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House subcommittee questions election security, voting rights

By Michael Korsh, Medill News Service
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House subcommittee questions election security, voting rights
A woman prepares to deposit her ballot in a dropbox in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles on October 10, 2020. A House subcommittee discussed election security and voting rights Thursday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON -- With the 2022 midterm elections 10 months away, members of a House homeland security subcommittee on Thursday questioned the security of the 2020 presidential election and the upcoming midterms.

During the hearing of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation Subcommittee, Chairwoman Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y, cited two statistics that she said point to a precarious election landscape for 2022: One in three voters questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election according to a recent University of Massachusetts-Amherst survey, and one in three election officials feel unsafe in their job from a June survey by the Brennan Center for Justice.

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Clarke said she defines election security as "making sure that every eligible voter who wants to cast a vote is able to cast it and making sure that vote is counted as it was cast."

She said she plans to introduce legislation that would authorize the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to further monitor and respond to misinformation and disinformation threats through efforts like the agency's Rumor Control website.

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Gowri Ramachandran, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the subcommittee that the "big lie" that the 2020 election results were fraudulent promulgated by former President Donald Trump and others undermined confidence in election systems. She and other experts called that election "the most secure in American history."

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"Lies about the 2020 election not only undermine voter confidence; they also lead to tangible security risks to election systems and increase the risk of insider attacks," Ramachandran said.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., asked the witnesses for yes-or-no answers about their support for voter ID requirements. He also criticized "ballot harvesting," in which absentee ballots are collected and dropped off at a polling place, alleging the practice was abused in 2020 to help President Joe Biden win.

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"The 2020 election is called the most secure in American history? No, I'm sorry, but that is the 'big lie,'" Clyde said.

Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, said a vast majority of election disinformation in 2020 came from Americans. In many cases, he said, a small number of verified influencers amplified misinformation, which turned the false content viral.

Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law's Voting Rights Project, noted that Georgia has passed a law that tightens restrictions on absentee and provisional ballots. In June, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state, saying some provisions of the bill were racially discriminatory and violated the Voting Rights Act.

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Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed creating an Office of Election Crimes and Security to police election crimes. David Perdue, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, proposed a similar "Election Law Enforcement Division" on Thursday.

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