Steil: Constitution Gives States Primary Jurisdiction Over Election Administration
Washington, DC – Committee on House Administration Election Subcommittee Ranking Member Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) delivered this opening statement at today's hearing regarding the U.S. Constitution and federal government's role in administering elections. Steil discusses how recent Supreme Court rulings and Democrats' own hearings should make it clear that states have the primary jurisdiction over election administration under the Constitution and that H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 clearly violate it.
CLICK HERE to watch the ongoing hearing.
Text of Steil’s prepared remarks:
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The hearing today is titled, “The Elections Clause: Constitutional Interpretation and Congressional Exercise. This is a hearing our committee should have had…
before the previous hearings we’ve held on election administration issues…
Or the introduction, consideration, and passage of H.R. 1,
Or before the introduction of H.R. 4 last Congress.
Article 1, section 4 of the Constitution, clearly gives states the primary role in establishing, and I quote, “(t)he Times, Places and Manners of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives”.
Under the Constitution, Congress has a purely secondary role in this space. This is evident from the way it’s written—the states are listed first, and the Congress is listed second.
Under H.R. 1 and H.R. 4, Congress is clearly outside these constitutional bounds. These bills prevent any state from establishing the time, place, and manner in which its elections are held by establishing a nationalized election system run by bureaucrats in Washington.
And, while we’re on the subject of H.R. 4, the Supreme Court ruled this month that states have the power to protect the integrity of their elections through thoughtful, considered legislation—making it easy to vote but hard to cheat.
In the case against the Arizona, the court upheld the state’s power to ban the use of third-party ballot harvesting. Justice Alito’s opinion stated, “One strong and entirely legitimate state interest is the prevention of fraud. Fraud can affect the outcome of a close election, and fraudulent votes dilute the right of citizens to cast ballots that carry appropriate weight. Fraud can also undermine public confidence in the fairness of elections and the perceived legitimacy of the announced outcome.”
Public confidence in our elections is something that I, as ranking member of the subcommittee on elections, am focused on. And Ranking Member of this Committee Rodney Davis is leading the way with his Faith in Elections Project.
We’ve seen this issue in North Carolina. The results of a congressional race were tossed because of fraud resulting from ballot harvesting. California has had issues as well.
Despite the well-documented fraud issues with ballot harvesting, H.R. 1 legalizes this practice nationwide and according to Democrats, prohibition of ballot harvesting by a state is by definition discrimination.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled this is not the case. Instead, the Court ruled that intent and the totality of a state’s voting system matters.
Justice Alito noted that merely implementing voting structures intended to bolster voter confidence, such as rules to increase ballot integrity, does not equal discrimination, which is what my Democrat colleagues continue to claim.
Not only does the recent Supreme Court ruling invalidate my Democratic colleagues’ claim, but this committee’s record has not demonstrated this.
During multiple hearings, my Democrat colleagues have claimed that voter ID is used to suppress votes. However, the data disputes this.
Contrary to the Democrats’ claim that voter ID requirements lower voter turnout, states with voter ID laws saw record turnout in the 2020 elections. It may surprise VP Kamala Harris, but the people I know in in rural Wisconsin are quite capable of photo copying their ID. In fact, like many people across the nation, people in Wisconsin have photocopiers in their own homes.
Additionally, the data being used by Democratic witnesses is flawed.
During a hearing earlier this year, Democrat witness Dr. Nazita Lajevardi stated that minority participation in the 2016 election was less than in the 2012 election and claimed that this was due to voter suppression. However, she admitted her analysis relied on self-reported voter information from online surveys to reach her conclusions—not a scientific poll—essentially reverse engineering her desired result. Further, I pointed out during the hearing that her study did not control for the difference in candidacy of Barack Obama and the historically bad candidacy of Hilary Clinton.
While my Democrat colleagues invited many college professors to participate in these hearings on H.R. 1 or voter suppression, they invited no election officials who had actually administered elections. Republicans, on the other hand, have invited multiple election administrators including our witness today, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams.
Together, these individuals have decades of experience in election administration, and each one of them have or will testify about how bad H.R. 1 is for states. They’ve repeatedly stressed that the mandates throughout HR 1 would not work in their jurisdictions, would be incredible costly to implement, and could even make elections less secure.
In contrast, the only two election officials the majority invited had never actually administered an election prior to testifying.
It's my hope that after a thorough review of the committee’s record and the recent Supreme Court decisions, Democrats will abandon their efforts to circumvent the Constitution and nationalize our elections.
It’s clear our system works best when those closest to the People are setting the rules for administering elections, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington – just as our Founding Fathers wrote in Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution.