CONSTITUTION CAUCUS -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2007)
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to come to the floor tonight as we wrap up this week's session in Congress. It was just last week, Monday, the 17th of September, when we celebrated the 220th anniversary of the signing of our founding document of this country, the Constitution. It was on September 17, 1787, 39 revolutionary and visionary Founding Fathers changed the course of history in this land and the world as well.
It came about after months of deliberations. What they did was succeed in securing liberties and freedoms that were, quite honestly, unimaginable to previous civilizations. I should just note, to commemorate this and honor the civilization's most ingenious governmental guidelines that we recognized last week, I introduced House Resolution 646 to that end.
Tonight I come to the floor, as we do often as part of the Constitutional Caucus, to raise up the issue of the Constitution, that seminal document, that document that we should be looking to each and every day when House Members and Senate Members come to the floor after having deliberated various issues and bills, and taking out of their pocket their voting card and sliding into that slot, to ask themselves: Is what we are about to vote on constitutional? Is it within the confines of the Founding Fathers' document?
Tonight I am joined by my colleagues, the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Bishop) and the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King), and I believe shortly the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) as well, as we deliberate and discuss the issues of the Constitution.
We do this for several purposes. It is an illuminating event we believe both for Members of Congress and also for the general public as well, an opportunity to explore and expand and expound upon this important document. Because if we lose that, if we lose that as a guiding principle, obviously there will be nothing as a guide for us or a restriction into the role we are elected to abide by.
Tonight we will touch on various issues, all within the confines of that document, but we are generally going to stay within the area of voting. Some legislation that we have looked at in the past, and I will probably touch upon a little later on, and some legislation that is coming down the pipe fairly shortly, to address some of the issues that people have raised throughout the country with regard to the veracity of past voting patterns in this country.
So at this point, I would like to turn the microphone over to the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Bishop) for his comments, who I always appreciate Mr. Bishop's insight.
Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman from New Jersey for helping to organize this, as well as talk about these topics, and every once in a while to take the process that we probably should be doing more often and simply review our actions and see if they deal with some type of philosophical basis.
When the Founding Fathers established this country, they established a Federal system with the understanding that certain powers and responsibilities would be given to the national level and certain powers and responsibilities on the local level.
Now, this was not done in some random process. They took the time to try and figure out which would best fit in which category, realizing there are some tasks of government that naturally would be better done if they were done on a unified level, and certain other responsibilities that would be best performed by local government.
One of those that they decided would be better performed, and I should say best performed, a superlative, by local government was the manner of elections. And they clearly realized that if elections were the purview and responsibility of States that they had a better opportunity of being effective and less chance of being corrupt in so doing.
Some of our European allies when they restructured their governments after World War II also did the Federal system; and once again they divided powers and responsibilities between national and local levels.
And one of the powers and responsibilities given to the local level, for obvious reasons of effectiveness and lack of corruption, was that of the manner of elections.
The State of Utah, I'm very proud to say, had wonderful registration rolls when I was in the legislature and in a leadership role there, and actually our voter registration I thought was fairly accurate. That's the reason we do have voter registration anyway is to prevent fraud.
In the 1800s, we talked about this wonderful process of everybody voting in America, but we don't really know how many people actually voted, only the number of votes that were tabulated, for we had in history this process or this individual known as a floater who was paid between $5 and $20 per vote. In fact, I have to admit within my own family one of my ancestors was given the day off with pay to vote. He voted in his workplace, took a train and went down to the capitol and voted a second time, and then went home and wrote about how he voted a third time. The reason we have voter registration is to prohibit that today.
I was in the leadership in the legislature when the Federal Government in its wisdom came up with the Motor Voter Act which took our wonderful rolls and registration systems and bloated them beyond compare. When we were able to purge voter rolls after 4 years, we now had to do it after 10 years. When everyone was asked whenever they got a service from the government if they'd like to register, and they couldn't remember if they registered or not, they re-registered them.
If you look at the number of people in Utah who are registered in a State that has the largest percentage of kids of any State in the Nation, the numbers don't fit of those who are registered and those who are simply eligible to vote. So I don't really know what percentage is voting. We're making guesses there.
The greatest thing of all in this entire program is the Federal Government gave us as a State the great privilege and honor of paying for it all ourselves. At that time I was sad the 17th amendment was in place because had it not been there and the State legislature selected senators, I can promise you that bill would have changed or our Senate delegation would have changed.
Then the Federal Government assisted States again while I was still back in Utah with the Help America Vote Act. Now, I have to admit that we in Utah did not have the problem of hanging chads as some certain southern States that will not be mentioned did have. We had a definition of what a vote was and was not, and we looked at every ballot of those punch cards to determine if it was a legal ballot before it was ever run through the system.
Our system was effective, it was efficient, it was cheap; but we complied to the Federal Government's assistance to make everything better with the Help America Vote Act. Now, the Federal Government did give us some money, but certainly not enough to pay for the entire system. So at great expense, the State of Utah and other States changed their election system at the dictate and mandate of the Federal Government. I have to say we may actually probably have a better system, but it's also a much more expensive system.
