Washington, DC – Earlier today, Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections Ranking Member Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) and full Committee Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee on Elections hearing entitled "Ensuring Free And Fair Access To The Ballot In Texas."

Ranking Members Steil and Davis highlighted the numerous instances of incompetence that occurred on the part of the Elections Administrator in Harris County, Texas in the recent Congressional primary. They also highlighted how, if not for S.B. 1, over 10,000 ballots that were at first misplaced and not counted would have likely not been discovered. They further highlighted the failures of local officials to do their due diligence in assisting voters with curing their ballots, as any competent election administrator would, and as S.B. 1 permits as a remedy to any ballot that may be initially rejected in accordance with the state's laws.

The failure on the part of the Elections Administrator in Harris County comes as no surprise to House Administration Republicans. Just last year, Subcommittee Ranking Member Bryan Steil had this exchange with now former Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria (D), at that time a partisan activist with almost no experience in running elections, who was appointed to run elections in America's third largest county. Since that exchange she administered her first major election last month, resulting in a categorical disaster and her dismissal.

Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections Ranking Member Bryan Steil (R-WI) Opening Statement As Prepared:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on the important issue of competent election administration.

Not even a year ago, this subcommittee held a hearing called "Voting in America: The Potential for Polling Place Quality and Restrictions on Opportunities to Vote to Interfere with Free and Fair Access to the Ballot."

At that hearing, the Democratic Majority called the brand-new Harris County, Tex., Elections Administrator, Isabel Longoria, as a witness, presenting her as an expert on elections administration. The outgoing Majority had been attempting to ram through H.R. 1, a national take-over of our elections systems. However, they had failed not only to confer on this bill with state and local elections administrators, but to call as a witness a single person who had actually administered an election rather than just written about it. So, the Majority called Ms. Longoria.

The only problem? Ms. Longoria had no real experience with elections administration. In fact, when I asked if she had ever administered an election she testified, "No, everyone's gotta start somewhere". So, to be clear, at the point she sat before this subcommittee as the Democrats' so-called expert on elections administration, had never administered an election.

Yet, the Democrat County Judge—that's Texan for "county executive"—and a Democrat majority on the County Commissioners Court appointed Isabel Longoria, a partisan Democrat activist with no experience, "as Harris County's first ever Elections Administrator".

So, it came as no surprise that the March 2022 primary elections in Harris County were—to quote one of our witnesses today, Ms. Siegel—an "unmitigated disaster". The hearing title from a year ago was "The Potential for Polling Place Quality and Restrictions on Opportunities to Vote to Interfere with Free and Fair Access to the Ballot" Well it seems like that is what was delivered in Houston two weeks ago.

As we'll hear in testimony, many polling locations didn't open for over five hours, some never received equipment, others received broken equipment, numerous races were left off ballots because the wrong size paper was used, some voters were given the wrong ballots, the count finished late (and was only completed after a court order), and 10,000 ballots were "misplaced."

It is clear to me that Harris County experienced an elections disaster brought on through the sheer incompetence and inexperience of its outgoing Democrat-hand-selected Elections Administrator, who has since announced her resignation—but who won't leave until she's administered several more elections this year.

But don't take my word for it. The Editorial Board at the Houston Chronicle agreed, writing an editorial entitled, "Sorry, Dems. Republicans aren't to blame for Harris County election woes."

I ask unanimous consent to enter this article into the record.

The editorial goes on to say, "Democrats regularly accuse the GOP of undermining confidence in our elections by, among other things, curbing voter access and perpetuating fraud myths, but this week the Democratic officials running Harris County elections didn't need any help sowing distrust in a sacred democratic process. They did it all by themselves."

Some will ignore the facts on the ground and try to blame efforts by the Texas Legislature to bolster voters' confidence in election systems and outcomes. The fact is that the reconciliation sheets newly required by Texas' SB 1 are the only reason that Harris County discovered—with help from the Secretary of State's Office—that Harris County had misplaced 10,000 primary election ballots. Should today's hearing be focused on the benefits of SB 1?

What happened in Harris County during the primary election was a travesty and should never happen again. But, it was incompetence by an unelected, partisan Democrat Elections Administrator that negatively impacted voters all across Harris County, and that's a fact.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses if they agree—as reported in the Houston Chronicle—with Harris County Democrat Chair Odus Evbagharu "that further investigation is needed" or with Ms. Siegel's "call for independent oversight over the approaching May runoffs and municipal elections", given Longoria's delayed resignation.

Republicans believe every eligible voter who wants to participate should be able to cast a ballot and that every vote must be counted according to the law. That's not profound or, frankly, partisan. It's the bedrock of our system of government. I hope that the next Harris County elections administrator takes the necessary steps to ensure this goal is realized for all voters in the County.

I remain concerned that the Democrats goal is to implement a federal government takeover of our elections.

