Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following remarks on the House floor in opposition to H.Res. 1071, a cynical stunt designed by the Republican Majority to feed into xenophobic, dog whistle politics ahead of the midterm elections:
"Mr. Speaker, I oppose H.Res. 1071 because it is nothing more than a bald-faced political stunt concocted by the Majority in an attempt to stir up its political base ahead of the midterm election. It also represents just the latest in a long and cynical line of attempts by the Majority to denigrate and delegitimize our Nation’s immigrant population and to erode public trust in our electoral system, all to bolster short-term political gains.
"The resolution also falls short on its own merits. For example, the resolution states that it is “of paramount importance that the United States maintains the legitimacy of its elections and protects them from interference, including interference from foreign threats.”
"I agree with this statement as far as it goes, but I question why the resolution makes no mention whatsoever of the greatest “foreign threat” of electoral “interference”--namely, interference by Russia in an attempt to disrupt our democracy and sow chaos in our political and governmental system.
"It is the consensus view of our Nation’s intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in order to help Donald Trump become President. Indeed, senior Administration officials warned just last month that Russia’s attempts to interfere in our electoral system are ongoing and threaten the integrity of both the upcoming midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election. At a minimum, the resolution should call attention to this fact. Yet, incredibly, the resolution makes absolutely no mention of it.
"The resolution also disrespects states’ rights, failing to mention that the Constitution allows states and localities to permit non-citizen voting in local elections, a practice that dates to the earliest days of the Republic. For example, New York City permitted non-citizen voting in local school board elections until about 20 years ago. Indeed, an earlier version of the resolution’s text, obtained by the far-right Breitbart website, included a “whereas” clause acknowledging this fact, stating “Whereas the Constitution allows States and localities to grant non-citizens the right to vote in non-Federal elections.” Yet, perhaps recognizing that this was something of an admission against interest, the introduced version does not include this clause.
"The resolution also speaks of the fact that “voting is fundamental to a functioning democracy” and yet it fails to address any of the real threats to voting rights that our citizens face.
"Five years ago, the Supreme Court effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance requirement, the Act’s most important enforcement mechanism, in its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The Court reached its conclusion notwithstanding Congress’s factual findings in 2006 that the Act, including its pre-clearance provision, was still needed in the face of continuing discrimination by some states against minority voters.
"In response to the Court’s decision, and under Republican control, states that had been subject to the Act’s pre-clearance requirement wasted no time in pursuing voting restrictions that once again threaten to undermine the voting rights of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority groups. These measures included voter identification requirements, restriction or elimination of early voting or same-day registration, and bans on ex-offenders from voting, all of which make it disproportionately harder for racial and ethnic minorities to vote.
"Members have introduced various proposals to address these continuing attempts by certain states and localities to suppress voters. For instance, H.R. 12, the “Voter Empowerment Act,” which was introduced by Representative John Lewis and has 183 cosponsors, would reinforce the constitutional right to vote.
"The bill includes, among other things, provisions to make it easier to register to vote and to prohibit and criminally punish voter suppression tactics like caging, voter intimidation, and the provision of false and deceptive voting information. The bill would also restore voting rights for non-violent felons after they have served their sentences.
"H.R. 2978, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was introduced by Representative Terri Sewell and has 192 cosponsors, is a direct response to the Supreme Court’s invitation to Congress, articulated in its Shelby County decision, to revise section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The bill would amend the Voting Rights Act to protect voters by requiring states with a recent history of voter discrimination to seek approval from the Department of Justice before making any changes to their electoral laws.
"Finally, H.R. 5011, the “Election Security Act,” which was introduced by Representative Bennie Thompson and has 122 cosponsors, would designate election infrastructure as critical infrastructure and provide financial support and enhanced security for the infrastructure used to carry out elections.
"These measures each address critical threats to our electoral system and to the right to vote, yet none of them has received a hearing or other consideration by the House.
"It is a travesty that the Majority has chosen to spend what is likely to be the last week of session before the midterm election to consider this purely symbolic measure – one that in itself seeks to stoke the worst kinds of sentiments in the body politic – instead of devoting time to considering and passing meaningful and substantive protections for the right to vote and from foreign interference in our electoral system.
"Therefore, I cannot support this resolution. I reserve the balance of my time."