We now have a proposal given to us by Members of the Democratic side that would force another change in the system that has just established under the Help America Vote Act, another system that requires even my State, which has a paper trail system in place, to change it because we don't have the right kind of paper.
The reality is I think, and I think that the Constitution and our Founding Fathers would tell us, if you really want to have a good election system just get out of the way and let the States fulfill their constitutional responsibility of the manner of election, and there would be greater efficiency and less likelihood of corruption. We should not be micromanaging States. One size does not fit all.
The State of Utah, in a poll conducted by BYU, has a 95 percent competence in our system of government, which if the opposition bill were to pass would have to be totally changed, and we would once again bear the costs and burden of doing that.
Now, I know that our good friend from Iowa (Mr. King) has another bill in that would probably address many of these issues and many of these problems. I think, Mr. Garrett, if it's all right with you as the chairman of this caucus, if we were maybe to hear from the gentleman from Iowa at this time to at least express another way of getting around what appears to be another mandate that would change and add significant difficulty to States what they don't need: the heavy-handed help of the Federal Government.
Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlemen from New Jersey and Utah; and Mr. Speaker, it's a privilege again to address this House and you and talk about the integrity of our voting system that we have here in the United States.
I start my opinion and my view out on this focused long before the year 2000, but really focused on the 2000 election. I recall watching that drama unfold in Florida, and at the time, I was chairman of the Iowa State senate, State government committee, and I knew that it was my job to be sure that Iowa could be set up and structured in such a way that they never became a State like Florida was, going through the throes of those decisions that were being made down there by their State supreme court and ultimately by the United States Supreme Court.
It was an agonizing thing to watch, and I watched it intensively for 37 days in front of the television and my Dish TV, and everything I could pick up in all the print, off the Internet and my telephones. I worked them constantly because I knew the next leader of the free world was going to emerge from the system that Florida had, and that, of course, was the catalyst that created HAVA, the Help America Vote Act.
I came to some conclusions, too. I chased all those rabbit trails on the Internet down to the end, and I uncovered what I believe to be a significant amount of corruption within our electoral system across this country, flat out open, intentional fraud committed in a number of States without a lot of prosecution to back it up, kind of a blind eye.
I will speak one State discovered the laws were set up in such a way if you came in and presented yourself as Joe Smith, and even if Joe Smith was actually working the election board and knew very well that it was his registration you were pointing to and you alleged to be him, Joe Smith himself couldn't challenge the person who presented themselves as Joe Smith because the election laws prohibited challenging the identification of someone whom you know to be misrepresenting themselves. Can't ask for an ID, can't ask for a picture ID. You can't even prohibit them from voting in your name, and you can't ask for a provisional ballot in some States, and those kind of things open up this system.
So I came at this with a little bit different view than I think the gentleman from Utah has from this perspective. Yes, I want the States to have the maximum amount of autonomy. I want to see that in the hands of the States. I don't want the Federal Government to run this; but by the same token, a State that has a faulty electoral system, without true integrity then, also can be the State that chooses the next leader in the free world, which affects all Americans.
So if you could envision a scenario of Florida that resulted in an altered election result for the President of the United States, you can also envision an interest that this Congress has, but it should be very narrow. It should be very limited, and it should be consistent with our constitutional views.
The voter registration that the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Bishop) mentioned, I looked across the voter registration rolls, Iowa in particular, and found them to be replete with duplicates, deceased, and in our State, like the case of Florida, felons. Duplicates, deceased and felons; and yet there we sat with all that software, that database with all those registered voters, and we couldn't even run that database to sort out when there were duplicates, just simply leave the registration of the most recent activity. We couldn't even get that done.
I brought legislation through the Iowa Senate that required the Secretary of State to sort that voter registration list to certify that the list be free of duplicates, deceased, and felons and that the Secretary of State certify that they be citizens. Not a very high standard that they should be a citizen of the United States to vote here in America. Those things were all met with the stiffest opposition by the members of the other party, which convinced me that they believed that they had an advantage with a system that was full of those kind of contradictions and integrity, I can put it that way.
I recall running across a significant amount of information that was compiled by the Collier brothers in Florida, and neither of these brothers happen to be alive today, for different reasons I understand. But one of the pieces of their documents, and they did a movie and there's a fair amount of print material out there. They had gone into the warehouse where the vote counting machines, the punch card vote counting machines were stored, and they asked the fellow how is it that you rig a vote here. He said, well, it's simple. He opened the drawer and pulled one of the plastic gears out of there and said we just grind one tooth off of these plastic gears, put them in the voting machine, and that puts in one extra vote for our guy out of every 10 votes that are cast.
Well, that will change most elections, Mr. Speaker. Something that open, that blatant in the annals of the public record of the United States. And so HAVA was passed here in Congress, the Help America Vote Act, all with good intention. I think they went too far with HAVA then and provided a lot of help for the local election boards.
