JANESVILLE, WISCONSIN—Committee on House Administration Elections Subcommittee Ranking Member Bryan Steil (WI-01) led a hearing on the need for states to maintain accurate voter rolls to restore confidence in federal elections. Excerpts from today’s hearing can be found below. Watch Steil’s opening remarks and questioning.
CONGRESSMAN STEIL: In general, in Wisconsin, we do a pretty good job removing, in particular, deceased persons, from the voter rolls. At times, in particular when the death is close to the election, there have been instances of a person voting illegally on behalf of a dead person. Mr. Kaul, are you familiar with the case of voter fraud in Ozaukee County from 2020 in which a Wisconsin woman was charged with voting on behalf of her dead partner?
ATTORNEY GENERAL KAUL: I’ve read reporting about that, yes.
STEIL: I think it’s a case worthwhile looking into. I think it shows that there are instances when voter rolls are not clean, someone may try to take advantage of the situation…Mr. Kaul, should election officials in Wisconsin be prioritizing maintaining accurate voter rolls in your opinion?
KAUL: Yes, I think list maintenance is important for all the reasons that you’ve heard spoken about today….
Steil’s opening remarks below:
Federal law requires states to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove from the official lists any voters ineligible by reason of death or change of address.” When President Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act in 1993, he said, “Every year from now on, we’re going to have more registered voters and more people voting. We’re going to make the system work.”
The NVRA’s purpose is to make it easier to register to vote and to ensure that states have accurate voter rolls to support voter confidence in federal elections. That’s what the Democrat House, Senate, and President thought then.
Now, Democrats suggest that this Democrat-led law interferes with free and fair access to the ballot. Is this the same Democrat Party that supported the NVRA’s reasonable safeguards in 1993? There’s nothing controversial about ensuring people who have died or moved away aren’t registered at their old address.
A state’s refusal to comply with the NVRA expensive and wasteful and creates voter confusion and weakens voter confidence in election results. If we want to increase voter participation, we should fight for better-run elections so people will be confident in the results.
If States mail live ballots to everyone on an outdated list, we might expect multiple ballots to arrive at incorrect addresses. Many of these problems wouldn’t happen with proper list maintenance.
Outdated voter rolls may also lead to long lines for in-person voting. In 2020, LA County voters waited hours because voter check-in equipment was overwhelmed. Turns out, LA County had over 1.5 million ineligible people on their voter rolls. A suit filed by a non-partisan watchdog alleged LA County had 112 percent of its adult citizens registered to vote! Under pressure, California and LA County finally agreed to clean up their voter rolls in 2019. Unfortunately, then-California Secretary of State Alex Padilla could not tell this Committee last fall how many ineligible people—those who are deceased or who have moved out of state—have been removed from California’s unmaintained voter rolls. Not a lot of faith that California is in compliance with the NVRA.
Pennsylvania was recently forced to comply with federal law and removed 21,000 deceased individuals from its voter rolls. And, the Michigan Secretary of State recently removed 177,000 ineligible people from Michigan’s lists, saying that Michigan had not engaged in “sufficient comprehensive efforts” to keep its lists maintained.
In my home state of Wisconsin, there was a lawsuit recently on the issue of list maintenance. Wisconsin wasn’t keeping its voter lists up to date, and over 70,000 individuals were registered even though they had moved. My state’s attorney general, a witness today, filed a brief and presented oral argument in court in support of keeping these ineligible people on Wisconsin’s voter rolls even though they no longer lived where they were registered! According to the WEC, none of them voted in 2020, further indicating that they moved.
Not that facts stop Democrats from trying to confuse the issue: Speaker Pelosi tweeted about the case and got a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact because she claimed 200,000-plus people “[would] be prohibited from voting”. Of course that’s not true. Anyone who has moved may register to vote with their new address. In Wisconsin, folks can even register to vote at the polls on Election Day.
The point is this—Our goal should always be to ensure every eligible voter can cast their vote and that each voter has confidence in the integrity of our elections processes and outcomes. The NVRA provides specific instructions for conducting list maintenance and voter fail-safes. No voter’s name may be removed solely for their failure to vote, no matter how long it’s been. No comprehensive list maintenance may be conducted within 90 days of a federal election. Importantly, if a mistake is made, any voter can still preserve their vote by casting a provisional ballot and addressing the issue with elections officials.
Inaccurate voter lists can significantly increase wait times for in-person voters, and mailing live ballots to outdated lists weakens voter confidence that our elections are run fairly and accurately. We should be working to ensure states comply with the federal law Democrats passed in 1993, not making excuses.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.