Congressional Republicans deploy election observers to tight races, investigate irregularities

Rodney Davis, top Republican on House Administration Committee, organizes nationwide monitoring army and peppers federal and local officials with oversight letters.

Updated: October 31, 2022 - 7:47am

Determined to use their oversight authority to ensure election integrity, House Republicans are deploying dozens of trained observers to key races around the country while dispatching letters putting federal and state officials on notice to look for any shenanigans in the midterms.

The effort led by Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, includes investigating how federal agencies are implementing President Joe Biden's executive order instructing the U.S. government to expand voter registration, along with the training and deployment of House staff as observers under the authority of Congress.

Davis wrote at least one state election chief that the effort preserves the right for a candidate who feels his or her race was wrongly counted to contest it in Congress.

"As in past elections, the House will use this legal authority to credential and deploy trained congressional staffers to serve as official House election observers in close, or particularly cumbersome congressional elections, in the coming weeks," the Illinois Republican wrote Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Oct. 20, laying out his plans. "This allows us to prepare for the possibility that a candidate could later contest the race in the House of Representatives.

"The Committee takes seriously its responsibility regarding federal elections, and we are committed to making sure all lawful ballots in congressional races are counted fairly, accurately, and according to law."

Davis wrote that House staffers who will deployed have been "trained by experts in election observation and instructed that they play no formal or advocacy role in the administration of the election or the vote counting process; they are to function exclusively as observers."

The congressional observers, Davis emphasized, may not be denied access to voting sites.

"The House's constitutional authority in this area supersedes state law, and House observers operate solely under this authority and must be granted access to view the process even if state law credentialing, partisan quota, or access requirements exist to the contrary," he wrote.

The House Administration Committee has long held oversight responsibility for federal elections, and congressional staff have been deployed as observers in past elections.

But House Republicans say the 2022 project is the most comprehensive oversight effort in recent memory, with Davis' general counsel Caleb Hays playing a key coordinating role organizing and following up on investigative requests.

“The faith in elections initiative is an important effort by House Republicans to hear directly from state and local election officials on what the best practices are in administrating elections; calling out practices and efforts that undermine faith in our elections by not having necessary checks and balances in place,” House Administration Committee staff director Timothy Monahan told Just the News.

”This initiative has not only resulted in the federalist-first American Confidence in Election Act (ACE act) but also prepared trained election observers to have a front row seat for all competitive races that will ensure proper oversight occurs,” he added.

In addition to the observers, Davis and other ranking Republicans on committees have been peppering state, local and federal agencies with questions about tactics they are using and disputes that have already arisen early in the midterms.

For instance, Davis sent Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton a letter Wednesday demanding an investigation into voter registration mailers sent out by Planned Parenthood and Democrat candidate for governor Beto O'Rourke that he said might not have complied with state law.

"It is deeply troubling that Planned Parenthood and Mr. O'Rourke's campaign sent voter registration forms that may not conform to state law to individuals who, in some cases, have been deceased for over a decade," Davis wrote. "It goes without saying: Situations like this have a negative effect on voter confidence at a time we can least afford it. Texas voters must be assured not only that their vote will count, but that all — and only — legal votes will be counted.

"I understand you have launched your Election Integrity Division to investigate instances like this, and I encourage you to direct them to pursue this with all due haste."

Likewise, earlier this month Davis sent a letter to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold asking to be briefed on an investigation into how voter registration notices were sent out to 30,000 non-citizens who aren't legally allowed to cast ballots.

"As you know, situations like this have a negative effect on voter confidence in elections at a time we can least afford it," the Illinois lawmaker wrote. "Colorado must ensure that its voter registration lists are well-maintained and accurate and hold itself to the highest standards for all registration notices. The fact that roughly 30,000 names and addresses 'accidentally' slipped through the process is deeply concerning."

The effort stretches all the way back to the spring, when House Administration Committee Republicans were flabbergasted by what they witnessed at Atlanta voting centers in Fulton County during the spring primaries. Davis said the problem observed, including polling locations that could not operate at full capacity, "do real damage to voter confidence in our election systems and outcomes at a time when we can least afford it."

"I write today to express my concern about information my staff received during their trip regarding last minute security and other software updates that were made to the county's electronic pollbooks (EPBs), which caused polling locations to open at less-than-full capacity, and request an explanation on how you will ensure that all of the county's devices will be updated in time for the polls to open in November, specifically ensuring that minority and majority polling locations are not disproportionately affected," Davis wrote the chairwoman of the Fulton County Elections Board on June 3.

Davis and other GOP colleagues in the House have also been investigating how federal agencies have been responding to Biden's executive order to use tax dollars to expand voter registration across the country.

Rep. Glenn Thompson (Pa.), the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, was able to confirm that the U.S. Agriculture Department is helping collect voter registrations when poor Americans seek food stamps and other welfare benefits.

USDA believes the National Voter Registration Act 1993 requires it "to offer voter registration opportunities to any person who applies for or renews an application for public assistance, which includes the acceptance of the completed voter registration form and transmittal to State election officials," the agency wrote recently.

Davis wrote several agencies this summer expressing concern that Biden's order to agencies "goes beyond the power of the President and the statutory authority given to federal agencies" by Congress and digging into the tactics they are using to encourage voter registration.

Just the News Spotlight