.
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Wertheimer was submitted for
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Mr. Wertheimer.
Next, we turn to the honorable Bradley Smith.
OPENING STATEMENT OF BRADLEY SMITH, CHAIRMAN OF THE INSTITUTE
FOR FREE SPEECH AND FORMER REPUBLICAN CHAIR OF THE FEDERAL
ELECTION COMMISSION, COLUMBUS, OHIO
Mr. Smith. Thank you Chair Klobuchar, Ranking Member Blunt,
and members of the committee. S. 1, I think, is frankly a
cynical bill. This 800 page bill is not for the people, it is
for the politicians. Note that as we meet here today, if a
citizen went to Congress.gov to try to learn what this bill was
about, he would be met with this message: ``As of March 24,
2021 the text has not been received for S. 1.''
This rush forward with a lengthy and complex bill suggests
a desire to make sure that few of the American people actually
understand its impact, but the insiders understand it.
Yesterday, in a training session on how to pressure Senators to
pass S. 1, held by an ad hoc group called Declaration for
Democracy, a Democratic United States Senator expressed his
belief that S. 1 would eliminate two thirds of the speech
critical of the progressive agenda, and speaker after speaker
noted that S. 1 was needed because it would silence voices that
question the progressive agenda and thus makes that agenda
easier to pass.
The cynicism for the For the Politicians Act is highlighted
by two provisions. The first is the point just noted by Mr.
Wertheimer, that the bill claims not to use taxpayer money to
fund elections. It then immediately sets up a system using
taxpayer money to fund elections. The bill provides that the
system will be paid for with fines, penalties, and the sale of
Government assets, but all of this is taxpayer money and all of
us know that. How cynical is it to claim that the funds of the
United States Government are not taxpayer money, like they are
just magical funds that are somehow there?
Next is the change in the FEC from a bipartisan
organization to an agency under partisan control. How cynical
is this? All morning long through the first panel I listened to
one member of after another of this committee insist that we
had to pass S. 1 to do away with partisan redistricting, but
apparently we need to pass S. 1 to get partisan enforcement of
campaign finance laws. If I wanted to foster distrust in
American elections, I could think of few better ways to do it
than to change the FEC from a bipartisan to a partisan
S. 1 would put the FEC under effective partisan control of
the Democratic Party through at least the 2026 midterms, longer
if a Democrat is elected President in 2024. Now the cynical
claim is that this is not true because one member will be
independent, but we know that there are independents, and there
are independents. For example, currently the Republicans hold
of 50-48 majority in the Senate, which is why Senator Blunt
opened this meeting, and I am hear as majority--no, wait, that
is not right, is it?
That is because the body's two independent Senators caucus
with the Democrats and I think it is fair to say that one of
those two, Senator Sanders, is further from the typical
Republican than is the typical Democrat. Indeed, the FEC
technically has an independent now, but he caucuses with the
Democrats and was former Democratic leader Harry Reid's
attorney, and was appointed to a Democratic seat on the
commission on Senator Reid's recommendation. It is cynicism,
raw cynicism, to try to claim that this is not a partisan power
grab at the FEC.
Now, the first defense of every rogue violator of campaign
finance laws is that the FEC is on a partisan witch hunt.
The response we all know immediately, and I have heard from
Mr. Potter, heard from Mr. Wertheimer, ``the commission is
bipartisan. Got to have bipartisan majority.'' If S. 1 passes,
of course, this will be gone. If you want to create cynicism, I
think having a partisan enforcement body is a good way to do
it. Of course, this new partisan FEC will have lots of new
rules to write and enforce.
Your opening statement, Madam Chair, was correct that the
Supreme Court has upheld disclosure, but it was incorrect to
suggest, as has been suggested here by others on this panel,
that any particular proposals in this Act have Supreme Court
To the contrary, numerous Supreme Court decisions have
limited past attempts to expand disclosure in the sort of ways
included in this bill. Specifically, S. 1 would unwrite--it
would unconstitutionally regulate speech that mentions a
Federal candidate or elected official at any time under a
vague, subjective, and dangerously broad standard that asks
whether the speech promotes, attacks, or supports, or opposes,
``PASO''. This would, in effect mean that the media, which is
exempt, has even greater control of public discourse in
But the focus of the bill on identifying who is speaking is
also bad for democracy. We should be focusing on issues rather
than on individuals and contributors to organizations so that
those people can be doxed and personally attacked, exacerbating
the politics of personal destruction and further coarsening
political discourse in our country.
There is a lot more bad in this bill. I could go on for
some length, but my time is nearing an end. So we will leave it
to say that a detailed analysis of its provisions is available
at www.ifs.org by the Institute for Free Speech and in my
prepared comments. I look forward to questions. Thank you very
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Smith was submitted for the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. Our last witness
is Tiffany Muller.
OPENING STATEMENT OF TIFFANY MULLER, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE
DIRECTOR OF END CITIZENS UNITED/LET AMERICA VOTE ACTION FUND,
Ms. Muller. Thank you so much, Madam Chairwoman. Chairwoman
Klobuchar, Ranking Member Blunt, and distinguished members of
the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before
you today to discuss S. 1, the For the People Act. I would like
to thank Senator Merkley for introducing this bill with
Chairwoman Klobuchar and leading the efforts in the Senate. I
would also like to thank Senator Schumer for recognizing the
grave urgency to pass this bill and designating it S. 1.
Finally, I would like to thank the other witnesses
participating today, many of whom, like my colleagues Fred
Wertheimer and Trevor Potter, have given decades of service on
these issues as the chairwoman pointed out earlier.
My name is Tiffany Muller. I am the President of the End
Citizens United / / Let America Vote Action Fund. We are
dedicated to fighting the biggest threats to the foundation of
our democracy, unlimited and undisclosed money in politics and
I am pleased to be here to represent our 4 million members
nationwide. They are regular people in every state across the
country, teachers, nurses, first responders, and business
owners, and many more who make this country run. Like too many
other Americans, they believe their votes don't matter and
their voices aren't heard. Too often they are right. The For
the People Act can change that. It ensures people, not just the
powerful, are the foundation of our democracy. Americans
understand that the money in politics has led to corruption and
that ultimately, it is not only impacting their own bottom
lines, but their lives and the daily lives of their families.
They know corporate interests and big donors have access and
influence that they don't. They have seen the impact of a
broken Washington firsthand.
Here is how the corruption of our democracy has impacted
real people in this country. Big Pharma has spent hundreds of
millions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying
since 1990, and it was rewarded with the $76 billion corporate
tax cut, but drug prices didn't go down for our members or
anyone else, even during this pandemic. In fact, almost one out
of every three Americans quit taking medicine they needed this
past year because they couldn't afford it.
