Padilla Questions Elections Officials on Threats to Democracy and Safe and Fair Elections￼
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and California’s former Secretary of State, today questioned witnesses at a hearing entitled “Protecting Our Democracy’s Frontline Workers.” During the hearing, Padilla questioned Secretaries of State Jocelyn Benson of Michigan, and Maggie Toulouse Oliver of New Mexico, on the important role that elections professionals and volunteers play in every election.
During the questioning, Senator Padilla spoke with the secretaries of state about how threats to election workers affect all voters, not just Democrats or Republicans, and can undermine our democracy. The witnesses also dove into detail about how the ‘Big Lie’ has led to an increase in the magnitude of threats election workers have faced since the 2020 election.
- PADILLA: As the testimony here today has so credibly highlighted, our election workers now face extraordinary threats, and harassment, just for doing the most basic, essential work of our democracy, helping people cast their ballot. I’m grateful that they continue to show up for work, despite these additional hardships. But I’m also extremely concerned that unless we address this problem head on, not ignore it, not sweep it under the rug, unless we address it head on, fewer and fewer people will choose to serve as election workers. So, my first question is for the two Secretaries of State, my former colleagues, Secretary Benson Secretary Oliver, can you expand on how the ordinary work of our election workers is so extraordinarily important to our democratic process, and how the recent rise in threats is affecting recruitment and retention of workers?
- OLIVER: […] I don’t think folks realize how much goes into planning and executing an election and how many individuals, what I like to emphasize is the fact that we have a citizen run democracy in the United States. […] These are the individuals who come back year after year who believe it’s their civic duty. Without them, we simply do not have a democracy, and we won’t have a democratic process.
- PADILLA: And to be abundantly clear, is the problem that I laid out a danger or a threat. Does it hurt Democratic voters, Republican voters, all voters?
- OLIVER: In fact, Senator, you know, the recent situation in Otero County, New Mexico, not only did the big lie, push the county commission in that county so far as to actually take an initial vote to not certify the election process. It would have disenfranchised 7300 voters in that county donate the vast majority of whom are Republicans. All of the candidates with maybe two exceptions on the ballot that would have been disqualified from the general election would have been Republican candidates. So we’re fighting to save the vote for every voter regardless of party.
- BENSON: I think we have to recognize that while we’ve talked a lot today about challenges, threats facing public officials, generally, there’s a particular nuance here, it’s critically important that those attacking us are motivated by lies and misinformation that they have been told by people they trust. In fact, I mean, there were there are members of the US Senate, some of whom were on this committee, who knowingly spread falsehoods about the security of our elections with zero evidence of factual basis. And, you know, today, I hope they hear me when I say that, in doing so they’re hurting us. They’re hurting our democracy.
Padilla has been a champion for the expansion of voting rights in California and across the country, and has lead efforts strengthen election integrity. He’s also led efforts calling on Congress and state elections officials to step up efforts to protect election workers.