On Thursday, the Committee on House Administration'a Subcommittee on Elections held a hearing to discuss election observer access during the 2022 election cycle.
The hearing witnesses included:
- Michael Cunnington, Former Congressional Observer
- Josh Findlay, National Election Integrity Director at the Republican National Committee (RNC)
- Commissioner Benjamin Hovland, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
- County Clerk Lisa Lyons, Kent County, Michigan
- Lynn Taylor, President of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy
Subcommittee Chair Laurel Lee kicked off the meeting by highlighting the integral role election observers play in building faith in the elections process:
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.
Full Committee Ranking Member Joe Morelle attempted to make assumptions about the current status of Republican election observer operations based on a single incident in 1981 that the RNC wholeheartedly condemns. The RNC's Josh Findlay explained exactly how the reality in 2022 was very different and will be in the future.
.@RepJoeMorelle opening statement contrasts with the reality of @GOP's Josh Findlay's statement. Rep. Morelle focused on one campaign involving the RNC in 1981, Findlay focuses on what RNC did nationwide in 2022. Reality is RNC poll watchers are well trained and did a great job.— Michael Thielen (@MB_Thielen) March 23, 2023
Findlay explained the following standards that the RNC's volunteer election observers were required to adhere to during the last election election cycle:
For context, these are the principles that we required our volunteers to adhere to while conducting election observation. I’d like to submit them for the record, as follows:
1. Be respectful and courteous to other volunteers and election officials.
2. Follow instructions provided by election officials.
3. Do not interact with voters.
4. Do not disrupt, obstruct, or interfere with the voting process.
5. Know and follow your training, including on the applicable laws for election observers.
6. Direct any questions to appropriate election staff, and do so politely.
7. Carry required volunteer credentials or identification during entire shift.
8. Arrive on time and take notes.
9. Do not interact with media without prior approval.
10. Contact the [RNC’s] Election Integrity Team immediately if you are ever in doubt about how to approach an issue or if you witness any potential election law violations.
These principles were the foundation of our program. Anyone who did not commit to these principles to conduct election observation in a courteous, respectful, and accountable way could not be part of our program. The RNC required all of its trainings to include these principles.
Not only did the RNC have a well-run poll observer program, but the warnings about violence threats made by Democrats like Rep. Morelle leading up to Election Day 2022 never materialized. As RNLA President Marc Ellinger wrote earlier this year:
[T]he media and Democrats’ narrative and wild predictions of threats and violence during the 2022 midterm elections were based on their shameless assumption that all Republicans are violent, democracy-hating extremists, not actual threats or violence.
Just six days after the 2022 midterm election, Senator Schumer stood on the Senate floor and applauded voters who elected Democrats “despite the negativity and divisiveness, the threats of violence, and even the violence itself that occurred with MAGA Republicanism dominating the country.” There’s only one problem: there was not an inkling of violence like Democrats parroted there would be from Republicans.
Looking back on 2022 and leading up to the election, we can see the great lengths that Democrats went to in order to craft a deceptive narrative and convince voters that Republicans would violently act on Election Day.
Part of this success is due to the honest work poll election observers from both parties did to preserve transparency and trust in our elections.
Chair Lee concluded: "Elections are partisan. Election Administration is not." This principle should be applied across the board when it comes to making election laws at the state and federal levels. As Thursday's hearing illustrated, the most effective election observer laws will make elections more transparent and build confidence in the American election system.