Klobuchar: “It is up to us to take action to address this head-on”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections and campaign finance law, kicked off the Committee’s hearing today titled “Emerging Threats to Election Administration” by renewing her commitment to protecting election officials and workers, noting, “In the last year, election officials and election workers in red, blue, and purple states have faced a barrage of threats and abusive conduct from those seeking to interfere with the certification of the 2020 election or overturn the results. I have heard about threats from officials in my own state – including threats targeting our own Secretary of State Steve Simon – and from others across the country.”
“In the face of these threats confronting our elections, it is up to us to take action to address this head-on,” Klobuchar concluded.
Klobuchar has been a leading advocate in the fight to protect election officials and workers from threats and abusive conduct from those seeking to interfere with the certification of the 2020 election or overturn the results. In August, she introduced the Protecting Election Administration from Interference Act, which would expand protections for election administrators, strengthen protections for Federal election records and election infrastructure, and provide judicial review for election records.
Last month she introduced the Freedom to Vote Act alongside the members of the voting rights working group convened by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) including Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) to set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them.
I call this hearing of the Rules and Administration Committee to order. I’d like to thank Ranking Member Blunt, who’s voting right now -- I ran into him, he’ll be back very, very soon -- and our colleagues, our witnesses, for being here today for this very, very important hearing. And this is about something that we’ve been seeing all over the country, and I sadly don’t think it’s going to be the last time that we’re talking about it, and that is threats to our public servants who are working on the front line, protecting our democracy.
Our witnesses here today, and we thank them for coming to talk about this, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs; Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt; Wade Henderson, the Interim President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; as well as Matt Masterson, who is right in front of us as well, former Election Assistance Commission member who is now a fellow at the Stanford Internet Observatory.
And then also, we’re going to hear remotely, I believe, from Kentucky’s Secretary of State Michael Adams. And I thank him for appearing as well.
The freedom to vote is fundamental to all of our freedoms, and safeguarding the freedom not only requires protecting the right to cast a ballot, but also the right to have that vote counted. That right depends on election workers across the country – including volunteers – who work to ensure that our elections are free and fair.
In the last year, election officials and election workers in red, blue, and purple states have faced a barrage of threats and abusive conduct from those seeking to interfere with the certification of the 2020 election or overturn the results. I have heard about threats from officials in my own state – including threats targeting our own Secretary of State Steve Simon – and from others across the country.
These threats have persisted despite the last administration’s Department of Homeland Security calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history”-- and they didn’t stop after the 2020 election or after the violent insurrection on January 6th.
Since then, multiple states have considered laws targeting election officials with removal, fines, and jail time for performing their duties in the same manner that made the 2020 election, with its record turnout in the middle of a public health crisis, actually so successful in terms of people voting.
According to a survey of local election workers earlier this year, nearly one in three felt unsafe because of their job, and nearly one in six had received threats of violence.
We should stop and remember that number again. One in six local election officials have reported experiencing threats of violence.
There are no shortage of horrific examples from the last election:
- In Nevada, an election worker and veteran received calls telling her she was “going to die.”
- In Georgia, poll workers in 10 counties received bomb threats before the Senate runoff election.
- In Washington, an election official’s home address was posted online, along with crosshairs over her photo and the threat “your days are numbered.”
These are not isolated incidents and all three of the election administrators testifying today can attest to having their lives threatened.
At the same time, election workers are facing increasing pressure in their job, as states pass legislation threatening removal or fines for even accidental non-compliance with state election laws. In Iowa, the Secretary of State is now required to issue a fine of up to $10,000 any time a county commissioner has a “technical infraction.”
And in Georgia, the restrictive voting law enacted in March gives unchecked power to the State Election Board to remove local election officials. We heard about these partisan takeovers of elections at our field hearing in Atlanta from one election official who had been ousted by the state legislature after over a decade of service.
Importantly, these threats have raised concerns about state and local governments’ ability to retain election officials and recruit workers to administer future elections.
We are also seeing states taking actions that undermine public trust in our elections, including through sham audits like we saw in Arizona and that are happening right now in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
In the face of these threats confronting our elections, it is up to us to take action to address this head-on. The Freedom to Vote Act -- which I introduced with the members of the voting rights working group convened by Leader Schumer which also included Senators Merkley, King, and Padilla, who are on this Committee, as well as Senator Manchin, and Senator Cain, and Senator Warnock -- that bill would do exactly that.
The legislation includes critical provisions, like Senator Ossoff, who also serves on this committee, his Right to Vote Act, which would allow voters to challenge practices that interfere with their right to vote in court, including actions to empower state legislatures to determine the outcome of elections instead of voters.
It includes Senator Warnock’s Preventing Election Subversion Act to protect election officials from being removed for partisan reasons and make it a federal crime to threaten election workers or volunteers.
And it includes my Protecting Election Administration from Interference Act to create protections against interfering with counting ballots, canvassing, and certifying elections, as well as strengthen protections for election records.
Protecting those on the front lines of our democracy should extend beyond partisanship, and that is why I’m so pleased that Senator Blunt and I jointly announced this hearing, and I appreciated the strong statement he made going into this hearing. I am hopeful that this hearing will enable us to hear directly from our witnesses about threats that are striking at the foundation of our system of government -- so we can work toward finding some common ground on how we can protect election administration and our election workers.
With that, I turn it over to my friend and colleague, Ranking Member Blunt.
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