Another example: almost 90 percent of Americans support
background checks for all gun sales. It is not controversial,
yet even in the face of horrific mass shootings, including in
Colorado and Georgia just this week, Congress has been unable
to act. The NRA has spent nearly $130 million in outside money
in our elections since 2000 and has blocked even the smallest
progress. We can look at the response to this horrible pandemic
after an initial bipartisan effort to pass early relief, it
took over 9 months to allow a vote on much needed additional
assistance to American families. That delay was largely caused
by corporations demanding special carve outs to give them
That, Senators, is money in politics, and money in politics
has always been a problem, but the magnitude has exploded since
the 2010 Citizens United decision. In the 20 years before that
decision, there were $749 million in outside spending on
political issues. In the 10-years since, that has skyrocketed
to $7.3 billion. This flood of outside dollars has been driven
by a handful of wealthy Americans who often have different
priorities than everyone else. The amount of dark money is
increasing at a dangerous rate.
Right now, only a quarter of outside spending is fully
disclosed. Only a quarter. The American people deserve to know
who is trying to influence their vote and their representatives
in Government. Not only are these dark money forces preventing
progress on the most important policy issues, but they have
launched an all-out assault on the right to vote with an
intensity not seen since the Jim Crow era. In the run up to the
2020 election, dark money groups funded dozens of lawsuits
across the country, attempting to disenfranchise millions of
Americans. After the election, they spent millions more to
spread the big lie about fraud and that the election had been
stolen. Now they are funding an unprecedented attack on voting
rights at the state-level. The New York Times just reported
that dark money groups are driving this strategy because they
believe it is the only way to protect their interests. This all
underscores the urgent need to pass the For the People Act and
to pass it now.
The individual elements of this bill work together to take
on corruption, hold Government accountable, and put the power
into the hands of regular Americans. These are popular common
sense reforms to reduce the influence of money in politics,
crackdown on corruption in both parties, ensure accurate
elections, and protect voting rights. They will benefit
everyone regardless of their political affiliation, which is
why 83 percent of Americans, including nearly three quarters of
Republicans, want to see the For the People Act signed into
law. Thank you so much for having this hearing today on this
critical bill, and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared Statement of Mr. Muller was submitted for the
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much, Ms. Muller. I am
going to allow Senator Warner, who has a conflict, to take my
first slot here, but I did want to clarify one thing which was
stated by one of the witnesses. This bill is publicly
available. It is on the websites of both of the authors, the
lead authors of this bill, Senator Merkley and myself.
Sometimes there is delay in getting bills, especially long
bills on senate.gov.
But we all know this is very, very similar to H.R. 1, which
has been on the House website for a number of months. There
were some technical changes made on the Senate side, and you
can compare them, if you would like, with our bill, but I don't
think there is any question that the witnesses knew what is in
this bill. In fact, most of the major components have been out
there for years. With that, I will turn it over to Senator
Senator Warner. Thank you, Chair Klobuchar. Thank you for
calling both of these panels. Thank you for. leadership on this
issue. I want to start my questions with Mr. Wertheimer and Mr.
Potter. Or start by thanking both of you for your help that you
gave to Senator Klobuchar and I as we were drafting the Honest
Ads Act. It is one of the reasons why I am bumping the line
because I have got an intel hearing at 2 p.m.----
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Mark--Senator Warner, could you just
turn up your volume just a little bit? It is not a big deal.
Senator Warner. Okay. Usually I am told to tone down rather
than tone up. Is this better?
Chairwoman Klobuchar. That is a little better. Just keep
Senator Warner. So the Honest Ads Act, as you know, grew
out of what came out of the 2016 campaign where we saw social
media firms who were suddenly being used in politics and in a
dramatically different way than any prior national campaign. We
saw foreign actors in 2016, oftentimes Russians,
misrepresenting themselves as Americans on social media and
then literally purchasing, in certain cases, campaign ads in
We are seeing these efforts to effect domestic elections by
foreign actors. I think that can end up weakening confidence in
our political system. Mr. Wertheimer and Mr. Potter, can you
speak to the ways in which the Honest Ads Act brings
longstanding Constitutional transparency requirements for
politics in the digital age?
Mr. Wertheimer. Yes, the campaign finance disclosure laws,
for the most part, were written in the 1970's. The internet did
not exist. Computers barely existed in homes, but what the
Honest Ads Act does is bring the normal disclosure that has
existed for decades and that has been repeatedly upheld by the
Supreme Court onto campaign related communications on the
internet. I think it is extremely important because the
internet became a way of evading campaign finance disclosure
laws. We know that foreign interests and Russia in particular
took advantage of the ability to do anonymous, without
disclaimer, ads on the internet. I think it fills a major
loophole in the disclosure laws.
So I want to make one other comment here. The comment was
made that the PASO test was too vague and our colleagues who
made that comment have their views, but here is what the
Supreme Court said about the PASO test. They said it is not
unconstitutionally vague. It provides explicit standards for
those who apply them. The court said any public communication
that promotes or attacks a clearly identified Federal candidate
directly affects the election in which he is participating, he
or she I would add.
The record on this score could scarcely be more abundant.
Disclosure is the baseline of campaign finance laws and the
Honest Ads Act and the DISCLOSE Act fill gaping loopholes in
order--so that the American people can know when they see
campaign communications, who is behind those communications.
Mr. Potter. I am sorry, should I answer Senator Warner as
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Sure. If that is okay, Senator
Mr. Potter. I will be quick. Which is to say, the two key
pieces of this, I think are one, we are talking about paid
advertising on the internet. Paying more than $10,000 for
advertising is what then requires the disclosure of the sources
of funding. So we are not talking about people sitting at home
blogging away. Secondly, this establishes an archive so that
when advertising is paid, people can find out what is said.
That is really important because in the pre-internet world,
when somebody paid for advertising in a newspaper or on radio
or TV, there was a record of that kept in the business' files
or available to the public. You could see it and know who was
saying what. On the internet with targeted advertising, there
are communications that can go only to a very small segment of
people. No one else will know what is being said, but it is
paid advertising. That archive would require at least a public
record of who is paying for the advertising and communicating
with Americans about elections.
Senator Warner. I know I jumped line and my time has
Chairwoman Klobuchar. No, go ahead. You can go ahead.
Senator Warner. I want to thank you both and recognize that
while the social media companies have on a policy basis tried
to put some of these procedures in place, we still don't have
the law of the land. I think our democracy is important enough
that we are not to rely simply on the goodwill of Mark
Zuckerberg, even when he is doing the right thing. I would only
quickly add, Madam Chairwoman, one other component that I
thought was strong common sense.
As we have seen recently, the Director of National
Intelligence has come out with a report indicating in 2020
election, we saw Russian intervention again, we saw Iranian
intervention. We saw less Chinese, but potential for Chinese
intervention. I just hope, the FIRE Act, which is also part of
this important legislation, pretty darned simple, it says that
if a Foreign Intelligence Service tries to offer assistance to
a Presidential campaign, the appropriate response ought to be
call the FBI and not say thank you.
I won't get a chance to ask that question, but I appreciate
very much that piece of legislation being included. Thank you,
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Excellent. Thank you. We will turn to
Senator Blunt and then to Senator King.
Senator Blunt. Thank you, Chairwoman. I am a little
hesitant to do this. I only have 5 minutes. Again, grateful
that you are all here, but, Mr. Goodman, this may be the
easiest time to get into your view of this. You want to respond
to what you just talked about and maybe how the Maryland case
you think would apply here that you say already has been
determined to be unconstitutional but respond any way you want
for maybe a minute and a half and then I will interrupt you if
I need to. Is your mic on, sir?
Mr. Goodman. I am responding to Mr. Wertheimer's comment
that the Honest Ads provisions would affect ``campaign related
communications.'' Actually, the Honest Ads provisions require--
compel public doxing and disclosure of anyone who wants to
speak about any national issue, any public policy issue at all
without regard to elections, without ever referencing a
candidate for public office. You now have to disclose
everything about your and your communications under this bill.
Mr. Potter said that there was a trigger of $10,000. That
is not the trigger for disclosing who you are when you want to
talk online. The trigger there is $500. Any time someone wants
to talk about taxes, abortion, climate change, gun rights,
whatever the issue is, and they spend as little as $500 to talk
about that issue on the internet, in a paid ad, they have to
disclose everything about their communication, who they are,
and open up their archive.
One comment about the archive. This bill states what its
purpose is. It says that we need to identify for counter
speakers and fact checkers who said what on the internet. I do
not believe that the First Amendment will tolerate a
Governmental interest that says you must disclose who you are
to empower your political opponents to fact-check you and to
know what you are saying.
Senator Blunt. Alright. Thank you.
Mr. Goodman. Fundamental flaws in that.
Senator Blunt. Thank you. There may be other questions by
their members on this. Let's go to Mr. Smith. In the 1974,
about the time Mr. Wertheimer became involved in all this, the
74 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act took a lot
of the enforcement, if not all the enforcement, away from the
Justice Department that they thought could easily represent
only one side and transferred that to this newly created FEC
that would be required to be represented by both sides.
Can you give some examples of, in your experience there,
what would have happened if any three of the members would have
been able to do whatever they wanted to do? I know the law
specifically says there would be five members and any time a
majority of them are there, that is a quorum. So that would be
three and a majority of them are currently serving. I am not
trying to get into whose absence or hiding from somebody, but
what do you see as some of the potential problems here?
Mr. Smith. Well, I mean, that is a difficult question. You
have to ask about specific enforcement actions, but basically
you are talking about having a partisan majority. One of the
things we know is that not only are there partisan pulls, you
know, in Washington and you know, all of us are human. We tend
to see things through our prisms, right, but it is not really,
``I am going to get this person because he is a Republican and
I have got three Democratic votes'', right.
It is also the natural tendency. Most campaign finance laws
affect different groups differently. Different groups have
different ways of communicating. Republicans do a lot more work
with direct mail. Democrats do a lot more work with groups like
Act Blue. If you get a partisan committee, it is easy for a
group to say, well, what Act Blue is doing seems perfectly
reasonable but that direct mail stuff the Republicans are doing
seems like a terrible violation of the law. In other words, you
lose that perspective, and you have the ability to force things
So I think it is a major problem. If I can say real
briefly, I try and answer your question there, but I do hope
somebody will give me a chance to talk a little bit more about
the PASO standard, because I think Mr. Wertheimer left
something very important out of his description of the Supreme
Senator Blunt. Alright. Well, my colleagues are listening
in on that. Let me ask one more quick question. I think I can
phrase it the way that yes or no for everybody. On this issue
of independents who can clearly, from all their other
activities, function as if they were always going to join one
side or the other. On March the 12th of this year, Axios
published a memo that had been written by, according to the
article, ``a prominent voice in campaign finance reform
world,'' and shared with White House staff.
This memo advocated for finding ways around congressional
intent by replacing a current Republican FEC Commissioner with
a Democrat critically, with a Democratically aligned nominee
who would probably be an Independent but Democratically
aligned. Yes or no to all five of you. Did--were you or any
organization that you represent or work for, to the best of
your knowledge, involved in writing this memo? Not suggesting
anything is wrong with that, but if there is, I may want to ask
more questions. Mr. Potter?
Mr. Potter. No.
Senator Blunt. Mr. Wertheimer?
Mr. Wertheimer. No.
Senator Blunt. Mr. Goodman?
Mr. Goodman. No.
Senator Blunt. Our other two witnesses. Mr. Smith?
Mr. Smith. No.
Senator Blunt. Ms. Muller?
Ms. Muller. No.
Senator Blunt. The five of you were pretty far into the
well-known people who talk about public financing and campaign
finance reform and other things, so thank you for those
answers. Senator King, you are next.
Senator King. Thank you very much, Senator Blunt. Mr.
Goodman, I am--I want to ask some questions about your thoughts
about disclosure being some kind of violation of the First
Amendment. If you give $100 to my campaign, I have to disclose
your name, address, occupation, but if you give $10 million to
my campaign in the form of a Super PAC or against me, there is
I don't really get that. It seems to me the identity of the
donor is relevant information for the public. I don't
understand why it is an invasion of a millionaire's privacy to
have their names known. It is not an invasion of my next door
neighbors when I have to disclose their name, when they
contribute to my campaign. Explain why we have these two
parallel systems that just can't be reconciled.
Mr. Goodman. Yes. Senator, the courts over the years have
drawn a sharp distinction between the disclosure that is
permitted under the First Amendment when someone gives money to
a political committee or makes an independent expenditure to
fund explicit electoral speech. The individual who gives your
campaign $2,800 per election or $150 or $200 is disclosed
publicly and all of those names are publicly available on the
internet--I am sorry. I spoke over, Senator. I am sorry, what
Senator King. Right. Why shouldn't that same rule apply to
somebody who spends millions of dollars to buy ads on
television during a campaign that says I am a scoundrel, or I
am a saint?
