WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) opened today’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on “Ensuring a Free, Fair, and Safe Election During the Coronavirus Pandemic” by emphasizing the importance of assuring all Americans that we already have the infrastructure and procedures in place to conduct a free, fair, and safe election this November.
Whip Scalise pointed out that Americans have confidently gone to the polls during previous pandemics or wars, and that studies from recent state primaries held at the height of coronavirus pandemic showed that these elections did not result in a detectable surge in cases. The experts and science clearly state that it is safe to vote early, in person, or by mail. Whip Scalise blasted Democrats’ apparent attempts to undermine Americans’ faith in the upcoming election and push partisan schemes like the mandatory distribution of mail-in ballots to all voters. Our elections are the bedrock of our democracy — if the science says it’s safe to vote just like any other election, there’s no reason to use coronavirus as an excuse to risk fraud, abuse, and the potential for an unfairly “contested election.”
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to start by sending my prayers to the people of southwest Louisiana, including Lake Charles, who are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Laura. We will continue to stand with them and help them as they rebuild their homes and communities.
“Let me be very clear. Every American who is legally eligible to vote will have that opportunity on November 3rd and is strongly encouraged to exercise their right to vote. Each state runs their elections and it is our duty to ensure that our elections are run fairly and safely. One of the ways we must protect every American’s right to vote is to ensure the integrity of their vote is preserved by rooting out voter fraud, which is well-documented. We must also make sure that every American who wants to safely vote in person will have that right. I urge all Members, on a bipartisan basis, to convey that message to the American people: the 2020 elections will be conducted safely and fairly and we urge all eligible voters to participate.
“Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, the American people have reminded the world about what it means to be an American. We hold our constitutional rights as sacred. A pandemic will not stand in the way of Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. Americans still have the right to peaceably assemble and peacefully protest. Americans must also have the ability to exercise our religious freedom and the right to worship as we believe.
“As with previous pandemics, like the Spanish Flu of 1918, or wars, or periods of unrest – America will confidently go to the polls in November. I have spent a good part of August traveling the country and talking with voters. Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians – Americans are ready and motivated to vote. They deserve to hear from leaders in both parties that the elections will be held safely and fairly. Instead of urging the losing candidate to refuse to concede, as some are suggesting, or trying to change laws in ways that would drag out the result for weeks after election night, we need to ensure that state laws, which have been debated and honed over years, are respected and allowed to be implemented fairly and efficiently.
“What people do not want to hear is one political party attempting to take advantage of a pandemic to try and ram through their partisan election scheme that has nothing at all to do with the coronavirus.
“Let’s listen to the experts and follow the science. The unanimous opinion of our top public health experts is that in-person voting can be done safely. On August 13, 2020, when asked if people could safely go and vote in person during this pandemic, Dr. Fauci stated, ‘I think if carefully done, according to the guidelines, there’s no reason that I can see why that [would] not be the case… there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote in person or otherwise.’
“On August 20, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield announced that the CDC put out guidance on how to safely vote in person. Dr. Redfield stated, ‘I think people can be able to social distance and wear masks and with the recommendations we have for hygiene… we don’t see that there is going to be a negative impact on your ability to vote from a public health perspective… I know I am going to vote face to face.’ In an interview on August 22, Dr. Deborah Birx said, ‘I can tell you it has been safe for me to go to Starbucks and pick up my order,’ [so if you can] ‘go into Starbucks in the middle of Texas and Alabama and Mississippi that have very high case rates, then I can’t say that it would be different waiting in line in the polls.’
“A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice advises, ‘[i]n-person voting can be conducted safely if jurisdictions take the necessary steps to minimize the risk of transmission of Covid-19 to voters and election workers.’
“I hope all of my colleagues will take the opportunity to highlight CDC’s guidance for safe in-person voting. It is really quite extensive and quite specific. A few examples:
- Ensure that poll locations are adequately staffed to cover any sick workers who need to stay home.
- Provide hand sanitizer for use at each step in the voting process Recommend and reinforce the use of masks among all workers.
- Encourage voters to use masks while in the polling location.
- Post signs in highly visible locations that promote everyday protective measures.
- Remind voters upon arrival to leave space between themselves and others. Encourage voters to stay at least 6 feet apart.
- Have plans to manage lines to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
- Consider increasing the number of polling locations available for early voting and extending the hours of operation.
- Increase distance between voting booths.
“I hope all my colleagues remind voters that since the beginning of March, when President Trump declared a national emergency due to the pandemic, 37 states plus Washington, D.C, have successfully held statewide primaries for president or state-level office. I have voted in person in two different elections we’ve had in Louisiana during the last few months – without any problems. I took my son Harrison with me to pass along the history and tradition of our sacred right to vote – as so many families have done for generations.
“Wisconsin held a very successful election near the height of the pandemic on April 7. A peer-reviewed study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health concluded that in-person voting in Wisconsin’s election by more than 400,000 electors did not produce a detectable surge in coronavirus cases. Follow the science!
“We have established procedures for absentee voting, early voting, and in some states vote-by-mail. America is ready to go vote.
“Many voters vote by absentee ballot and or request a mailed ballot. These procedures have been in place and each state handles it a bit differently – but those systems have been working and are also ready to go for 2020. We should be inspiring confidence in those procedures.
“There is simply no pandemic related reason to change the way we vote in the 2020 election. Given the topic of today’s hearing – ‘Ensuring a Free, Fair, and Safe Election During the Coronavirus Pandemic’ – we can stop right there. We know how to do that.
“But our Democrat colleagues do not want to join with us today and send a bipartisan message. They want to attempt to advance H.R. 1. That’s right, this Democrat partisan scheme goes back to the very beginning of last year – long before coronavirus hit America.
“They want to mandate that ballots be mailed to all registered voters during an emergency. That is, as I just outlined, unnecessary and dangerous. A review by Judicial Watch in early 2020 found 378 counties nationwide that have more registered voters than voting-age citizens. More than 28 million mail-in ballots went missing in the last four elections according to data collected from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
“How does sending millions of ballots to people who are illegally on voting rolls promote fair elections and inspire confidence? That would be a recipe for disaster and chaos.
“Let’s put our focus on helping states conduct a fair, efficient, and safe election for all Americans who are legally eligible to vote. I yield back.”