Subcommittee on Elections Holds Hearing, “Voting in America: Ensuring Free and Fair Access to the Ballot”

Apr 1, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, the Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections convened a panel of litigators, voting rights experts, and a state election official to examine the state of voting rights in America and the current impact of suppressive voting laws in a hearing titled, “Voting Rights in America: Ensuring Free and Fair Access to the Ballot.”  Subcommittee Chair G. K. Butterfield stated the following in his opening remarks:

“The 2020 election showed us that, when barriers are removed and voters are given options for when and how to cast their ballot, participation in our democratic process increases.  And that increased participation does not compromise the integrity of our elections.  In fact, it bolsters integrity.  However, even in an election with such high participation, access to the franchise was still not equal for all Americans.  We can and must do better.  Additionally, Congress cannot allow the access voters have to be rolled back yet again.  In the years since Shelby County was decided, states have passed numerous voter suppression laws, requiring long and costly battles to be waged in the courts to protect and defend the right to vote.”

Witnesses included Allison Riggs, Interim Executive Director/Chief Counsel, Voting Rights, Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Sonja Diaz, Founding Director, Latino Policy & Politics Initiative, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; Marcia Johnson-Blanco, Co-Director, Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Debo P. Adegbile, Partner, WilmerHale, LLP; and Kim Wyman, Secretary of State, Washington.

Currently, the nation is witnessing a new tide of voter suppressive bills being introduced in state legislatures – over 360 bills with restrictive voting provisions have been introduced across 47 states in just the current legislative session, some of which have already been enacted, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.  The hearing witnesses testified about historical and ongoing discriminatory voting laws and about the need to establish a new preclearance formula under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to prevent the implementation of these laws and to protect access to the ballot for all Americans:

“Federal intervention is still needed, and I hope this esteemed body will gather the data necessary to tailor and enact effective legislation to provide that aid, both recognizing the ugly history of racial discrimination in voting in this country and identifying modern manifestations of Jim Crow tactics,” said Allison Riggs.

“In the face of an energized electorate and the first redistricting cycle without the protection of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, state legislators and their aligned interest groups are advancing a coordinated and purposeful attack on our democracy,” said Sonja Diaz.

“This prospective nationwide dichotomy – between the “have” voters, i.e., those for whom voting is made easier, and the “have not” voters, those for whom voting is made harder – is what Congress must address,” said Marcia Johnson-Blanco.  “It is critical for Congress to pass federal legislation to level the playing field and ensure that all voters have convenient access to voting in future elections.”

“Only Congress can meaningfully turn the tide against these efforts to weaken our democracy,” said Debo P. Adegbile.  “Historically, Congress has played a central, bipartisan role in preserving our democratic process by enacting strong protections that allow the Executive, the courts, and individuals to enforce the right to vote ensured by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.  Congress’ watershed enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 broke with the pattern of systemic exclusion of minority voters in wide swaths of the Nation.  This had both profound practical effects and an equally important signaling effect that has proved essential to Americans’ continued belief in the democratic system.”

Witnesses also affirmed the security and integrity of vote-by-mail election systems and their long history of success in securely expanding access to voting:

“Because we have a long, rich history of that practice, we have a lot of data and a lot of documentation to be able to show and disprove the allegations of voter fraud,” said Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.  “It was certainly top of mind following the 2020 election, and that’s why the security measures are important.”

Background:

For more information about the Subcommittee hearing, click here.

For Subcommittee Chair G. K. Butterfield’s opening remarks, click here.

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Congress Number: 
117th Congress