One of the things that they did was require that there be the electronic voting machines; and the purpose of that, one of the foundational reasons for that was so that they could be operated by the blind, which means they need to be able to plug in earphones into that machine so that you can listen to the tones and vote. There were a lot of successes in blind voting with absentee ballots, and that wasn't a concern that ever came to me; but it was an accommodation that actually was a significant component that altered these requirements that came out for HAVA.
So it would be nice to be able to accommodate the blind. They ask for very, very little. By the same token, it opened this system up now where we have electronic voting machines across this country where there is no legitimate means to audit the votes that are recorded on them. We have thousands and thousands of electronic voting machines that simply have a software trail, not a paper trail.
And as I mentioned about how the grinding a plastic tooth off of a plastic gear can change the results of the counting of the ballots, the punch card ballots in a place like Florida and many other places at that period of time, the software can do the same thing. We have something like 900 software engineers that have said that this software can be hacked, it can be altered; and of course I believe it can be.
Now, the most important point of this is one thing is that we to have a lot of integrity in our system, Mr. Speaker. It can be altered, it can be hacked; but if we got to the point where the American people lost their confidence in the integrity of this system, our entire constitutional Republic comes crashing down around us because no one would accept the results of an election. They would challenge it like they do in Mexico, or I was there last month, and the President of Mexico wasn't allowed to even give the state of the union address to their own congress because they had rejected the results of the election, among other reasons.
But here we respect the integrity of our electoral process. We held it together through the 2000 issues, and Florida cleaned up a lot of the things that went on down there. I need to say that for the benefit of my brethren from Florida. But if we ever lost confidence in this system, our entire constitutional Republic is at risk.
So whether there's a Republican majority or a Democrat majority, whether there's a Democrat or Republican in the White House, whether one side dominates the other side, it's important to both sides of the aisle that we have a maximum amount of integrity in our electoral process.
So what I have done is drafted legislation that's called the Know Your Vote Counts Act. It is very simple. It isn't this expansive thing that adds a lot of conditions on and makes it so that the voting machines that are out there now are obsolete and have to be retooled and cost a lot of money. What it does is it requires a paper audit trail in all precincts. So the electronic voting machines that are touchstone or touch key voting machines now can easily be retrofitted with a mechanism that scrolls that ballot out there so you can see it through a piece of Plexiglass, records your vote on it, and touch a button and say, yes, I like that vote, that's how I voted, boom, drops down into the box. That is part of the paper audit trail.
It's that simple. That's the purpose of my bill. The purpose of it is to give that voter the complete confidence that the way they have cast their ballot is also the way that that ballot is recorded on the paper which becomes the audit trail; and then if there is an audit, the paper ballots are counted. That simple.
I mean, in Canada they just put a little X on the piece of paper, count those pieces of paper, and really don't have a lot of problem. We need to have the paper trail because electronically you just simply cannot guarantee an audit trail.
And we've lived with some unreliable audit trails in the past. The old lever voting machines, I don't think any of those are actually functioning at home anymore, but I voted with those old lever voting machines, and I didn't realize at the time that you simply can't really do an audit. You can go back, take it apart, look at that entire paper scroll that's back there, but you really can't do a legitimate audit.
And when something falls apart, when you have a meltdown, when you have a software failure or a hardware failure or you simply have a challenge to the integrity of the system, you have no way, Mr. Speaker, of knowing whether the electronic record that may remain on that hard drive, no matter how many redundancies you put into it, you can never assure that it hasn't been hacked.
As much as you want to trust the system, you still can't be sure of that. The only thing that you can trust is paper. We designate paper to be the trail. We stay out of the business of the States beyond that, but I believe it is to the interest of the Federal Government and the Congress and the people in this country to go to that step to ensure that when the next leader of the free world is selected that it is done with a process that has a maximum amount of integrity and the minimum amount of imposition of regulations on the States.
One of these pieces of the whole bill versus the Know Your Vote Counts bill that is the King bill is that it requires also that not only there be a paper audit trail but that the machines spit out a receipt that tells you how you voted.
Once you walk out of the room with your little receipt like your credit card receipt that says here is how you voted, it has absolutely no connection to the process in the voting booth. It does you no good. It is simply an expensive component and serves no purpose, except I will say that there is no machine that is manufactured anywhere that I know of certainly in the world, certainly in the United States, that at this point can comply with the language that is in the whole bill.
So I am submitting, Mr. Speaker, the bill that is Know Your Vote Counts Act. It is a very, very simple bill that simply requires a paper ballot to be generated, and that that paper ballot be verified by the voter, and that that paper ballot becomes the audit trail. It is that simple. It is something we need to do. This is 2007.
So I thank you for your attention, Mr. Speaker, and I yield back to the gentleman from New Jersey.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. And I appreciate the gentleman, if he has time for some queries on it as well.
Mr. KING of Iowa. Of course.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. First of all, let me say I am impressed by your opening comment, and I guess this is just a typical reflection of your dedication to an issue. Your opening comment was you began to look at this issue back in the year 2000, and here we are at 2007. And knowing your dedication to this issue, to the way you handle matters is that you have been looking at it ever since then and investigating it to make sure that you come up with the very best answer. So I commend you for that. This is just reflective of how you handle just about every issue that I have ever known you to deal with, that you stick onto it early on and then stick with it right to the end.
Before I play a little of devil's advocate with you on this, if I may, the gentleman from Utah is probably a better historian than I am. But it is interesting, when we talk about paper ballots and ballots in general, people today probably have somewhat of a misconception about the veracity or accuracy and the legitimacy, I guess you might say, of past elections in this country, way before we had those electronic machines today or the mechanical machines that you were referring to earlier. I know the stories from reading textbooks and school books and what have you is that election days in this country years ago were celebratory days more so than they are today. Nowadays, we have to really push people to the polls. Years ago, it was something people, I don't want to say, spontaneously wanted to do, but they actually were more excited about it.
Although, one of the ways I understand that they were encouraged to come to the polls was through town celebrations. And that is, in the county seats or that sort of thing, the candidates who were running for office would host large parties, and what would happen is people would come from the countryside and the hillsides and what have you into the county seat where they would be voting. And this would be a large celebration where food and beverages, I suppose adult beverages, as Rush Limbaugh would say, would be served, what have you, so it would be a celebratory time. People would come in and they would vote, and they would vote with, back then of course all there was was paper ballots, and many times the paper ballots were color coordinated paper ballots. And so if you were voting for STEVE KING in that election, you might be voting with a blue ballot, and if you were voting for SCOTT GARRETT, you might have the brown ballot. So it would be a way that actually going into the election booth there was no secrecy to it, because you would be getting your brown ballot from the Garrett campaign or the blue ballot from the King campaign, and you would be going in. And that would also indicate which party, literally, which party you came to, and then you would put it into the election box.
I don't know whether the gentleman from Utah knows those stories as well.
Mr. BISHOP of Utah. If I could just add a couple of those to it. It is true. When George Washington was first elected to the House of Burgess, he bought a round of drinks for all the supporters. And my students would obviously wonder, well, how do you know who his supporters were? The idea of a secret ballot is a pretty modern concept. In the good old days, when you came into the town centers you said, and when the vote was counted and they asked how many were for George Washington, they stood up. He saw who was voting for him; he knew they were there. Everything was an open process at that particular time. And that is why in England you stand for election; you don't run like we do. Because literally you could come up there in the election and you would have to stand for the election.
I used to watch these cartoons on Thomas Nast right after the Civil War. I saw one where there was this globe for which one Union soldier was reaching, I had no idea what it was, it was a clear crystal ball, until I realized what he was reaching for was a ballot box which was clear. And the gentleman is right, you would get a ballot from a campaign; you would go in there, and you would deposit your colored ballots so everyone knew. In fact, in New York City at one time, in case they were color-blind, they would perfume their ballots so you could smell it if you couldn't see it. But the idea of a secret ballot is something that is just recently here.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. And on that point, how this ties in besides a history lesson, which I think is important as well, how it ties into one of your comments was one of the suggestions that has been made, and you touched upon it, was with regard to a paper ballot today would be either simply that you would have a single paper ballot that you would take with you when you leave, and that would be the only receipt. Or, I think you suggested both. In other words, a paper ballot would be made and printed that would go into a locked box, plus you would get a receipt to confirm how you voted. So there would be two.
The dilemma with either scenario, where you take a ballot out with you, goes back to what we are referencing right here. Now when you leave the poll, you have some document to prove how you just voted. Now, not to suggest that anyone in this day and age is paying people to vote, although we have heard such accusations, but of course without any documentation, someone can say, well, here is $25 to you if you will vote for my candidacy in the election. And of course the guy will take the $25 and come out of the election booth and say, ``Don't worry, I voted for you,'' and there is no proof that you did. If, however, there is a paper receipt, now you can come back and say, ``Well, here is the proof that I just voted for you or your candidate. Give me my $25.'' Or whatever the going rate may be in certain cities or elsewhere to confirm that I did. So I am not sure whether you have ever heard of that dilemma with that.
Mr. KING of Iowa. If the gentleman would yield. I think you have made the most salient point about the flaw in the whole bill, which there are two pieces of paper generated with every ballot. One of them becomes the audit trail that you can see through the Plexiglass, and when you push the button and say, I accept this as my vote, and it drops down into the lock box for the audit trail. And then of course the chain of custody of all of that is another subject we can talk about.
But to walk out of there with a receipt that says ``I voted this way'' does open up the door for the walking around money that we know goes on in some of these precincts to be handed over in exchange. And I can see where subcontractors could be hired to work within the neighborhoods, that you would pay a commission on how many ballots or how many receipts you could collect, so many dollars a vote. And you could say, okay, it is $20 for a vote and my commission is 5 bucks. So $25, $5 of which the contractor would get; that opens up the door for all kinds of vote buying. And that is the strongest, most compelling reason to reject the whole bill. And I will have this bill in and it will be available for Members to sign on to, and hopefully we can move it on the Know Your Vote Counts Act. It is a very much more narrow bill.
