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Laurel Lee: We Need to Increase Election Access and Transparency for All Voters

Last week, U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the U.S. House Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections, delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee hearing entitled “2022 Midterms Look Back Series: Election Observer Access.”

Lee said the following in her opening remarks:

Today, we’ll continue our “2022 Midterms Look Back Series” with a discussion on the important role election observers played in the last election cycle in helping to strengthen voter confidence in election processes and outcomes.

Election administration is a core government responsibility that must be conducted in the open to build trust and understanding among voters. Election observers help to make that a reality.

Election observation provides an independent perspective of the election administration process to reassure voters of its integrity, or flag issues for correction.

It’s simple: A healthy elections system includes meaningful election observer access, and we commend the many state and local elections officials, and poll watchers across the country, who worked tirelessly in 2022 to make this key election integrity process work effectively.

While there are different types of election observers, including party/campaign observers, citizen group observers, congressional observers, and others, they all have a common goal of providing for voters an independent perspective of the public process of election administration.

Even just the presence of election observers on the ground inherently increases election integrity and voter confidence—voters know the election administration process will be monitored, and elections officials know that they have a direct line to the interested parties as they work to resolve any issues that might come up.

Observers are present to watch the election administration process, to ask questions, and to build an independent record for education, certification, resolution, or for other purposes, but never to interfere with the process.

In the case of congressional observers, they assure Congress that the person who was elected was done so as a result of a free and fair election, which is a key constitutional responsibility.

While state law generally governs election observation, the Constitution also gives Congress a role, providing for observation of congressional elections by each respective chamber.

For years, both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives have trained and deployed congressional staff to observe House elections across the country.

For example, during the 2022 midterms, the Committee on House Administration Republicans offered multiple trainings and deployed dozens of congressional staff who volunteered to observe elections in many states across our country including Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The independent record created by congressional observers is necessary in the event of an election contest, like we saw in the House during 2021 when some House Members attempted to overturn the election of Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

A political party or campaign observer play a key role in ensuring that both sides of any issue are represented in any area where ballots are processed and counted.

In fact, for decades many states have required political parties and candidates to name observers so that this bipartisan balance is maintained, and each team has its people in the room.

For similar reasons, the work that citizen groups have done to recruit and train professional poll workers is critical to promoting voters’ confidence.

In order to be effective, it is critical that all election observers not only have the appropriate training on the role and responsibilities of observers, but also meaningful access to every aspect of the election administration process that involves ballots, election equipment, or voters.

This means that observers must be able to see and hear election administration processes clearly and effectively, to view documents and equipment, and must have their questions answered by expert officials.

Unfortunately, in recent years, some election offices have blocked observer access using physical barriers such as cardboard over windows or using outdated pandemic rationales, including unreasonable distances that required observers to use binoculars to view the process. Still others have denied access to Republican and Democrat congressional observers based on a misunderstanding of the process or the law.

Those restrictions rightfully raised many questions among voters, who deserve transparent, free, and secure elections.

Today we’ll hear from experts about why we must ensure that election observers have access.

Election observation should never be a partisan issue. Regardless of one’s party preference, all voters benefit from having well-trained observers on the ground.

I look forward to working together to ensure that the unnecessary restrictions we’ve seen play out in recent years do not continue, and instead we work to increase access and transparency for all voters.


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