Davis: Focus Should Be On Oversight, Addressing Election Administration Issues During COVID-19
WASHINGTON – Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today delivered this opening statement during a Subcommittee on Elections hearing on voting rights in the U.S. territories. Less than 100 days until Election Day, Davis uses his opening remarks to urge this committee to focus on the issues states are facing while trying to administer elections during a pandemic.
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Davis' remarks as prepared for delivery:
Work On Election Administration Remains A Top Priority
Since the creation of the Committee on House Administration, oversight of federal elections quickly became one of its chief tasks. Throughout CHA’s existence, the Committee has worked across the aisle to create significant and necessary election policy that has widely impacted this nation, including legislation to eliminate the poll tax, legislation to create easier access to members of the military and their families when voting overseas, and the Help America Vote Act, a landmark piece of legislation that took significant steps to remedy the problems seen in the 2000 presidential election.
The Subcommittee on Elections is designed to serve as an extension of CHA to enhance oversight capabilities of federal elections. While the Subcommittee has not always been a formal part of CHA, the work on election administration has always remained a top priority. And this priority should not be a partisan one. Hearing from the people who actually conduct elections and the problems they face is vital to our work on this Subcommittee. That is why in the past I’ve invited my own local election administrator, who is a Democrat, to testify in front of the full House Admin Committee, and had my staff reach out to the Virgin Islands election administrator Ms. Caroline Fawkes after it was brought to our attention she was not contacted ahead of time about this hearing to hear what her concerns are. I am glad she was able to submit written testimony for the record today. We must work in conjunction with election officials and include them in hearings like this. I’m sorry to see Mr. Abramson is sick – I was looking forward to hearing from him.
While expanding voting rights is a noble and just cause, we’re less than 100 days until states and localities will be conducting a presidential election in the middle of a global pandemic – something not done in my lifetime. However, during recent primaries, we did get a glimpse of many of the problems that can occur if steps are not taken to properly prepare election administrators and voters. This committee should be providing oversight of states and localities who run our elections by engaging with localities where we saw significant issues in recent primaries and where the risk of disenfranchising voters is great if changes are not made before November. Just last week, I sent letters to ten different localities across the country seeking information regarding issues reported in recent primaries and other election administration violations. States and local election officials are moving quickly to adapt to running elections during this pandemic and I want to make sure we are providing them the help and guidance they need to run a successful election this fall. I want to make sure we are avoiding some of the issues we saw prior to the adoption of the Voting Rights Act – consolidation of polling locations, confusion among voters on their proper polling location and long lines on election day.
Exploring Voting Rights
Nevertheless, we are here today to explore voting rights and election administration in the territories. I want to thank Congresswoman Plaskett from the Virgin Islands, and Congresswoman Gonzalez-Colon from Puerto Rico, Congressman San Nicolas from Guam and Congressman Sablan from the Northern Mariana Islands for their testimony they are about to give today. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with each of you.
There are five inhabited, unincorporated territories of the United States: American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands. Each of these territories have contributed in countless ways to the American fabric. For instance, the rate of military service from these territories is traditionally much higher than the mainland average. Their cultures make America better. However, they do not have voting representation in the United States Congress. Underlaying this status, are numerous court decisions – some recent and some antiquated.
Today, I’m here to listen to all the witnesses who have graciously agreed to participate in this virtual hearing, and I look forward to hearing what you have to share with the subcommittee.
Thank you, and I yield back.