But there was another component that I left out of that in my earlier piece that I just want to inject into this discussion briefly. And that is, I said that we needed to have voter registration lists that are free of duplicates, deceased, and felons, and, that the
registrants be certified to be citizens on that list. But also, the requirement for a picture ID. I mean, they do that in places like Venezuela, a picture ID to go and vote, and that is a method by which you match up the name with the name on the registration. It is a small thing to ask for. And when I advocated for that, I ran into the opposition that said, well, no, that is a poll tax because everybody doesn't have a picture ID. My grandmother doesn't have a driver's license; therefore, she doesn't have any way to identify herself with a picture on it.
Well, I would argue that the Department of Transportation will issue one of those picture IDs for $5. But then that is charged to be a poll tax. And every argument will work in any port in a storm, but if you want integrity, those are the things you have to do.
Mr. BISHOP of Utah. I appreciate what you just said, because almost everything you are trying to explain in kind of a system that would work happens to be exactly what we are doing in the State of Utah without having the Federal Government tell us how to do it. So we do have that voting system where you do see the paper ballots there, and you look at the paper trail that is there as well as the actual touch screen, and you are asked if the paper is what you want. You don't take it with you, but it is there as part of the audit trail.
And we actually do require picture IDs when you come into vote. And even I, in my voting district, in fact literally the lady who lived across the street from me was there and I still had to produce a picture ID before I could get my card to go vote.
One of the problems, though, that I see and one of the reasons why we need an alternative to what the bill that came out of the committee is, simply, even the State of Utah would have to change its process, even though we are doing exactly what they want, because it doesn't fit the kinds of machines that are mandated, it doesn't fit the kind of paper that was mandated, it doesn't fit the kind of audit process that is mandated. This bill tells you what to do with long lines, it tells you what to do with provisional ballots, it tells you what to do with recounts, and it says you have to do it now.
And that is one of the reasons why I am grateful there are some other options out here, because the bill that may be on the floor, the bill that did come out of the committee, the bill is simply flawed in many ways, and it is simply flawed because, once again, it has the mindset that the Federal Government is going to tell you how to do things in the most intricate way of micromanagement. And that is one of the flaws we have. This country is never supposed to be micromanaged from this body.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. And the gentleman from Utah made a passing reference to the 17th amendment earlier on, and then I will yield back to the gentleman from Iowa. But just to illuminate on that point, originally the Founding Fathers of course intended that the other body, the Senate, would be elected not by direct vote but by the legislators of those States. And the idea behind that was probably to address the point that the gentleman from Utah just made; that the various States, such as Utah, which is probably ahead of the curve in just about every facet of running a government that we have seen so far, based on his testimony and previous evenings, the State of Utah prior to the passage of the 17th amendment would have elected their U.S. Senators through their State legislators. That Senator many times would have come from the Utah State Legislature prior to coming to Washington, would know what Utah was doing, and would have a personal stake or a local interest in maintaining the integrity and the sovereignty of that State. Likewise, from Iowa or New Jersey as well.
Obviously, the 17th amendment changed that, so now the U.S. Senators are now directly elected by the citizens of the respective States, and you break that bond between the sovereign issue that a legislature may have had. And you may have seen that reason on this issue coming from the bill from the other side of the aisle that we are talking about here, or some of the other issues that we have talked about on the floor as well as Congress begins to exceed its bounds and actually sees no bounds with regard to our control in every aspect of our lives.
Earlier today, just to digress for a moment, we voted on the flood insurance bill and we were going to expand into a wind map plan and for wind insurance as well. Basically, the Republican side of the aisle voted ``no'' on that bill, primarily because they said we would be exercising outside and pushing pressures on the economic forces that are already there providing that coverage. And really, the question is as I said at outset of my opening comments, and they often do when you put your card in here to vote is, does the Congress have that authority? Prior to the 17th amendment, a U.S. Senator would say, no, we have that authority in our own States to handle the regulation, whether it is insurance or otherwise, and want to confine ourselves to confine the Congress or the Senate to the areas that the Founding Fathers intended. Voting, of course, is a carefully construed area in the Constitution, and I will just close on this before I yield back to the gentleman.
Earlier, there was another issue, and I know the gentleman spoke quite a bit on this issue several months back. This House had another heated debate, if you will, when it came to a voting issue, and that was whether or not we would give voting rights to the citizens here of the District of Columbia, and I know the gentleman from Iowa also, I believe, came to the floor and spoke extensively on that topic.
