After the 2020 election season, many came to the realization that our election system needs significant reforms. In fact, we have actually seen a lot of victories on this front in 2021. But as states pass laws, they are experiencing pushback from left-leaning groups, and the Biden DOJ.
That's why The Heritage Foundation has developed an incredible tool called the Election Integrity Scorecard. It analyzes the election laws of every state and grades them on how well they protect the security and integrity of the election process. It’s great context to help understand what has been done, and what more can be done to make it so it's easy to vote, and hard to cheat.
On this episode, we talk with Hans von Spakovsky. He's on the frontlines of developing the policies that many of these states are implementing, and has keen insight as to how 2022 can differ from 2020.
Tim Doescher: From The Heritage Foundation, Merry Christmas from your pals at Heritage Explains. 2021 has been a very busy news year, a new president, a global pandemic with an onslaught of government overreach to boot, supply chain issues, prices going sky high, growing threats from our enemies abroad just to name a few. Man, I need a deep breath after that. But one issue seems to be sort of flying under the radar and that's the conservative pushback to restore voter integrity around the country.
Doescher: Here's some classic liberal leftist spin from CNN.
Clip 1: A new tally by the left leaning Brennan Center for Justice finds that 361 bills with provisions that would restrict voting have been introduced in 47 states as of March 24th. That's a 43% jump in the number of bills since Brennan released its last report a little over a month ago. Most of the bills target absentee voting, nearly a quarter seek to impose stricter voter ID requirements, a handful of states have already acted.
Doescher: If CNN and the far leftist Brennan Center refer to these Republican bills as "restrictive," I'm dubious, naturally, of course. But this report makes it seem like only red state Republicans are implementing these provisions. I guess they missed this story in the deep blue Democrat state of New York.
Clip 2: New York State Republicans are claiming victory over last night's election results. Ballot propositions backed heavily by Democrats failed to gain traction despite being relatively popular.
Doescher: Wait, I thought only conservatives were against measures like voting registration on election day and no fault absentee ballots. I guess CNN and the Brennan Center missed that.
Doescher: One thing is certain because Americans understand how important the right to vote is, we have seen many states begin to pass laws that make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. And that is a good thing. In fact, heritage foundation has come up with a way to track these changes. It's called the Election Integrity Scorecard. It analyzes the election laws of every state and grades them on how well they protect the security and integrity of the election process. It's great context, so please go check it out.
Doescher: Now, one of the people that helped develop this database is our friend and frequent guest Hans von Spakovsky. He's a senior fellow here at The Heritage Foundation and manages our election law reform initiative. He's joined us several times this year to update us on a broad range of election issues from HR1 to HR4 to the response in general to the 2020 elections. He's on the front lines of pushing for these state reforms we continue to hear about. So this week he joins us to recap where we are at the end of 2021 and cast a vision for what elections will look like moving forward, especially since 2022 is an election year.
Doescher: But first this.
The Biden administration has been in power for almost a year and the radical left has been imposing its dangerous ideology on America. Not only do they want to expand government control and promote cancel culture, but they also want to rewrite our nation's history, indoctrinate American students in our public school system, attack our traditional values of honor, liberty and justice for all and implement a Marxist agenda that unleashes socialism throughout our country. Here at The Heritage Foundation, we need your help to finish the year strong and prepare for the battles that lie ahead in 2022. By making a tax deductible year end gift right now, you'll help advance your principles, free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense at a time when our nation needs these principles most. Visit heritage.org/yearend to make your tax deductible donation today.
Doescher: Hans, we've done several episodes this year on voter integrity, HR1, HR4, the non-existence of voter suppression as you so well put. We got the vote by mail versus ballot harvesting, just exposing kind of the ways the left is corrupting our election process throughout the country. Given all these episodes and all the work you've done this year, I wanted to kind of bring you in to kind of just give us state of the union and where we are. A lot of stuff has happened. You've got Merrick Garland suing Texas for redistricting.
Doescher: You've got the results as your latest piece shows in New York with them turning down some efforts to take our elections to a more corrupt place. So first of all, thanks for being here. But second of all, I just wanted you to catch us up with where we are with HR1 and HR4. We spent so much time talking about it and now we hear nothing about it.