Mr. Goodman. The boundaries drawn for that are, if the
millionaire gives money to a Super PAC, then their name is
publicly disclosed because a Super PAC is a political committee
that discloses all of its donors. Now, where the law has drawn
the line is the disclosure is permitted constitutionally so
long as the speech that it is funding is explicit electoral
speech, and in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, that notion
or that realm of speech that can require disclosure was
expanded to ``electioneering communications.''
This bill, however, this bill would require that disclosure
if all you want to do is a year, a year and a half before the
election, you want to talk about legislation pending and attach
a Senator's name to it in a favorable or unfavorable light.
This bill would expand that public disclosure to people who
want to talk principally about public policy and issues under a
vague standard called PASO, where anything that would be deemed
favorable or unfavorable about you in that context would
trigger disclosure of the people who fund that speech. I
believe that the courts would strike that as overbroad.
Senator King. Well, I don't agree with you that there is
full disclosure of people--I don't believe that there is full
disclosure of people who are contributing dark money to
campaigns through 501c4s and other formats. I just, I don't
think that happens. In Maine, if you go to a town meeting, you
can't wear a bag over your head. People have a right to know
who is expressing their opinions. That is part of the
information that is important to the voters.
Madam Chair, before I go any further, I wanted to mention
something in the prior panel, and I didn't get to. I think we
need to be careful in the bill about requiring paper ballots,
which I am totally supportive of from a security and
cybersecurity point of view, but we have to consider people
with disabilities. That is something that I think we can work
on as this bill moves through the committee and into the
Senate, but I think we need to be aware of some of the
subtleties here involving people with disabilities.
Mr. Potter, nice to see you. I think you and I were at the
last hearing of this Rules committee on Campaign Finance some
five, six, seven, 8 years ago with Justice Stevens. Can you
talk to me about the disclosure and the importance of
disclosure? Am I correct that I think dark money comes into
campaigns through independent expenditures and we can't find
out who they are?
Mr. Potter. Yes, Senator, it is good to be back in this
room with you virtually on this subject that we still need to
work on. Your question points out why, which is you are right,
somebody who gives you money is disclosed--or your opponent
As Mr. Goodman says, if they give to a Super PAC, the
identity of the person or the entity giving to the Super PAC is
disclosed, but if they give to a C(4), which runs the very same
ad that your opponent could be running or that the Super PAC
could be running, then there is no disclosure of the donors
paying for that ad. As I indicated in my opening remarks, what
can happen is that the C(4) gets the money and then it
transfers it to a Super PAC which spends it.
So you end up effectively gutting the disclosure provisions
even for the Super PACs. That is the key problem we have here.
That is why we have seen this wave of secret money in
Senator King. Thank you. I am out of time. I appreciate
both your answers. Back to you, Chairwoman Klobuchar.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you, Senator King. Next,
Senator Hyde-Smith. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, and thank
you to all of you who are testifying today. It is a great
resource to have, and we appreciate your willingness to do
this. One of the most concerning portions of this bill for me
is the section setting up Government funding for financing of
political campaigns. This concerns me for two specific reasons.
First, we are approaching a $30 trillion national debt,
and, you know, I firmly believe in addressing this debt is a
fundamental responsibility that we have that is necessary to
keep our economy at full strength for future generations.
Putting the Government on the hook to pay for political
campaigns is a step toward further unnecessary spending and
further debt at a time when we need to be getting our fiscal
house in order.
Second, I am concerned that this program will effectively
force Americans to subsidize speech that is fundamentally
against their beliefs. For example, pro-life Americans will
have to pay through their tax dollars for ads promoting
candidates who support abortion on demand. Mr. Smith, I am
going to ask you about this.
I know you have dedicated so much time in defending our
First Amendment freedoms, especially as it relates to political
speech rights. How might this sort of Government financing of
campaigns, as envisioned under this legislation, endanger the
rights of consciousness and freedom of speech?
Mr. Smith. Well, I think it is recognized that this is very
unpopular, which is why the Act, like I said, includes this
language, oh, we are not going to use any tax dollars for it,
but then immediately proceeds to set up a system using tax
dollars for it, right. I mean, they are not income tax dollars,
but it is money that belongs to the Federal fisc. It can be
spent on other things if it is not spent on these campaigns, or
we could give it back to the taxpayers, right?
So it is Government funding. It is a problem. In fact, the
system is more problematic than that because it is a big match.
I believe it is a six to one match. So, you know, if a party
goes out and somebody goes out and gives, you know, $50 bucks
to a campaign that you really hate, that it might be somebody
really terrible, by the way, we have had cases of neo-Nazis and
so on getting money in some of these programs in the states,
then the Federal Government gives six times that to that
I do think that is a, you know, a very serious problem that
Americans, I think, don't like that. I prefer to think that we
should be funding campaigns, the people, right, not the
Government. One of the other problems with this kind of system
is that it makes everything a scandal. In other words, it leads
the Government into more and more campaigning.
Well, what can you say? They require me to say certain
things or not say certain things because now you are spending
public money. Once you are spending public money, the
Government has an interest in how it is spent. That is very
dangerous implications in the long run for campaigns.
Senator Hyde-Smith. Thank you. Also, my second question,
while I have a little time left. This law would expand the
definition of what is covered by Federal Election Campaign Act
to include any paid internet or paid digital communication, as
the conversations we have just had. This comes at a time when
we have seen a rise in internet censorship by big tech
companies just over the past few years.
The problem of social media censorship is affecting so many
across our society. I have heard from many just everyday
Mississippians who have had their posts blocked or deleted or
even their accounts locked because they are certainly
monitoring this closely. Mr. Goodman, can you explain what the
expanded definitions in this legislation could mean for freedom
of speech on social media sites?
Mr. Goodman. Yes, Senator. Under this bill, any time you
want to talk about a matter of public policy, and you don't
even have to mention a politician or candidate, you are forced
to disclose who you are, who your board of directors is, the
audience to which you are communicating, and you go into a
public file and library for everyone to see who you are, what
your home address is, and what you had to say.
This bill also imposes upon these social media platforms,
and it is not just social media platforms, Senator. It is
thewashingtonpost.com. It is newyorktimes.com. It is a
wallstreetjournal.com. All of these sites that sell advertising
on the internet are going--this one bill makes them both the
policemen to make sure foreign actors don't slip through the
cracks, and at the same time makes them criminally responsible
if they fail at that task.
Now, that is a task that the FBI and our National Security
Agency failed at in 2016. Now we are putting that burden--in
making them both police and criminal--in one bill. You know
what the result will be? If we are worried about selective
censorship now, these social media sites will simply close
their platform, because of the cost and burdens and potential
liability, to all citizens.
That is not a constructive result. It is not pro-democratic
because we will lose these low cost platforms for advertising,
because the cost just will not be worth it.
Senator Hyde-Smith. Thank you very much for your answer. I
yield, Madam Chairwoman.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you. Next, Senator Merkley.
Senator Merkley. Thank you, Madam Chair, and I would like
to enter for the record a letter from the Governor of Oregon,
Kate Brown, and a letter also from Democracy for All 2021, as
well as an opinion piece that H.R. 1 isn't at all an
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Since the Governor of Oregon grew up
in Minnesota. Is there any objection? They are entered into the
record. Thank you.
[The information referred to was submitted for the record.]
Senator Merkley. There is a strong connection between
Oregon and Minnesota in seeking to ensure that every citizen
has access to the ballot, that this fundamental American right
is guaranteed for all. I wanted to turn to you, Mr. Potter, in
your considerable experience in the Federal Election Commission
and understand, and in a modest length of time, whether you
believe that for Congress to put in essentially guidelines for
states to follow on congressional elections is Constitutional.
Mr. Potter. The Constitution says that the states primarily
have the right to regulate elections, except that Congress may
intervene regarding the time, place, and manner of elections.
Over the years, Congress has done that on a number of
occasions. So it has superseding authority, which it has used.
Senator Merkley. Yes. That authority is specifically stated
in terms of elections to the House of Representatives and to
the United States Senate. My understanding of the reasoning
behind that was no matter what one of the original 13 states
you were part of, because Congress is going to make a decisions
affecting all that, every one, in every state had a stake in
the integrity of the elections in the other states, and thus
created that explicit power in the Constitution. Would that be
a fair explanation of why that was included?
Mr. Potter. It would be, Senator, and I would add that
since then, Congress and the states have amended the United
States Constitution, specifically with the 14th and 15th
Amendments to broaden the Federal role in ensuring that all
Americans have the right to vote, and people are not denied the
right to vote because of their color. So there are other
broader provisions now in our Constitution regarding the right
to regulate elections in states.
Senator Merkley. ----as well as the 19th for ensuring that
women have the right to vote. Thank you very much. Mr.
Wertheimer, I wanted to turn to you because there has been this
discussion about whether it adds to integrity or subtracts from
integrity to be able to have people run for office using
essentially a matching fund for small donations. We have had
some experience with this around the country. I have had some
experience also with the Presidential matching fund, but my
impression is that citizens really don't like the idea of
bazillionaires, essentially buying a stadium sound system to
drown out the voice of everyone else.
So the idea of getting small donations across America,
where the influence on an individual is dispersed, where no one
person can say, hey, you know, I ran $100 million in your
campaign or $5 million or $1 million, which kind of corrupts.
So under this provision for small dollar donations that have a
match, does that increase the integrity or is there some fatal
flaw in that approach?
Mr. Wertheimer. No, it increases the integrity and
increases the credibility of the way decisions are made around
Senator Merkley. So if we really believe in Government, by
and for the people, not by and for the richest and most
powerful Americans, this system of small donations with
matching grants makes a lot of sense.
Mr. Wertheimer. It does. The American people believe, in my
view, that big money, influence seeking funders, have far too
much influence over the way Congress in Washington makes
decisions. The small donor who gives $200 is not going to buy
or obtain influence for $200. The donor who gives over $200
million is. The 100 donors who gave $2.1 billion to Super PACs,
are going to get that influence, and it comes at the expense of
the American people.
Senator Merkley. So that very premise of equal
representation, that very premise involving that vision of
Government by the people means that we have to get big money
out of these campaigns or to balance it with the opportunity
for small donations.
Mr. Wertheimer. Yes, and it doesn't change the existing
system. Any Member of Congress, any candidate can run under the
existing system. It gives candidates, office holders, an
opportunity to turn to small donors and non-influence funds if
they choose that option, but it frees them from having to
depend on and be obligated to big money funders.
Senator Merkley. Thank you very much. My time is up. If I
can just close with a short comment. I know that many members
here spend an enormous amount of time calling the richest
people across America on both sides of the aisle to ask for
funding or attending little gatherings with the richest people
in America to solicit their funds, receive their funds.
But the idea that one could possibly run for office,
speaking to small donors across America, average citizens who
care about health care and housing, education, living wage
jobs, equality, taking on the pollution in their environment,
and equal opportunity, that idea that you are fighting for them
seems to me a perfect fit with the vision on which our country
was founded, Government of, by, and for the people.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you, Senator Merkley. Senator
Senator Hagerty. Thank you, Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank
you, witnesses, for being here with us today. Mr. Goodman, I
would like to direct this first question to you. Would you say
that this bill is taking the regulatory approach to essentially
control what speech the American people are allowed to hear,
rather than allowing them to listen for themselves to a wide
variety of sources and decide for themselves what they believe?
Mr. Goodman. It does, Senator. Any time you chill speech--
and the mechanism in this bill, principally to chill Americans'
right to speak, is through the compulsory disclosure provisions
and the expansion of those compulsory exposure provisions to
issue speech. We have documented studies that show we have two
generations of young people who have been raised at heightened
levels of intolerance.
We have heightened levels of cancel culture, de-platforming
culture, and what this bill does is it runs headstrong into
that culture war that we are experiencing right now. What it
does is it chills people's ability and willingness to speak
openly both online and through other mechanisms even about
public policy. What that does is it diminishes people's right
to speak. It diminishes all of our rights to hear that speech.
It diminishes speech overall.
Senator Hagerty. Indeed. Indeed. Wouldn't you say that
attempting to silence your opponents, to censor what people can
hear, and to criminalize those who would say what you don't
want them to say is more akin to what you would see in a
totalitarian regime like that of Venezuela or China?
Mr. Goodman. Well, I accept that premise. I will also add
that this whole idea of public doxing, of public compulsory
Government disclosure has been used to censor Americans
throughout our history, depending on who controls sort of
prevailing culture at the time. It has been both--it has been
ecumenical. In the Red Scare, the subpoenas that went out to
people and the questions: name the names of your fellow
communists or socialists, right.
Southern politicians demanding from the NAACP: give me your
donor list in order to do business or even to litigate in my
State of Alabama. This mechanism of public doxing and
compulsory Government disclosure has been a tool, a cudgel, to
effect censorship of American people. It has gone right to left
and left to right. Today, it is left against right.