And the answer to that issue, as much as the other side, just as on this issue, just as the other side would like to stand up on this issue and say, well, we have the infinite detail and plan to the finite level to the Nth degree on how to do this issue that we have before us today as far as every little nook and cranny has to be covered on voting. They said the same thing when it came to the D.C. voting rights as well. We know what is best and how to implement that program and voting rights for the District of Columbia,
And well, may they should or may they did; what they didn't seem to do with that one, nor apparently did they do in this case as well is look, as you and I would suggest they probably should have, and I think you discussed it at the time, to a copy of the U.S. Constitution. And had they done so, they would have realized on that issue, I'm not going to redebate that issue, but had they done so, they would have realized that the Constitution specifically addressed the issue of the District of Columbia and how it should be set up and how the control of the District would be. The Constitution also defined who is a citizen in terms of voting and who is a representative and that he would come from a State. And of course this is not a State. So all you really have to do on many of these cases is look to the terms of the Constitution, and they begin to answer some of these questions.
But I have a question for the gentleman from Iowa, again just to look at some of the finer points to it. You raised the issue of actually having a piece of paper, a trail, if you will, and you raised the question whether or not we can trust the electronic aspect of the machines and what have you. Just to be the proverbial Devil's advocate with you, some people would suggest that, well, for our entire financial system in this country nowadays, we look to electronic transfers and what have you and we rely on that nowadays, as opposed to paper ballots or paper documentations.
And likewise, there is another suggestion in this area, whether it comes from Congress or it comes from the States, as opposed to a paper ballot, but an electronic receipt, if you will. And I'll just give you one of these and then I will close.
One of the suggestions for an electronic receipt would be not a written message that I just voted for a Steve King, but an electronic voice activation message that I just voted for Steve King. So instead of going into the ballot booth, and I don't know whether the gentleman's ever heard of this proposal before, and pushing the button and clicking down on a piece of paper, electronically it would record and you would hear, vote for Steve King for U.S. Senate.
Would you see any of those as alternatives to this as we move into the electronic age to be an equal or sufficient record?
Mr. KING of Iowa. Well, Mr. Garrett, first, I think in terms of if I needed to follow an electronic trail of, let's say, if I made a deposit that was an electronic deposit into, maybe it was an electronic automatic deposit into my bank, and the distributions that went out from automatic payments that go out of the bank, and in conjunction with credit card bills that flow around the country and come back, a full electronic trail, I have not run into an experience where I can't actually track all of that money, because someone is accountable at every level.
If the deposit doesn't show up in an automatic deposit, I can go back to the people that were to make that deposit, say, do that in the form of a paycheck or a purchase item. Well, where's your distribution record? Where's your transfer records? And if they don't have any, one can presume they never transferred the electronic deposit into my account. If there's money missing from my account, I can track and see where did it go. But I can have that confidence of doing that through the banks, through the credit cards without a lot of problem.
But we never know. We never know how a person actually votes. That secrecy of the way you vote cannot be tracked. Once you walk out of that voting booth, there's no connection between the voter and the actual ballot that was cast. So that requires a different level of integrity. And as far as an audio receipt that would say to you I just cast a ballot for SCOTT GARRETT, I ask, do you agree with that and push enter and walk out of there, the audio receipt that you might hear or electronic receipt that you might hear, does not preclude a hacking that could register a different kind of result. Those are the reasons why I track an audit trail, a paper audit trail.
And I would submit also that this bill that I have, the Know Your Vote Counts Act, is very, very simple language. And I want to applaud the folks in Utah and anyone who's mirrored their leadership for the integrity that they've put into their system with a picture ID and a paper audit trail. But it simply says the system shall provide an auditable paper record showing the vote that was cast and recorded by the system. And so the paper is the audit trail. And we don't prescribe how that is actually transferred, the records are transferred. That's also part of the whole bill. Requires certain methods of transfer of those records from the precinct on to the county and there on. We don't interfere in that. We just say, paper audit trail. Produce it. You can retrofit the existing machines.
I actually like the optical scanning ballots where you fill in the dot. And those have the, as far as my understanding of the technology, and I have looked at a lot of it, the highest level of accuracy. And we also have the auto mark ballots that will take the ballot, the paper ballot on the screen and you can push the button and it'll actually fill in the dot on the paper, and then that paper becomes the audit trail as it goes through the scanning device and counts the ballots.
So I'm for those things that are simple. But I do also know that human beings are fallible, and we need to have an audit trail for the machines that might well fail us and the people that might well fail us, and we need the highest accuracy that we can get. I think this bill provides this. And I do think they've got to get it right in Utah. Of all the things I've written for letters and articles, I must have sent one out there some time a long time ago and you guys picked up on that. No. I really want to compliment Utah. You've driven that yourselves for good reason, and I appreciate that, and I appreciate the fact that you have yielded to me, Mr. Garrett, and I'd yield back.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. I appreciate the gentleman from Iowa and your comments as well. And at this point I would like to yield sufficient time as she will consume to Ms. Foxx.
Ms. FOXX. Thank you so much. I appreciate the leadership that the three of you have given to this issue tonight and appreciate the opportunity to be involved with this discussion. I'm so pleased to be a part of the Constitution Caucus and am glad that we have the opportunities that we have to bring up issues as they relate to the Constitution and to provide an alternative. And we've had lots and lots of opportunities in this session of the Congress so far.