I yield back.
Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL) Opening Statement As Prepared:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I know I speak for each of us when I say that we are praying for Chair Lofgren, who leads our full Committee, to make a quick and full recovery. We are looking forward to having her back with us soon.

First of all, thank you to our witnesses for joining us today. I'm looking forward to your testimony and our question-and-answer session.

Mr. Chairman, I'm glad we're having this hearing—I just wish we were holding it in that beautiful committee hearing room we have in the Longworth building instead of on a Zoom call. Today is a session day; we are all in town to vote. We should be meeting together rather than calling each other from across campus. It kind of reminds me of teenagers texting a friend when sitting next to them instead of simply talking to them. But, I'm hopeful that Speaker Pelosi will soon follow the path laid out by Leader Schumer in the Senate, where tours are operating again and have been for several months, or of President Biden, who announced this week that the White House would reopen for tours shortly. This is the People's House, and the American People ought to be able to enter it.

Today's hearing topic is an important one, as is our focus on the lessons we can learn from the nation's first primary election of the 2022 election cycle. As we enter another election year—hopefully one with a greater sense of normality for voters everywhere—it's important that this subcommittee fulfill its oversight duties in a meaningful way. That's one reason why I sent Republican committee staff to Texas at the beginning of this month to conduct fact-finding around the primary election as part of Committee Republicans' Faith in Elections Project. I wanted my staff to see how national issues, like the impending ballot paper shortage, might impact elections across the country this year. And, I have to say that I'm very pleased with the good work being done by the Texas Secretary of State and his elections director, as well as by the Election Integrity Division at the Texas Attorney General's Office, to ensure that all Texans can have Faith in Texas' election processes and outcomes.

Of course, as we'll hear today, not every Texas voter had such a smooth experience a few weeks ago during the primary election. And the facts are clear: utter incompetence by an inexperienced and unqualified Democrat appointee caused the largest elections disaster in Texas history.

That's why I'm so thrilled that we are joined today by Cindy Siegel, a CPA who leads the Harris County, Tex., Republican Party. In Texas, the county political parties control the primary election process, and, in the larger counties like Harris County, they contract with the county government to run the election. In Harris County this year, both the county Republican Party and the county Democrat Party made the reasonable decision to contract with their election administrator's office to administer the primary election. And both parties suffered the consequences of her incompetence. A week after the primary, both party chairs were quoted in the Houston Chronicle—the Democrat chair calling for an investigation of Democrat Isabel Longoria, and Ms. Siegel arguing for independent state oversight of Harris County's upcoming elections in order to ensure voters' confidence in the process.

Many of the folks commenting on these issues have read about them in the press. Not Ms. Siegel. She lived them. She and her team took calls from voters frustrated that their polling place hadn't opened five hours after voting began. She heard from voters upset that numerous races didn't appear on their ballots because Isabel Longoria and her team used the wrong size paper. They listened to Longoria offer excuses about why ballots wouldn't be counted in the amount of time required by state law, only to deny those comments later in the press. When Republicans offered to assist with the count, she declined. Finally, Ms. Siegel was there when Harris County admitted it had "misplaced" 10,000 primary election ballots—hardly a small mistake but one that wouldn't have been detected if it weren't for Texas's new election integrity statute, SB 1.

Democrats like to suggest pretty frequently and with varying levels of hyperbole that Republicans fight tooth and nail to "suppress" votes. I can think of no greater "voter suppression" effort over the past few decades than what Democrat Isabel Longoria achieved in a few short hours in Harris County earlier this month: polls closed; machines missing; machines broken; ballots missing races or the wrong ballot given altogether; thousands of ballots missing and found at the last minute; and a count that took 31 hours to complete—and one Longoria completed as "quickly" as she did only because of a state court order telling her that the law required her to do so.

In many corners of this country, we have a crisis of voter confidence. For many, their faith in elections themselves has been shaken. Now, we can argue as to when this trend began—whether it was Democrats objecting to the Electoral College in 2001 or something else—but the fact of the matter is that—quoting from the Houston Chronicle here—Democrat Isabel Longoria's "litany of errors and alarming display of incompetence mired the reporting of primary voting results, prompting . . . ordinary voters to wonder if their ballots were really counted."

In America, the ballot box is sacred, and nothing should come between an eligible voter and his or her ballot—not illegal discrimination, not ballot harvesters, and especially not the very person they've entrusted to count their ballots fairly, accurately, and quickly—their elections administrator.

I've spoken to hundreds of qualified and competent elections administrators all across the country as part of my Faith in Elections Project. Those folks have one of the hardest jobs in the country, and the overwhelming majority of elections officials of both political stripes conduct themselves with skill and integrity
. But not in Harris County.

I wish Isabel Longoria the best in her future endeavors, so long as she stays as far away as possible from counting ballots.

I yield back.