Senator Hagerty. Well, let's stay on that for a minute.
Doesn't this public disclosure requirement essentially put a
nationwide bullseye on the back of every donor in their family
who might contribute to a religious institution or some other
institution that at some point in the future might make some
political speech that the left decides they don't like?
Mr. Goodman. Senator, that's what it does, because if you
are a religious organization and you want to talk about an
issue of national importance, and this is especially acute and
has been especially acute in the social issue arena,
historically, because those are the most sensitive issues, and
they excite the most passions of people on the right and the
left, people who support Planned Parenthood, if they are
disclosed, they have red paint thrown on their front porches,
People on the right who support life are called names and
they are harassed as well, and it has grown. So, yes, Senator,
and Mr. Potter said, we are going to create an archive. In
other words, we are going to find out who said what, when, and
we are going to create an archive for all time so that people
can go back and find out what group you were associated with
for all time.
Senator Hagerty. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you. Thank you very much. We
may be joined by one more Senator, but I will now get to my
questions. I have deferred to some of the other Senators, so I
think I will start with you, Mr. Potter. Thank you so much. As
a former Republican Chair of the Federal Election Committee, I
think you know a little bit about how this works. Thank you for
being here, testifying today for the For the People Act.
As a former Republican FEC Commissioner, do you see this as
creating advantages for parties or do you see it as simply
allowing people to vote and creating more transparency? And
just talk about what this is like, because clearly there are
some Republicans who agree with you, especially the polls have
shown this, but yet right now we are in basically a partisan
divide on this. How do you see this as a Republican?
Mr. Potter. Thank you, Senator. To me, I think the lesson
we learned over the last 20, 30 years is that it is a real
mistake to try to predict what the partisan outcome will be of
making it easier to vote. I do not believe that more
transparency in politics helps one party or the other, greater
voter turnout does, or that absentee ballots do.
You know, I was a Republican election lawyer before heading
off to run the Campaign Legal Center and all of my candidates
had major absentee ballot programs on which they spent a lot of
money to turn people out and guarantee they will have voted
before the election so that if it rained or they were feeling
badly, they didn't miss the chance to vote.
So I think it is a mistake to look at this through a
partisan lens. I think it is better to say that most of these
provisions deal with very real problems that have been
identified and that the disclosure we will see as a result of
this, the issues we are talking about today, the independent
redistricting commissions that will be required by this bill in
states across the country, help people in red and blue states.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. I certainly, I remember just this
week talking to Senator Tester about this, about Montana, and
they had a high voter turnout because of the vote by mail, but
Republicans predominantly won in that state in this last
election, but more people voted. I have certainly seen this ebb
and tide in my own state, as I mentioned earlier, where we have
had some of the most open elections in the country in terms of
number of people voting, almost always the highest voter
turnout we have had Governor Pawlenty and we have had Governor
Dayton and we have had Governor Ventura and we have had both
our Republican and Democratic Senators with those rules in
Could you just highlight a bit the election, the FEC, your
frustration having been on there and the way it is structured,
which was all for good purpose? It was structured before and is
structured now and why we would be restructuring it and how
that could play either way, depending on who won an election,
because there has been claims it is some kind of power grab,
but I think it is important to know, once we change it, it is
changed no matter who is in charge.
Mr. Potter. I think there are a couple of points that are
important. One is that that some people say, well, the FEC is
functioning just the way Congress intended, which is to say it
is doing nothing. I don't think that is true. I think you go
back and look at the Watergate legislation that created it and
what people wanted to make sure is that it was fair, that both
parties were involved, and that it took a bipartisan majority
to take action. While I was there, that is essentially what
happened. It was very much an ``I am going to vote against your
guy, but you better vote against mine when this comes up.''
So there was a back and forth. That has changed. We have
seen this over the last decade, real partisan deadlock and the
effect of that deadlock is it can't actually take action. It
can't open investigations because without permission of a
majority, there is no way to go forward. It can't do
rulemaking, etc.. I think in terms of the question of whether
this is a partisan power grab, there are a couple of things I
First, current law says not more than three of any one
party. This proposal says two of each party and one
independent. The guarantee there, the safeguard is twofold.
First, this establishes something that I and others have
proposed for quite a while, which is an independent,
nonpartisan blue ribbon group to advise the President on
nominees so that it isn't just party leaders who are doing
that. Then, you have, of course, the safeguard of the Senate.
Commissioners don't get there without Senate confirmation.
Finally, and I think probably most importantly, the FEC
does not have the ability to fine someone. It is not a court.
All it can do is investigate and say, we think you broke the
law. If you will agree to pay this fine and admit the
violation, the matter is over. If you say, no, I didn't, I
don't think that's right, then the FEC has to go to court and
sue someone and get a Federal judge to determine that there was
a violation of law.
So at the end of the day, what we are talking about is an
independent finding by a Federal judge, unless the person
admits that they did, in fact, violate the law.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Very good. Thank you for that
succinct and actually understandable explanation. Mr.
Wertheimer, the Supreme Court is the only Federal court in our
Nation that is not required to follow a code of ethics, and yet
they are deciding the most important decisions of our day and
this comes up a lot in Supreme Court hearings in Judiciary, but
I am not sure all the Senators understand this, that the
Federal courts, district court, circuit court, they have ethics
rules they have to follow and report things. Could you talk
about how the code of ethics that is contained in this bill
would help to improve public trust in the fairness of Supreme
Mr. Wertheimer. Well, it's just common sense that the
Supreme Court and Federal judges should have a code of ethics.
The important part about this provision is that it leaves to
the judicial conference to determine what that code of ethics
is. So it maintains an independence for the judiciary, the
Chief Justice, who is the Chair of the Judicial Conference, and
it is made up of judges. So they will create their own code of
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Which presumably could be like the
circuit court ones they have right now.
Mr. Wertheimer. Yes, absolutely. I would like to make one
other comment if I could.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Sure.
Mr. Wertheimer. I would like to read to you, since we have
been discussing disclosure, what Justice Scalia has said about
disclosure, and he said it in a case involving the names of
petition signers. He said the following, ``Requiring people to
stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic
courage without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do
not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme
Court, campaigns anonymously . . . hidden from public scrutiny
and protected from the accountability of criticism. That does
not resemble the home of the brave.'' Thank you.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Very good. Thank you. I will have one
last question of Ms. Muller, because I know we are not going to
have any other Senators, I believe, come. One last question of
you, and I guess it is a good segue from the quote that Mr.
Wertheimer just read from Justice Scalia. To me, public
knowledge is everything about who is making the decisions and
who is supporting them and where their funding is coming from.