I appreciate your mentioning voting rights for the citizens of D.C. I think that that bill having passed out of the House has to be one of the worst things that's
happened in this House in a long time because it's so clearly unconstitutional. And I think, again, that it's up to us constantly to be reminding the people of this country and the people of this body that we take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and that is our primary responsibility. And when Members of this House don't follow their oath, then it's important for us to talk about it.
I am opposed to H.R. 811 for many reasons. I support its main goal, which is to create a paper trail. I think having a verifiable record of how a person voted is important. But this bill is extraordinarily flawed. Number one, it creates several new mandates on States before the 2008 election. It forces States to meet totally unrealistic time lines that cannot be met. It's an example, again, I think, of the arrogance of this body in this session. I think that one of the things the Framers of the Constitution and the Founders of this country feared so much was too much control by the Federal Government.
And what we are seeing happening in this session of the Congress is more and more control being taken over by the Federal Government, and more and more decisions being pushed into Washington, as opposed to being pushed into the State, or being left at the State and local levels. And my colleagues have talked a little bit about that as it relates to different States have given some historical background on how things have been done in the past. But I think, again, it's important that we acknowledge that our government governs best that governs least. And the more decisions that we leave at the local and State levels, the better off this country's going to be. And if we know that, we know by numbers too. We don't even have to try to prove it from a philosophical level.
Twenty-seven States, including North Carolina, that I represent, have already implemented their own paper trail system, and another 13 are currently considering legislation. We should allow the States to do this and do it the way they need to be doing it. I have heard nothing but negative comments about this bill. Nobody has contacted me asking me to support it. And many groups that have a vested interest in this issue have contacted us. Most of us have been contacted by the Election Technology Council, and they've said that it would take 54 months for proper research development and implementation on machinery requirements to get this bill into effect, and there's only going to be 15 months.
We've had problems since 2000 in terms of verifying various elections in this country. This bill would be a nightmare if it were to pass, because the local election boards would have great difficulty with implementing it, and it would call into question all kinds of elections, I fear, and create chaos at the local level. We don't need that. The feeling of the American people right now toward Congress is, their opinion of us is the lowest it's ever been. And we don't need to be doing things to give them an even lower opinion of ourselves. What we need to do is get out of the way and not engage ourselves in activities that we have no business being engaged in. This is not something that we need to do from a point of view of the Constitution. It is something that should be left at the local level. It is not something that we need to do in terms of financing. It's going to be a very, very expensive proposition. We do not need to be adding to the deficit. We don't need to be doing any more Federal spending than is absolutely necessary. And we need to show the American people that we don't think that we should be running everything out of the District of Columbia when we have State and local officials perfectly capable, much more capable than we are to do this. We don't need to take away the ability of the locals to determine their needs.
And, again, I want to thank my colleagues for starting this conversation here tonight and getting it going to explain to people why many of us are concerned about H.R. 811. Even though we want verifiable evidence of a person's vote, this is not the right way to go, and we need to look for alternatives to this.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. And I thank the gentlelady. And as our time comes to a close here shortly, I'd just like to say I appreciate her comments and also to say she hits on the point directly as far as the role and appropriate breadth and scope of the Congress, the Senate, and the Federal Government. You know, the U.S. Constitution, article I, section 1, the very beginning of the Constitution sets forth the parameters, if you will, of the role and responsibilities of the Federal Government. They are then, that point is reinforced in a couple of different ways, actually, when you think about it, both there and at the end. There it's reinforced in the section in as much as article I, section 8 sets out specifically what are the appropriate roles, and it delineates what the appropriate roles are for the Federal Government.
And an interesting thing there, and I don't want to go into too much detail on the verbiage of the Constitution here tonight as it's getting late, but many people often look to critics on the other side on this point, and on article I, section 8 say, well, in there is what is called the general welfare clause, and for that reason, Congress has the right and ability to move on and act on any sort of issue that they want to.
But a closer study of the Constitution points out that the article I section 8 general welfare clause comes before the delineation of the specific points and authority granted to the Federal Government. That is at the beginning of the Constitution. At the very end of the Constitution, at least back in 1787 and a couple years after that with the adoption of the first ten amendments, which eventually we call the Bill of Rights, the 10th amendment, of course, is the one germane to this discussion and all of our discussions on the floor with regard to the Constitution and the role of Congress, and that is that it says all rights not specifically delegated to the Federal Government are retained by the States and the people respectively, which those two points tied together reinforces the gentlewoman's comment that we have to be careful as far as the role of the Federal Government in these areas.
So it is appropriate that when we look to the bill that comes from the other side of the aisle on this issue of voting, which is so expansive in scope as far as its authority that it is trying to impose and so restrictive at the same time as far as what they are allowing the States to do, it is appropriate for us to come and discuss that issue and debate that issue to find out if there is not a better way. And that's why I very much appreciate the gentleman from Iowa's being with us tonight.
I see the gentleman from Iowa is back with us again, and I yield to him.
