Davis says states need protections against voter-registration mishaps

Illinois’ recent election administrative errors in its Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) program, including the erroneous registration of more than 500 reported non-citizens, recently fell under the spotlight during a congressional listening session held by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL).

“Considering these errors,” the congressman said, “it gives me great concern for the states who find they are not equipped, as Illinois thought we were, to implement such a program.”

Rep. Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Elections, highlighted other state AVR program errors, including the attempt to register 4,700 ineligible 16-year-olds, and canceling registrations for more than 770 formerly incarcerated people.

“A fundamental right of our nation is the ability to choose our leaders, and the citizens of Illinois, and across this nation, deserve to have that right protected,” Rep. Davis said. “We must provide confidence for Americans to trust in their election systems without fear of software glitches.”

Due to such AVR program mishaps, Rep. Davis denounced the bipartisan For the People Act of 2019, H.R. 1, sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and supported by 236 representatives, to address voter access, election integrity, election security, political spending, and ethics for the three branches of government, as well as to expand voter registration and voting access, according to the congressional record summary.

The U.S. House of Representatives in March 2019 approved H.R. 1 on a vote of 234-193, and the U.S. Senate that month placed the measure on its legislative calendar.

“If H.R. 1, the Democrats’ election overhaul bill, becomes law, then every state will be federally mandated to adopt AVR,” said Rep. Davis. “That doesn’t give me confidence that our federal government knows or understands the process for states to be forced to adopt complex programs like this.”

Instead, Davis touted the Protect American Voters Act (PAVA), H.R. 5707, which he unveiled on Jan. 29 to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and secure non-voting election systems, like online voter registration databases or e-poll books.

If enacted, the GOP-supported H.R. 5707 would direct the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to adopt voluntary guidelines for the use of non-voting election technology; require the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology to submit annual status reports on how specific responsibilities and projects requested by the EAC have been carried out; and establish an Election Cyber Assistance Unit within the EAC, according to the bill’s text.

“We must protect our non-voting election technology the same way that the Help America Vote Act of 2002 protects and secures our voting systems,” said the lawmaker. “That’s why it is important that the majority hold a hearing on my bill, PAVA, that will address newer, non-voting technology, which has recently been the target of foreign interference and did not exist almost twenty years ago.”

The Illinois listening session participants included several state representatives; Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections; Nathan Maddox, senior legal adviser to the Illinois Secretary of State; and several county clerks.