Elections security advocates said the 2022 midterm races exemplify what happens when voters trust the system. One voting rights lawyer says more must be done to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.
The Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections held a hearing on the 2022 midterm elections to review the impact of heightened security measures on voter turnout. According to subcommittee chair Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Fla), the overall impact of tighter security was greater voter turnout.
“It’s simple: When voters have more confidence that their ballot will count, they are more likely to vote,” Lee said.
Lee pointed out that while Florida has what is considered a fairly secure election system, that was not always the case. She said the reforms that improved Florida’s election integrity were borne out of an election that made “hanging chad” a staple late-night talk show joke in the 2000 presidential election.
In that race, the outcome of the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore was not known for three weeks due to difficulties tabulating votes in districts that used a punch-card system. The dispute was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Florida officials learned a lesson that year, Lee said.
“Today, Florida is home to an effective elections code, procedures, and safeguards,” she told the subcommittee.
Lee said Louisiana, Ohio, and Georgia officials all took steps to increase election integrity and all reported record turnout for the 2022 midterm races.
She said each state took steps to improve security. Louisiana and Ohio provide a free photo ID for eligible voters who don’t have one. Louisiana also developed plans for unexpected events, such as weather emergencies, Lee said.
“We should celebrate those states, like those represented here today, that have continually found ways to improve their process and build voter turnout and confidence,” Lee said.
Who Gets to Vote Is Important
But one of the witnesses before the committee said that who gets to vote is just as important as how many get to vote.
“The fact is that some people—predominantly voters of color—face barriers to the ballot box that make it more difficult and more costly for them to vote than for other people,” said Damon Hewitt, president, and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Hewitt said his organization has dealt with cases in which threats, state laws, and disinformation have been used to suppress minority votes. Referencing the Civil Rights struggle and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, he said the fight is continuing.
“Black voters and other voters of color continue to face unnecessary obstacles to casting a ballot,” Hewitt said.
According to Hewitt, the U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow against minority voting rights in 2013 when it struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In Shelby County v. Holder, the court ruled that certain states no longer had to have any proposed election laws cleared by the court before they were implemented. This requirement was included in the original law because some states had used literacy tests, taxes and other unfair requirements to tamp down the minority vote.
In the 2013 decision, the court ruled that such practices were no longer a factor and, therefore, states did not need to have laws cleared in advance.
Hewitt said laws had been passed banning ballot drop boxes, limiting early voting, and making it more difficult to apply for absentee ballots.
“This is not success,” said Hewitt. “Democracy demands more.”