Committee meets today for a legislative hearing on H.R. 3295, the ''Help America
Vote Act of 2001.'' This bill was introduced on November 14 by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Administration
Committee, Congressmen Ney and Hoyer. A markup was held by that Committee on November 15, and the bill was reported favorably
by a unanimous vote.
Several provisions of this bill invoke the jurisdiction of this Committee.
The purpose of this hearing is to examine these provisions and discuss some of the alleged voting process problems in the
United States to determine if H.R. 3295 will properly solve those problems.
The basic principle
of one person, one vote is one that crosses party lines, for voting is not a partisan issue, but an American issue. All Americans
want to know that the vote they cast, for the candidate of their choice, will be counted fairly and accurately. But it is
also the concern of a great many Americans that widespread voter fraud is discounting or cancelling out the value of their
legally cast votes.
Read this testimony carefully, what is absolutely necessary is to ensure that those who cast a ballot are actually
citizens of the United States, and are only voting in one area of the country, one area of a state, actually alive, etc.
Agree with all with the exception of the database - still scary.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CLETA MITCHELL
Mr. Chairman, Rep. Conyers, Members of the Committee.
you for the opportunity to appear here today and thank you for holding this hearing to discuss the important issue of election
administration and procedures in America.
My background is that I am an attorney, specializing
in campaign finance and election law, and in that capacity was very involved in studying and commenting upon the post-election
activities in Florida last year.
I am also someone who has run for office, been elected, served
as a member of a state legislature and as Chairman of the Appropriations and Budget Committee. I know first hand the challenges
of being asked to appropriate funds for election machinery when so many other needs exist.
are four areas on which I would focus my testimony today.
1. Election Administration is a state and local responsibility,
not a federal one and Congress should not do anything that replaces that historic responsibility with
a federally mandated system.
2. There is no needNONEfor a new federal agency in this arena. The Federal
Election Commission does an excellent job insofar as the limited role of the federal government in election administration
and any expanded funding should be appropriated to the FEC for a limited increase in the federal role.
3. The gravest danger to the election process is NOT faulty equipment that
fails to protect voters from making mistakesthe real threat to the American election process is the potential for deliberate
fraud and systems that fail to protect the integrity of the voting process. There is evidence that such fraud was committed
in the 2000 election under the guise of 'inclusion'. But including votes from ineligible or non-existent voters is not
benignit is a serious cause for concern and undermines the very system of democracy our nation is defending even as we sit
4. And, finally, in that regard, it is vital that those men and women and their families who are stationed
and serve around the world defending America, serving our nation in various ways overseas, or are American citizens, eligible
voters, who live and work in other countries for whatever reasonwe can never allow another election cycle to go
by in which the Americans overseas, particularly those in the armed forces, are deprived of their right to vote.
ELECTION ADMINISTRATION IS A STATE AND LOCAL RESPONSIBILITY.
The morning after the November
7, 2000 General Election, I received a phone call from a Washington Post reporter asking for some guidance on 'basic
principles of election law' for a background piece he was working on as a result of the Florida situation. What I said then
is what I will tell you here today: We do not have national elections in this country. That is how the system was envisioned
in the Constitution and that is the fundamental principle on which the decisions of Congress should be made on this subject.
should not be a stampede to create a one-size fits all system of election administration or a federal mandate for
election day operations.
The role of the federal governmentand Congressshould be circumscribed and well-defined.
Funding the acquisition of new machinery to assist states and localities which have not been able to afford new or updated
or modern equipment is something Congress can and should do.
But Congress should resist the
temptation to attach strings on such funds, seeking to impose its judgment on that of the states and local jurisdictions in
this area. As I will discuss below, there is a good case to be made that some of the things Congress has done in the past
decade have actually made election administration much more difficult than it needs to be, than it used to be or than it should
This is an area that is not the primary responsibility of Congress. In fact,
the only reason the framers included the provision in the Constitution which allows Congress to alter the time, place and
manner of selecting members of Congress was the concern at the Constitutional Convention that some states might not hold elections
for members of Congress at alland there needed to be some mechanism for Congress to establish the election machinery for members
of Congress if the states did not choose to do so.
II. THERE IS NO NEED FOR A NEW FEDERAL AGENCY
IN THE ELECTION
My practice is largely in and before the Federal Election Commission
and various similar state agencies.
While the Federal Election Commission can be justly criticized for many shortcomings,
flawed procedures, and other faultsthe Office of Election Administration has done a very good job over the years with limited
resources, low visibility and virtually no mandate.