Without that, it is hard to make informed decisions in a
democracy. Do you just want to end things here for my set of
questions, Ms. Muller, by talking about not maybe the details,
we know we have had some discussions about this, what is in the
bill, which is, of course, the DISCLOSE Act, long introduced by
many in this body, including Senator Van Hollen, and when he
was over in the House and Senator Kaine and many others.
But could you talk about, just from your perspective, how
that knowledge is going to help and what you see of some of the
worst shenanigans that have been going on since the Supreme
Court's decisions that could be cured by knowledge and also by
perhaps public financing?
Ms. Muller. Absolutely. Thank you so much, Senator. The
American people have really lost faith in who Government is
working for. Pew has been doing research over the past 50 years
on does Government work for just a few big interests or does it
work for the American people as a whole? Right now, 76 percent
of Americans think it works for just a few big interests that
frankly, those who are writing the biggest check get to have
the biggest say in our Government.
The fact that so much of that money that is flooding into
our election. We had the 2020 election that cost $14.5 billion,
more than double the most expensive election that we have ever
seen. The fact that more and more of that money is undisclosed
and untraceable just further erodes that confidence in
Government and who it is working for. It is absolutely
essential to trust the Government and to being able to evaluate
political claims and political discourse that we are able to
see who is funding claims in elections.
That is really what this entire bill is about. What this
entire hearing is about is, are we going to allow our elections
to be controlled by just a few big interests or are we going to
give the power back to the people and make sure that we take
corrective action to make sure that Government is working for
the people again? That is absolutely what the small dollar
donor program does, too, Senator.
It says that, you know, my voluntary measure that if
candidates say they are not going to take big money and they
are not going to take special interest money, that we are going
to empower people to get involved in our democracy. We have
seen that successfully implemented across the country with
Republicans and Democratic candidates taking advantage of it.
To us, that is what this is all about, restoring faith and
trust in our Government.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. I just want to
clarify, Senator Whitehouse, who leads the DISCLOSE Act in the
Senate. With that Senator Blunt, do you want to ask a few more
Senator Blunt. I have a couple more, Chairwoman, if we have
time for that. Before I do that, let me be sure I don't--I have
a number of letters, statements, press reports and other
documents opposing or raising concerns about this bill that I
will be entering into the record. These letters and statements
are from a broad spectrum of organizations that oppose S. 1,
ranging from the March for Life to the ACLU in covering a broad
spectrum of interest from disability rights to free speech. I
would like to enter those in the record.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Without objection, so entered.
[The information referred to was submitted for the record.]
Senator Blunt. Just a couple of questions I have as we
finish up. Again, thanks to our witnesses for being here today.
Mr. Wertheimer, when I was leaving the House, I guess 2008 was
the start of my last term in the House, you were helping set up
that Office of Congressional Ethics. That was designed to have
membership that were almost certain to be of equal number. Do
you think now that was a mistake?
Mr. Wertheimer. No, the ethics committees have always had
equal numbers, but I don't believe that translates to an
argument for keeping the Federal Election Commission the way it
Senator Blunt. You wouldn't expect that Congress to change
the ethics committee in the Senate where it had not an equal
number. Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Wertheimer. No, I think the ethics committees in the
Congress have always had equal numbers and we support that.
Senator Blunt. Well, I would think at the time, in 1974,
that was at least one of the models looked at and I have heard
what we said about that--I wonder, Mr. Potter, if the
commission suffered, in your view from having a long period of
time, most of the previous 10 years, until this committee
worked to get six commissioners in place again. There was a
long period of time when either there were three commissioners
or there was almost never six commissioners. This is looking
backward at a time when you were not on the commission. You
think that was harmful to the commission?
Mr. Potter. There was a period of--there have been two
periods of time, to my knowledge, when it has not had a quorum,
and I think that is incredibly harmful to the commission. One
was in 2008 and one was much more recently, last year, I
believe. So, yes, I do.
Senator Blunt. I think that one had lasted for a while and
we got a quorum and then somebody left and there was no quorum.
Again, we finally do have six commissioners, which was in the
last decade, not the usual practice. I am glad and was glad to
see that. Mr. Smith, in the last round of questions I had, you
said if you had time, you had a couple of thoughts about the
PASO standard. I believe that--do want to address that?
Mr. Smith. Yes, thank you, Senator. It was suggested that
the PASO standard had been upheld by the Supreme Court, and it
needs to be noted that the Supreme Court upheld that only in
the context of political party speakers saying, and I quote,
``because actions taken by political parties are presumed to be
in connection with political campaigns.'' So, generally
speaking, you can't apply that standard to everybody else. It
is like saying because Ford once won the 24 hours of Le Mans, I
could take my Ford Flex out and go win at Le Mans next year.
That is just not necessarily true.
Two other things. Much has been said about dark money. It
needs to be remembered, dark money constitutes about 2 to 4
percent of total spending in U.S. elections, and it has been
consistent in that range ever since the Citizens United
decision. When we think about as 2 to 4 percent, knowing that
much of that comes from groups that are very well known
publicly, like the NRA, the NAACP, the National Association of
Realtors, the nature of the problem tends to shrink a little
Finally, Mr. Potter, if I may have misheard him, because I
can't believe he would make this mistake, but I thought I heard
him say that newspapers had a political ad file that they had
to keep. Of course, that is not true. Indeed, the type of
political ad file promoted in this bill was recently held
unconstitutional by the 4th Circuit in Washington Post v.
McManus just about 18 months ago in 2019.
I thought those were three points where people should not
be left with an incorrect impression about what the reality is
and the full story. Thank you.
Senator Blunt. Thank you. Mr. Potter, did you want to--did
you misspeak or is there a disagreement here?
Mr. Potter. I am not entirely sure I heard Mr. Smith
correctly, but my point was that current law requires
disclaimers on paid advertising in newspapers, radio, TV.
Radio, TV are required to keep public files of those. Any one
of us can go and look at a newspaper and see who paid for it.
None of that is true for paid advertising on the internet. It
disappears and it isn't widely available. There is no way, once
it has occurred, to go back and see what was advertised or who
was paying for it. That is what this would address.
Senator Blunt. Mr. Smith?
Mr. Smith. Thank you again, Senator. I will just say again
that type of broad, sweeping public ad file outside the context
of public broadcasters recently held unconstitutional in
Washington Post v. McManus, 4th Circuit, 2019.