Hans von Spakovsky: Well, there's room for optimism. The reason there's room for optimism is on the one hand, the efforts pushed by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to federalize the election process. They've tried to push through several bills, HR1 being the most prominent, but also others that would've led to not only a federal takeover of the election process, taking it away from the states, but putting in all these really unwise reckless policies and rules. That has been successfully stopped.
von Spakovsky: The Republicans successfully have filibustered all of those bills. So for 2021, the federal process is over.
von Spakovsky: On the other hand, there's also optimism for the fact that a number of states when their legislative sessions met, actually passed pretty good election reform bills containing a lot of the recommendations that in fact Heritage had made. Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, even Kansas, a number of states passed good reforms. The most obvious examples are Georgia and Texas, for example, extended their voter ID laws, which were good laws, but they only applied to in-person voting. They extended them to absentee ballots. Okay. So they passed good reforms.
von Spakovsky: What's happening now is that all of these states got sued. Now that was expected because anytime any state passes any election reform, they are sued by twice the usual number of suspects, the ACLU, the NAACP. And they've been joined now by the Biden Justice Department because the people running the Biden Justice Department, I mean, it's essentially as if the ACLU is in charge of the Justice Department. So what's happening now is battles in the courts, which if the attorney generals of places like Georgia and Texas put up a vigorous fight, I think they're going to win.
Doescher: And I was just going to get to that. You have sort of an inspiration when 2020 was obviously contested, a lot of people saying this or that about the election and you're left with, okay, well, what do we do now? And they all kind of went toward these sensible reforms that we have advocated for. And of course, I'm sure are they expected these challenges to come, especially as the Biden administration took over. Now, my question is, is the same thing happening in left leaning states? Are they going further to the left, trying to combat what's happened in the right leaning states making these election reforms?
von Spakovsky: Well, they have been, but it's very interesting you should say that. Because remember, New York for example, is a very blue state.
von Spakovsky: And two of the things that we have argued against, because we think they're unwise policies, are states switching to same day voter registration.
von Spakovsky: That's when somebody can walk into a polling place on election day, they register and they immediately vote, which gives election officials absolutely no time to actually verify ...
von Spakovsky: ... Any information given. Well on election day, the same time the Virginia and New Jersey had their elections, in New York, they had referenda on the ballot. One was to switch New York to same day voter registration and the other was to take New York from a state where you need an excuse to use an absentee ballot to no fault absentee and the people of New York voted both of those down
Doescher: By a pretty intense margin.
von Spakovsky: Yes.
Doescher: By the way, folks, Hans wrote, Hans and our good buddy, John Fund wrote a piece on this, I guess, defeat in New York, but a victory for our side in New York. And so I'll link to that in the show notes. But the interesting thing is yeah, the margin was very much against.
von Spakovsky: Yeah. It was very emphatic. Folks voted against it. Now, on the other hand, what interesting about that is the people in New York voted against it, yet that's exactly what the two Democratic senators from the state, including Chuck Schumer, have been pushing.
von Spakovsky: And another example of that is there's a vote going on in the city council of New York to give people who are not US citizens the ability to vote in local elections.
Doescher: Oh geez.
von Spakovsky: And they're doing that despite the fact that if they pass that, it's illegal under state law because the New York Constitution actually has a requirement in it that if you want to vote in a state or local election in New York, you have to be an US citizen. Apparently, members of the city council in New York just don't care.
Doescher: We're seeing here in the Biden Department of Justice, Merrick Garland is filing lawsuits to kind of stop these things from happening. And I would like to remind the listeners that that would be the standard of HR4 passed. Everything would have to go ...
von Spakovsky: That's exactly right.
Doescher: ... Through the Department of Justice. So now we are getting a sneak preview of what the John Lewis Voters Rights Act, I can't remember what it was called, but we're getting a sneak preview of what it would actually look like.
von Spakovsky: That's right. And one of the things that you're talking about here is that they've just filed suit at the Justice Department against Texas over its new redistricting plan. And I think the AG there said, "It's an absurd claim." And in many ways, it is. Because what folks need to remember is this. Remember we just had reapportionment because of the census.
von Spakovsky: Because of reapportionment, Texas got two new, additional congressional seats.
von Spakovsky: Texas is a red state. They have for years on a statewide basis, they vote for Republicans.
von Spakovsky: And yet the Justice Department is saying, you somehow violate the Voting Rights Act and you discriminated because the two new seats, you drew them so that a Republican candidate would win them. That's discriminatory. It's discriminatory because you didn't draw them so that a Democrat would win. That's the argument. That's the argument they're making in the case.
Doescher: As I travel, you and I travel around the country and we talked to a lot of great people, great Americans who love this nation. But one thing that I've been hearing creep up a little bit is, "Hey, we can't beat them in terms of ballot harvesting and early voting and vote by mail, so we just need to do it better than them so we can continue to win elections." Is that a good position for us to be in, a good posture to take? How would you respond to somebody saying that?
von Spakovsky: No, my response would be, you should be working hard to put in the kind of election reforms that are going to make for a fair and secure process. You do need to convince everybody to vote.
von Spakovsky: Folks who are going around saying, "Oh, I just don't trust the system, so I'm not going to vote," that's the wrong attitude. You need to gut out, you need to vote, but you also should do what we see happening in the education area. Parents have started showing up at school board meetings and questioning the propaganda being fed to their kids. Same thing with the public when it comes to elections. Start showing up at the county election board meetings where you live, those are the people who run elections. Start calling state legislators and saying, "Hey, there's all kinds of election reforms. I can send you a list."
von Spakovsky: The Heritage Foundation, we put out a list of election forms. Why aren't you guys passing this? That's the kind of work that they ought to do to ensure that we have secure elections.