The OEA has been doingquietlyexactly what
the various 'reform' bills moving through Congress now say they want: reviewing election machinery and mechanisms, developing
national standards for not only the voting equipment but tabulation systems, working with and training local and state officials
and keeping track of / publishing data on all of these issues as well as voter registration and voting statistical data.
guard against an excessive federal role in this state and local province of law, I would urge the Committeeand the Congressnot
to create a new federal agency but to work with the Office of Election Administration in terms of providing greater funding
and specific guidelines as to a more visible role for the office. There is no responsibility identified in any of the pending
bills that could not be performed by the Office of Election Administration.
III. NO ELECTION REFORM CAN BE COMPLETE
WITHOUT A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO COMBAT ELECTION AND VOTE FRAUD
There are some who are pressuring
Congress to cast the federal government in the role of protecting voters from anything that might keep them from voting, including
Prior to November 7, 2000, the Florida law provided that machine error was the
only grounds for overturning an election; after November 7, 2000 the argument turned to one that seems to say 'voter error'
is grounds for overturning an election.
My personal favorite in this regard is James Carville's
oft-repeated statement this past year that ''Al Gore won the intended vote. . . .'' Anyone who has
ever been involved in many political campaigns and any close elections or recountswhere you get to look at the
lists to see who actually votedonly to discover the countless donors, volunteers and close friends of the candidate who didn't
voteI've got some elections over the past thirty years where I'd like to go back and count the intended votes.
The threat to our system of open, free and fair elections is not that
voters make mistakes, spoil their ballots, don't cast votes for candidates for every office or vote for more than one candidate
for the same office. Frankly, voters have a constitutional right to screw up their ballots and it deeply concerns me as a
citizen that Congress would even consider legislation to correct or prevent these types of voter mistakes.
Congress should be concerned about is organized efforts by political operatives to dilute the duly cast votes of
registered voters by allowing fraudulently cast ballots by individuals who are not legally eligible to vote.
is not hypothetical. Attached as an addendum to my testimony and made part of the official record of this proceeding
is the July 24, 2001 Report of the Secretary of the State of Missouri, The Honorable Matt Blunt entitled, ''Mandate for Reform:
Election Turmoil in St. Louis, November 7, 2000.''
The state of Missouri established a bi-partisan commission to review the events
of November 7, 2000 in which 1,233 persons who were not legally qualified to vote in the State of Missouri nonetheless cast
ballots upon obtaining court orders, falsely claiming to be eligible. The evidence demonstrates that a concerted effort was
planned in advance of election day to not only illegally extend the hours for voting beyond the statutory period
but also to obtain court orders authorizing votes to be cast by persons not legally eligible to vote.
report of this Commission and Secretary Blunt deserves national attention. Clearly, this was a plan to violate the integrity
of the voting system in the state of Missouriwhich succeeded.
Key findings include votes cast by:
people who voted at least twice, possibly more than twice
registered at vacant lots
multiple names registered at the same addresswhich addresses are not multiple family
dwellings, nursing homes, dorms, hospitals or group homes
The primary lawsuit brought by the Gore-Lieberman campaign
to keep the polls open beyond the statutory poll closing time had a lead plaintiff who was deceased. When the fact was brought
to the attention of the attorney, he responded that it was another person by the same name who had not been allowed to votea
review of the records revealed that the individual had voted earlier in the day without difficulty.
Congress is interested in doing 'something' about election reform, enact severe penalties for vote fraud schemesand publicize
the penalties. Take steps to make certain that people know that vote fraud is a severe blow to our nation and such actions
undermine the freedom of all Americansand that it will not be tolerated.
How can Congress address
this in the election administration area? One important step which must be done is to assist the states in creating
a statewide voter registration database which is accessible to all polling places on election day. And to be certain that
the database is current and accurate, Congress must revise the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act
of 1993 which prevents states from properly purging its voter registration rolls.
can assist the states by providing money for electronic accessibility to the database on election day as well as providing
that the database be publicly accessible and capable of audit by the public.
To balance the
interests of protecting privacy of the voters while establishing a voter tracking system capable of ongoing updating, every
voter should have his or her own voter identification number. This number should be one that the voter can rememberthe Office
of Election Administration has suggested the last four digits of the social security number and the birthdate, but whatever
the number is, it should be issued only upon or after presentation of a photo identification.
The database MUST be capable of being purged on a regular basis: People who fail
to vote in the number of elections determined by state law should be purged from the database; states should make use of various
agency databases to comply with purging requirements of state law such as felony convictions, mental incompetence, etc.
persons whose probation or parole is terminated should be advised and encouraged to re-register to vote as allowed by law.
is more important to the protection of the election system in America than one which is operated honestly.
should be a complete investigation by the proper law enforcement authorities to bring to justice those who committed the voter
fraud in the state of Missouri in 2000 as a deterrent to its recurrence in 2002 and beyond.
there must be a national commitment by all in positions of authority that such plans and activities have no place in American
political campaigns of the 21st century.
That is something Congress can and should do.
Extremely interesting testimony, the Motor Voter Law revisited... coming... soon...