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After bitter election, GOP newcomer to focus on election integrity in first term

Freshman rep is the youngest GOP official in party's history.

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Madison Cawthorn
Madison Cawthorn
(Pool/Getty)
Updated: January 17, 2021 - 6:56am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, the youngest representative in the House in over five decades, says he will be focusing in part on nationwide election integrity in the wake of the bitter and divisive 2020 election season. 

Cawthorn, who represents North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, told Just the News that he wants to expand Congress's investigations into election security beyond the ongoing allegations of voter irregularities that have circulated around the 2020 vote. 

"We're going to be making the law very clear on what you can do when you contest an election, and how you can do it," he said, adding that he will also support inquiries into early voting practices, which have formed an increasingly larger share of the vote in recent years. Over 100 million Americans cast early votes in the 2020 election, with about 2/3 of those coming via mail-in ballots. 

Cawthorn indicated he was less likely to pursue specific inquiries into the 2020 vote, though he said he wouldn't oppose them if they arose. 

"If they do come up, probably [I'd support it]," he said. "I don't see anything wrong with bipartisan investigations."

"The main reason I had a problem with the 2020 election," he said, "is, due to the COVID-19, some unelected officials really started to bypass state legislators. Looking into that, that's something I support." 

Cawthorn was referring to changes made by administrative election officials in states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both of which saw major rule revisions in the weeks and months leading up to the 2020 general election. 

The 25-year-old congressman suggested that the image of the U.S. voting system has experienced significant damage in the wake of the 2020 vote.

"I want to restore faith in it," he said, "because right now a lot of Republicans don’t believe in it."

'Messaging was pretty poor from the White House'

Cawthorn, who said he hopes to work with Democrats across the aisle on issues such as rural broadband, intimated that the position in which the GOP finds itself after November's elections — without the White House, the House or the Senate — was due in part to both Trump's defeat and his subsequent rhetoric leading up to Georgia's runoffs earlier this month.

In those elections, the two Republican contenders lost to their Democratic challengers, leaving the Senate split 50-50 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaking vote.

"I think the reason we lost the Senate is that we lost the presidency," he said. "A lot of people didn't have faith in the elections, and that probably cost us 10-15% of the vote." 

"My own supporters were unwilling to give money because they believed it would be stolen," Cawthorn added. 

Analysts have indicated that GOP turnout in Georgia's runoff elections was markedly lower relative to Democratic turnout, a factor which helped Democrats eke out a win there. Some commentators have argued that Trump's repeated insistence that the election was rigged in that state may have led to disaffected Republican voters staying home.

"Obviously, messaging was pretty poor from the White House," Cawthorn said. But "changing the way we voted — that was the silver bullet that took us down," he added. 

Cawthorn, who uses a wheelchair due to a car accident earlier in his life, said that as a "primary consumer of healthcare," he will also seek to shore up the U.S.'s healthcare system. He also said he will seek to impose term limits on representatives, something that has eluded congressional reformers for many decades. 

"I think people being in office for 25 years — I think that's egregious," he said. 

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