Doescher: Let me ask. So from a bird's eye view, what would you see as the gold standard for a state for election reforms right now? There is no perfect situation. But if there could be, what would be those step, if you could prescribe them to the state and they could pass them right away?
von Spakovsky: Well, there's a long list of them, but the top priorities would be requiring an ID to vote, whether it's in person or by absentee. Verifying the citizenship and accuracy of voter registration information when people register to vote. Cleaning up voter registration lists to take people off who are dead, who've moved out of state, who perhaps have been convicted of felonies or in prison and therefore have lost their ability to vote. Those are just basic steps.
Doescher: I was going to say, sorry to interrupt you, but ID. You say ID and I'm like, duh, like that seems as basic as it gets and yet here we are saying that that's our top priority or one of our top priorities for a state to do. And my question to that is that what would be the left's argument? Is it too hard to get an ID? Is that what they say?
von Spakovsky: They say, it's too hard to get an ID. It somehow suppresses votes. All of which we know is not true. And I got to tell you the evidence out there on that not being true is now so overwhelming that it's hard for me to believe that, for example, political consultants have any reason for opposing this other than, well, if you require an ID, it's going to make it harder for us to cheat in elections.
Doescher: Yeah. Right. Yeah. What about, I mean, but, and then an ID, but you also mentioned verifying citizenship.
von Spakovsky: Yes.
Doescher: That seems to be pretty basic as well. My question is, how do you do that with a border that is just completely open with especially in these highly concentrated areas where immigrants are just coming? How do you ensure that that works fairly?
von Spakovsky: Well, it's not easy.
von Spakovsky: But on the other hand, keep in mind, remember that under federal law, for example, people who are not US citizens are not entitled to get welfare payments. And so there's a system out there, the states administer federal welfare programs and they are supposed to verify someone's citizenship by cooperating with the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security and the databases they have to check when somebody applies for welfare, make sure are they US citizens so they're entitled these federal funds. This very same system ought to be used by election officials.
Doescher: Yeah. It's a really good point. Take me a little bit to the coming year. It's an election year.
von Spakovsky: Right.
Doescher: What would you say are the hot button issues to watch in terms of election security? As we end 2021, we head into 2022, what are going to be the things we're going to see popping up in the media that you can envision and what should the response to that be?
von Spakovsky: Well, I said that a number of states had passed good election reforms or other states that didn't. Remember most states, their legislatures meet in the first quarter of each year.
von Spakovsky: So once January of 2022 rolls around, we have a large group of states who have another opportunity to pass election reform bills. Pennsylvania, for example, I know they've been working on election reform. They passed some last year, the governor vetoed it and then admitted he hadn't actually read the bill.
Doescher: Oh my.
von Spakovsky: So now they're working on another bill that, for example, will put in an annual audit requirement for elections in the state, which is a good thing. So we need to watch the state legislatures when they start meeting in January, but we also have to keep an eye on Congress to make sure that there isn't another push by liberals to get one of these really bad bills through.
Doescher: Well, Hans, thank you so much for looking out for this. I mean, you have done such a good job this year, following a tough 2020 casting a vision for what voter integrity looks like in this nation. So as we close out 2021, we head into another election year, I know that the work you have done is going to serve the people in a very meaningful way. So, I just wanted to, again, say thank you for that and all the ...
von Spakovsky: I appreciate that.
Doescher: ... All the episodes that we've done this year as we wrap out here. So again, thank you.
von Spakovsky: Thanks, Tim. The only reason I can do this is because I work at The Heritage Foundation and they support this kind of work.
Doescher: Yeah. God bless it. Well, Merry Christmas, Hans.
von Spakovsky: Same to you.
Doescher: And that's it for this episode of Heritage Explains. Merry Christmas, everyone. We love this time of year, and we are so grateful for you as our audience. As we head the holidays, give the gift of Heritage Explains. Please feel free to share with your friends and your family. I think it's a pretty good gift. Although, I might be considered biased. By the way, we have linked to all of the resources that helped build this episode out, so please head over to the show notes and check it out for yourself.
Doescher: That also includes the Election Integrity Scorecard. It's a really cool thing. I think you'll really, really enjoy it. And with that being said, Michelle Cordero is up next week and she's going to take us even further into the Christmas season. We'll catch you then.