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Judicial Watch • Bob Popper Opening Statement at Public Hearing of the State Government (PA) Committee on Reforms to election administration and oversight

Bob Popper Opening Statement at Public Hearing of the State Government (PA) Committee on Reforms to election administration and oversight

Bob Popper Opening Statement at Public Hearing of the State Government (PA) Committee on Reforms to election administration and oversight

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Opening Statement
Robert Popper
Judicial Watch, Inc.
Public Hearing the State Government Committee
Reforms election administration and oversight
(with focus 1142, 1371, 1572, 1827, 1830, and 1835).
November 19, 2013
Good afternoon. Robert Popper, Senior Attorney Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch Washington, D.C.-based public interest group dedicated promoting transparency,
accountability, and integrity government, politics, and the law.
Thank you, Chairman Metcalfe, for inviting here today. honor for me,
behalf Judicial Watch, appear before this Committee. background and training give particular interest the bills you are considering and their application Pennsylvania.
Before joining Judicial Watch, was employed Deputy Chief the Voting Section the
Civil Rights Division the U.S. Department Justice, where worked for the better part
eight years. During that time, participated number matters Pennsylvania, and served Justice Department election monitor and team leader number elections.
The topics you are considering today are among the most important that public officials
are asked address. Spanish philosopher Jos Ortega Gasset observed that The health
democracies, whatever type and range, depends wretched technical detail: electoral
procedure. All the rest secondary. While the particular details the bills before you
concern variety different practices, they all are practical reforms addressing many the
issues observed Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They also would help achieve the crucial
goal reassuring the public that our electoral procedures are honest.
There are good reasons believe that the public needs reassured this point.
poll after poll, for some time now, large segments the American populace have expressed their
dismay with various aspects our electoral system. Rasmussen poll from August this year
reported that only 39% Americans believe elections are fair.2 2012, Monmouth
University poll reported that more than two-thirds registered voters thought voter fraud was
problem.3 2008, when Gallup poll asked respondents around the world whether they had
 confidence the honesty elections, 53% Americans said that they did not.4
These polls reveal startling lack faith our electoral system. Whether the American
people are right have these doubts is, course, open question. clear, however, that
there are rational grounds for being concerned about the integrity well the public
perception the integrity our elections. Threats this integrity can take several different
forms. fundamental threat the perceived integrity elections occurs where voters face
violence violent threats the polls. Election-related violence typically mark
fledgling democracy society where true democracy has yet take root. citizen voting the United States today should have endure such intimidation. the 2008 federal elections, two members the New Black Panther Party stood
doorway polling place Philadelphia. They were uniform and something resembling
formation. One them carried and brandished club. They argued with passersby and shouted
racial insults poll watchers. They attempted block poll watcher from entering the polling
place. was the Deputy Chief the Justice Department assigned prosecute the civil action
commenced against these men for intimidation and attempted intimidation under the relevant
federal statute, Section 11(b) the Voting Rights Act.5
While Section 11(b) embodies crucial protection for American voters, the sad fact
that, for variety reasons, not effectively employed the federal government. The
statute rarely used and rarely successful when used. practical matter, the best way ensure that American voters have the kind safe experience the polls that they deserve means state and local statutes and enforcement. 1830, which raises the penalties for
basic acts intimidation and coercion from misdemeanor third degree felony under
Pennsylvania law, example this kind state enforcement.
Public faith our electoral institutions also harmed when election officials exhibit,
allow others exhibit, partisanship bias Election Day. time election monitor
have seen many examples this other states. one polling place, official poll worker
actively urged every voter she assisted vote for one the candidates. Poll workers sometimes
wear clothing emblazoned with the slogans one the candidates. Often the rules about
partisan poll watchers are simply not enforced, and poll workers allow aggressive electioneering party members inside polling place. all these cases, the public perceives that state officials are rooting for one the
candidates. Even never changes influences single vote, this behavior sends bad
message the public. suggests that state officials are not going fair carrying out their
duties. famous example such inappropriate partisan display occurred 2012
Pennsylvania. one polling place Philadelphia, painted mural President Obama, along
with his campaign logo and quote from one his speeches, covered large stretch wall
