Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections Ranking Member Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) today delivered this opening statement dispelling Democrats’ myth that a federal takeover of elections, H.R. 1, is necessary to increase Americans’ access to the polls at today’s hearing.
Steil’s opening remarks:
Thank you very much, Chairman. I appreciate you having today’s hearing focused on “ensuring free and fair access to the ballot.” I’m glad we’re talking about this, because Republicans want to ensure that every eligible person who wants to vote is able to cast a vote and that we make sure that every lawful ballot is counted according to state law.
I’d be remiss, not to point out a bit of irony, as we’re sitting here today holding an important investigative hearing after the House passed H.R. 1, a partisan vote in favor and bipartisan vote in opposition to H.R. 1, and many on this committee will recall, no opportunity to markup or make amendments, to learn from hearings like we could have had today prior to that bill being passed. But alas, here we are during Holy Week on a district work period, joining together to review the importance of making sure that we have it easy to vote and hard to cheat on.
And as we look back, more Americans are voting than ever before. And I think you noted that in your opening comments, that it’s great for our republic. In 2020, 158.4 million Americans voted in the presidential election, the highest ever. Wisconsin had record voter turnout in the 2012 election, like many states did. Wisconsin is in the top five for voter turnout. And I think it’s remiss.
Do not ask the question of ourselves: Was this because of a federal mandate or was it because states were deciding what works best for them as it relates to voting?
Those numbers, I think, will shock some people listening to this, because the narrative being pushed, I think, is counter to the idea that we had 158 million Americans vote in the last election. And I think some of the narrative that we’re hearing is because we’re seeing fewer people voting, while we’re seeing higher people voting, we have no choice but to federalize our election.
The crisis here is so dire that H.R. 1 needed to be rushed through the House again with only one hearing in this committee, no hearings and others, no amendments allowed to be offered, particularly no amendments following a major global pandemic that were more or less still in no ability to learn our lessons of what happened in the 2020 election to be implemented into this major piece of legislation. So now we’re stuck with more of a messaging bill than a real viable piece of legislation that had true bipartisan input.
What are some of the problems with H.R. 1? It got voter ID protections, for example, in Wisconsin state with a strong voter ID law. This would this bill would allow an individual to vote simply by signing a sworn statement. That’s it.
It legalizes ballot harvesting at the national level and allow federal funding of congressional campaigns, give government money to fund politicians re-election efforts, fund negative TV ads.
And as we recall, the 800 page bill was rushed through Congress with no consideration of how will it be implemented at the state and local level. As we know here, each state has different election laws because each state is different.
Wisconsin has a unique election system in my home state here in Wisconsin, where voter rolls are centralized. Chins are managed by clerks, we have 1,852 local governments overseeing 2,800 polling places and 30,000 poll workers, very different than some of our other states around the country.
So laws that govern your right to vote should be made at the level of government closest to the people, not by politicians in Washington, D.C., more focused on appeasing special interest groups, trying to get government money into their re-election efforts. We should be focused on what works for voters.
So if there’s issues with state laws, we need to work with state legislature, local officials as to how to change and that that’s what I am doing here in the state of Wisconsin. So I’m real concern that the Democrat proposal that was put forward in H.R. 1 is going to create more distrust in our election process at a time when we need to secure our elections and restore trust in our election system.
At a time of real record voting turnout, I do not think it is the time to be mandating a one size fits all to our voting system.
And so I look forward to today’s discussion and conversation. I do think it’s a little bit disappointing. We’re doing this after we rushed through H.R. one. But alas, here we are. And I do look forward to today’s discussion.
And with that, I yield back the gentleman years back.
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