Senator Blunt. Thank you. Thank you, Chairwoman.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Thank you very much. Do you want to
say a few closing words, Senator Blunt? I was going to say a
Senator Blunt. Well, I am sure we are all going to have
plenty more to say about this as we move forward. I would say
on the issue which still troubles me of thinking every bill
introduced in every state somehow represents a broad view of
the country or the way the country is headed. I would say also,
as it relates to the 2020 elections in the pandemic, many
states stretched, as I believe they had the right to do under
most of their State Constitutions and laws, to make it easier
for people to vote in a pandemic circumstance than it would be
any other time. In some of these so-called suppression movement
bills that may actually be the ones that have a chance of
passing, states are looking at that. They are trying to capture
what part of that they should make part of their permanent
process, which almost always is a much more bigger open door
than they would have had prior to 2020 but reflects the
likelihood that we are not going to have a pandemic every
election. I just think this is not the reason to move forward.
Now, you can make all the cases you want about why we
should do these things, but I think the idea that somehow state
legislatures are doing things that will dramatically change
everyone's positive view, that Mitch talked today, about the
2020 elections is frankly a false narrative, and I hope we can
talk about the merits of this bill as opposed to what some
random state legislator may have filed in a state legislative
body that may not even ever have a hearing, let alone have a
chance to get on the Governor's desk. Thank you.
Chairwoman Klobuchar. Alright. Well, thank you very much,
Senator Blunt. I want to thank our witnesses for appearing
today to discuss this legislation, which I consider essential
to our democracy. The testimony we have heard today makes clear
that the For the People Act is to quote Secretary Benson,
Secretary of State of the State of Michigan, as she told us,
our best chance to stop the rollback of voting rights and to
ensure that the voice and vote of every citizen is protected.
Yes, we had a turnout like no other, nearly 160 million people
in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic.
In a way, it just tears at your heartstrings to think that
people were willing to find a way to participate in this
democracy. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, people of any
political party. It was an amazing moment for our democracy. I,
for one, think that once we have opened that door of finding
ways for people to legally and safely vote, that you don't want
to go backward, you want to keep those reforms in place, that
is a good thing. As former Republican chair of the FEC, Mr.
Potter just pointed out, it doesn't always mean that one party
The House actually got closer in terms of the majority in
this last election. There were a number of statewide elections
won by Republicans, but what it means, and I have experienced
this big time in my own state because we have the highest voter
turnout in the country year after year, is that more people are
participating. They feel part of our democracy. They don't feel
left out by our democracy. I have people come up to me all the
time that say, I voted, I didn't vote for you, but I voted, or
I voted for you. I wasn't going to, but then I did. They are
part of it. They want to talk about it. They are proud that
they participated as citizens. That is what I think we lose if
we start making it harder and harder for people to vote.
I feel the same way about the money in politics as someone
that didn't come from a lot of money, as someone that the first
race that I ever ran, you could only get for 8 years, $100 in
the off election year. That is the maximum you could get from
any contributor and $500 in the election year. That made me
reach out to a lot of people and get small contributions for a
jurisdiction that included over a million people. Then when I
started running for the United States Senate, that is a whole
different game, but at least there are limits. That was before
all the outside money came flooding in.
At least I felt I am responsible for the ads that I ran,
and my opponent was responsible for the ads that he ran. I
could respond to them on an even playing field. That is being
taken away from us. When that gets taken away from us, we lose
the power. So how I look at this bill is that it takes the best
practices that have been identified by a number of our
witnesses, things that we know are in place across the country,
that worked in red states and blue states, that resulted in
this high voter turnout.
According to Chris Krebs, who for a significant period of
time was the head of the section of Homeland Security under the
Trump Administration, that was in charge of making sure we had
safe elections, that both Democrat and Republican Senators
praised both while he was in his job and when he was
unfortunately forced to resign from his job, but before he did
that, he said it was the safest election in the history of
America. That happened while we found new ways to expand. While
we didn't require these notary publics to sign off, while we
were able to use vote by mail, and in some states, register
people early. If I look at--I kept hearing that word chaos.
If I look at the chaos, some of it was because after the
election was done, and it was clear who won on the Presidential
level, it was lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit that created
the appearance of chaos, but it wasn't actually chaos. It was
just votes being counted. One of the cool things about this
bill to get at some of the concerns raised to me by Republican
Senators during that time period is that it actually says that
the states have to start counting those ballots, processing
those ballots when they get them, because we know we have some
states, blue states, red states, whatever, who wait till
afterward. That creates some confusion, I think.
So I look at this bill, and I just think when you go
through it step by step, there are a number of really good
things in this that would make things easier, reduce the chaos
as people look at elections so they can believe in democracy.
We know no one knows better than the people that work in this
building, the staff that work in this building, what it means
to have people try to undermine an election. No one knows
better than former Vice President Pence what it means to be
trying to do your Constitutional duty and simply count the
votes and be there to do your job and have an angry mob come in
basically trying to kill you. That is what happened in this
So I get back to this word chaos. Talk about being able to
turn something on its head, because what we are trying to do
with this bill by putting in some simple, workable standards
across the country, and you heard from the Michigan Secretary
of State who said she implemented this in a very short period
of time in her state that didn't have the Minnesota-like
ability to make it easier for people to vote, she didn't have
chaos. She had more people vote. That is what this hearing is
about. I do want to thank you, Mr. Wertheimer, for 50 years of
testifying and working on this issue. I am sure it is cathartic
to finally be able to testify in the Senate, in this room, on
this bill, which you have worked on provisions with regard to
this bill for so long.
I--you so well, quoted Justice, former Justice Scalia about
the need for transparency, the need to figure out what is going
on in this country. That is a central part of democracy. I just
want us to take from this, especially in the words of former
FEC Republican Chair Potter, that, in fact, this, in the end,
is not a partisan bill.
As he said, this bill does not give power to any particular
party over another. It gives power back to the voters. So
protecting the right to vote, ridding our politics of dark
money spending, and strengthening our ethics laws will only
strengthen the voice of all voters, regardless of where they
live or which party they belong to, and require people in this
building and people elected throughout the country to act for
The record will remain open until 5 p.m. on Wednesday,
March 31st. I thank Senator Blunt, my friend for helping chair
this hearing. I thank all the Senators who participated. I
think every Senator participated in this hearing that is on
this committee. We also are going to continue our bipartisan
work on coming up with a very clear direction of
recommendations of what we should be doing in this place to
protect our staff and ourselves and our frontline workers and
Capitol Police from what happened on January 6.
I thank Senator Blunt and Senator Peters and Senator
Portman over in Homeland Security for working with us as we
finish that investigation and oversight. That has been a very
meaningful part of our work so far on this committee this year.
Thank you, and the committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:41 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
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