almost the ceiling. After judge issued order cover the mural, the President face was U.S.C. 1973i(b).
partially covered paper, although the logo and the speech remained visible. Allowing this
kind display inside polling place tells the voters who there that the election officials
not take seriously their obligation impartial. 1172 simply adds painted materials the
kinds political materials that are banned inside polling place. 1572 ends straight-ticket voting. This bill was intended ensure that voters
deliberate more carefully selecting candidates. But the bill has another important effect.
the last federal election, President Obama carried wards Philadelphia margins greater
than 99%. These margins are astonishingly high, which has led some observers allege fraud.
That has not been established, however, and others have argued that these results are accurate.
straight-ticket voting were abolished, would easier tell future elections such margins
were, fact, the result fraud. vote honest, the margins for down-ticket candidates will
vary some extent from the margin for the top the ticket. If, however, the margin remains
identical nearly identical for every race, fraud more likely explanation. Thus, ending
straight-ticket voting, the bill would generate new information that would allow judge
whether such high margins are genuine. 1827 has the effect increasing the available pool poll watchers, and 1835
has the effect increasing the available pool minority inspectors, relaxing the restrictions
regarding where they must registered and where they may serve. time the Justice
Department, frequently observed that shortages poll officials were caused needless
regulatory restrictions. The ready availability poll watchers and minority inspectors serves the
obvious purpose ensuring the public that partisan manipulation less likely occur.
Finally, 1371 renders third degree felony knowingly make false statement affidavit appended nomination petition which several signatures appear the
same hand. increase such penalties should both serve deter fraud and help convince
the public that Pennsylvania electoral procedures are fundamentally sound.
The underlying spirit the legislation you are considering show the public that the
legislature understands that electoral procedure serious matter and that electoral laws should rigorously enforced. many respects, this legislation sheds interesting light another
issue, namely, whether necessary require photo identification order vote. course,
that issue still being litigated, and not intend raise all its aspects here
rehearse all the statistical and other arguments that have been made. But there are important
Note that you would not dismiss the need for legislation proscribing violence polling
place because evidence shows that such violence rare, that few voters actually fail vote
account it, that has not swayed the outcome any elections. You would not deny the
importance rules proscribing electioneering partisan displays inside polling place because one can show that such activities affected anyone vote determined election. You
would not require particular proof fraud caused the absence poll watchers minority
poll inspectors before deciding that you should make easier for them their work. And
you would not demand know how often circulators submit fraudulent nomination petitions
before deciding that such thing should unlawful and should severely punished. Those
laws provide some the necessary legal safeguards that should protect the electoral process.
Voter identification laws provide the same basic kinds protection.
Allegations fraud are regular feature every federal election cycle, and fraud does
sway elections. For those who care look, there are websites that collect stories concerning
electoral fraud various kinds.6 But the justification for voter identification laws does not
depend establishing such fraud. enough that fraud should not permitted, and that the
opportunity commit such fraud exists.
That there opportunity clear. begin with, voter fraud both hard spot and
hard prove. Particularly where successful, voter fraud may never detected. For
example, the authorities are unlikely discover that someone who not required show
identification has voted the still-valid registration his friend who has moved out state.
But even where voter fraud detected, successful prosecutions remain unlikely. There may way track down perpetrator where, for example, authorities often have nothing but
bogus signature poll book bogus registration absentee form.
The decentralized nature our electoral laws and enforcement activity, our national
mobility, and the nature our demographics also create opportunities for voter fraud. 2012,
the Pew Research Center the States released astonishing report noting that
 [a]pproximately 2.75 million people have active registrations more than one state. That
same report observed that million one every eight active voter registrations the
United States are longer valid are significantly inaccurate, and that [m]ore than 1.8
million deceased individuals are listed active voters. light these realities, simply
makes sense try ensure that voter fraud never becomes significant problem. conclusion, believe that the Pennsylvania legislature has taken important steps effort restore Americans faith their electoral institutions.
Thank you.
Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America Voter Registration System Needs Upgrade, PEW RESEARCH CENTER THE STATES, Feb. 14, 2012,