Mr. KING of Iowa. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from New Jersey's yielding.
I just had a lingering question that I wanted to pose to the chairman of the Constitution Caucus, that being the issue that was raised here a half hour or so ago, Madam Speaker, and that is the issue of the electors who are chosen. And I would ask the chairman if he would opine on as to whether the electors are bound to vote as directed by the voters within the State or are they bound to vote according to their own conscience if push comes to shove? And do you know of instances where the electors have actually broken their faith with the voters and voted the opposite way within the States?
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. In as much as the gentleman is raising the question, I have anticipation that he has specific examples in mind that he is going to cite. But I believe there have been specific examples when electors have decided to go their own way and not be bound by their electorate.
Mr. KING of Iowa. And I would concur with the gentleman from New Jersey, Madam Speaker. My recollection, and it is not recent research but dustbin recollection, honestly, of several instances where the electors, when formally casting a ballot for the presidency, have broken their faith with the voters, broken their pledge, and voted the opposite way. Not enough in our history to compel us to make that a mandatory vote, but enough of it in our history to ask us to be vigilant about that particular vulnerability, because that hangs upon the integrity of those who were chosen as electors who formally cast that ballot for President of the United States and could, if there were a small group or, under certain circumstances, even one of them that decided to take the destiny of the country and ultimately the world in their own hands, flip their vote the other way.
This system that we have, though, I appreciate a great deal. I know there has been an initiative more than once that has been offered generally, or, in fact, in all cases that I know of, from the Democrat side of the aisle to turn this Presidential election into a popular ballot as opposed to an electoral ballot. And I for one think that would be a horrible circumstance if we have such great difficulty down to 527 votes in a State like Florida with recount after recount.
And, by the way, history has established clearly that it was a proper result. All of the recounts, including the Miami Herald's audited analysis of that, came to the same conclusion that it was a Bush victory in 2000 over Al Gore.
Still, if we had a popular ballot for the United States, we wouldn't be able to settle the ledger for each State, for example. We would simply have tens of millions of votes all cast into one pot, and you could come down to one vote in the end. And it would be impossible, I believe, to do an audit trail of all of those ballots and come out with a national consensus on a popular vote. And as the President said, if he would have needed to win the popular vote in 2000, he would have campaigned to win the popular vote in 2000. But he campaigned to win the electoral vote because that's the rule that we operate under. And I think the Founding Fathers had a significant amount of wisdom and foresight to give us this electoral system.
No system is perfect, but this system does have a slight vulnerability, and that is the integrity of the electors themselves and then the integrity of the electoral process, which is significantly, I believe, more vulnerable. So that is why I advocate the Utah plan for the States in America and the No Your Vote Counts Act nationally so that we can have a paper audit trail to keep the integrity up so that people can have confidence and stand behind this system so our constitutional Republic will last for another couple of centuries anyway.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Reclaiming my time, I agree with that and I appreciate that.
And I think that the seminal answer to your question of what was in the minds, if you will, of the Founding Fathers when they created the Electoral College was if they wanted the electors to have freedom to make that decision so it was their own wisdom that would be decided on the day of the casting of the ballot, which is what I believe that the Founders intended. Their alternative would have been to say, no, that you are bound by however you were elected. Well, if you were going to be bound by however you were elected, then in reality there's no need to actually have a person there to make that decision to cast the ballot. The Constitution would have been worded completely differently to say that, in effect, it was not an automaton but an automatic collection of all the votes. The majority of votes would not go to a specific elector, Steve King, but the majority of the votes would then therefore go to that candidate, whoever those electors are specifically delegated to vote for, whom they were representing. In other words, you would not need to elect a delegate, an elector, if he was going to be bound without any discretion.
I think the Founding Fathers realized that still within the confines of the limited amount of times that the electors, within the terminology of the Constitution, had to actually vote following the popular vote, there was still that flexibility that they could consider whatever changing moment the times may have necessitated them to do.
And of course, also, the other aspect of that that you didn't get into is the election of the Vice President and how the electorals play in that as well.
Mr. KING of Iowa. If the gentleman would yield, and I know we only have 2 minutes left, in that era, also, it wasn't contemplated that there would be essentially a two-party system that would so polarize the opinions on who should be the next President of the United States. I think the Founders envisioned more flow and flexibility between the two competing philosophies that were there surely and that we have in this day that are more distinct.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. And you're absolutely right. You think about John Quincy Adams, who was first in Congress and then President, and then went back to sitting in Congress once again after he served as President. I think he was the only one that ever did that, and I cannot imagine any President today leaving the White House.
Mr. KING of Iowa. If the gentleman would yield, John Quincy Adams has given me a significant amount of comfort the times that I have been in the small minority on the losing side of the votes here on the floor because he said, ``Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone. You can take the sweetest satisfaction in knowing that your vote is never lost.'' John Quincy Adams, a man of principle.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. He is. And I guess we should close on that quote. And again, I appreciate the gentleman from Iowa's coming.
And with that, Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be on the floor this evening.