Klobuchar: “We must support the election officials working on the frontlines of our democracy”
WATCH KLOBUCHAR FULL REMARKS HERE
WASHINGTON – At a Senate Rules Committee hearing on the administration of upcoming elections, Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) highlighted the need to support election officials, combat election-related misinformation, and invest in election security.
“With voting already underway, we’ve heard of a number of challenges facing election administrators, including the spread of misinformation and disinformation that continues to take a toll on both election officials and voters,” Klobuchar said. “In light of these challenges, we must support the election officials working on the frontlines of our democracy.”
Klobuchar also emphasized the need to provide election officials with resources to address emerging challenges to election security: “We continue to hear about the need for a reliable stream of federal funding for elections, so officials can make improvements and keep pace with new technology. Newer challenges are emerging as well–like the paper shortages that we have heard are impacting officials trying to secure needed election supplies.”
As Chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, Klobuchar has been a national leader in the fight to improve the administration of elections. Earlier this week, Klobuchar introduced legislation with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and nine Democratic colleagues to strengthen election administration by providing states and local governments significant and reliable federal resources.
Last week, Klobuchar led her colleagues in urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help state and local governments effectively use grant funding to improve election security.
Last month, Klobuchar and Rules Committee Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) requested an update from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on its efforts to support state and local election officials with administering the 2022 midterm elections, including efforts to support officials confronting a shortage of paper products.
In March, Klobuchar also successfully urged the Biden administration to prioritize election security funding to improve the administration of federal elections in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal.
Last October, Klobuchar chaired a Rules Committee hearing on threats to election administrators, where she emphasized her commitment to protecting election officials and workers.
Last fall, Klobuchar introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which would set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what zip code they live in, including by improving voting access, protecting election officials, expanding early-in person voting and voting by mail, and modernizing election systems. All Senate Democrats cosponsored this legislation and voted to advance this bill in January.
Klobuchar’s full opening statement is available below, and for TV download HERE and online viewing HERE.
Good morning. I call to order this hearing of the Rules Committee on the administration of upcoming elections. I would like to thank Ranking Member Blunt and our colleagues who are here, with more to come, for being here. Our witnesses – who I will introduce shortly – are Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Leigh Chapman – I want to thank you, you have a few things going on I believe. Damon Hewitt, who is the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and Tammy Patrick, the Senior Advisor for Elections at Democracy Fund.
We are also going to hear from two witnesses, who will be introduced by Senator Blunt. I thank you for being here. Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, and Wesley Wilcox, Supervisor of Elections for Marion County, Florida.
In 2020 we saw election officials across the country rise to the challenge of holding elections in a global pandemic. And we thank every one of you for that. Thanks in large part to the work of the local election officials and volunteers and everyone who took part, we had more options for Americans to cast a ballot. And because of that, more Americans voted than ever before in the middle of a global pandemic. It’s kind of an extraordinary fact for our democracy, and certainly a tribute to the work of local election officials. At the time, the Department of Homeland Security declared the 2020 election the “most secure” election in our country’s history.
Now election officials are working to prepare for and administer this year’s midterm elections. Ten states have already held primary elections and dozens more will do so through the summer. As we know, one of our witnesses - Secretary Chapman - just held Pennsylvania’s primary on Tuesday.
With voting already underway, we’ve heard of a number of challenges facing election administrators, including the spread of misinformation and disinformation that continues to take a toll on both election officials and voters. Election after election, millions of Americans see inaccurate or misleading information about elections and the voting process on social media, and it is hurting our democracy.
At the same time, investing in election security – including cybersecurity – continues to be a priority for many election officials, as intelligence officials warn that our elections remain a target for foreign adversaries.
We also continue to hear about the need for a reliable stream of federal funding for elections, so officials can make improvements and keep pace with new technology.
Newer challenges are emerging as well – like the paper shortages that we have heard are impacting Secretary Ardoin and other officials trying to secure needed election supplies.
This Committee has also discussed the rise in threats and harassment targeting election officials from both parties – and I appreciate Senator Blunt holding that hearing with me – and they increased in 2020. At our last hearing in October, former Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt testified about threats that he and his family had received, including a message that said “tell the truth or your three kids will be fatally shot”— with the names of his 7-year-old son and his 11-year-old and 14-year-old daughters and a photo of their home.
Now in some Colorado counties, election officials facing attacks that they helped “steal” the last election have done active shooter training and gotten bulletproof vests. It’s no surprise that a study from the Brennan Center found one in five election officials are unlikely to serve through 2024. I hope that’s none of you.
In light of these challenges, we must support the election officials working on the frontlines of our democracy. This Committee has taken steps to work toward solutions. I’ve introduced legislation with Senators Padilla, Ossoff, and Merkley to put in place new protections for the election administrators who count and certify ballots.
And based on a recent legal opinion, Senator Blunt and I have called on the Election Assistance Commission to ensure that Help America Vote Act funds can be used for physical security and social media threat monitoring – which we expect they will do shortly and is crucial given the dramatic rise in threats.
In addition, yesterday – with Senator Warren and several members of this Committee – Senators Feinstein, King, Merkley, and Padilla – we introduced a new bill to provide significant federal funding to support election administration and election security.
More must be done. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how we can best ensure election administrators have the support they need.
And finally, I want to note that in many states when voters cast a ballot this year, they will be confronted with new laws making it harder to vote. That’s why I continue to believe that we need basic federal standards so all Americans can vote in the way that works best for them.
Thank you again to our witnesses.