The House Oversight Committee is set to hold a hearing next week focused on local election laws in Washington, D.C., marking the panel’s latest attempt to scrutinize the city’s affairs as part of its efforts to rein in its limited autonomy.
Republicans announced the hearing on Friday, titling it “American Confidence in Elections: The Path to Election Integrity in the District of Columbia.” The meeting is set to examine election integrity in the district through the lens of measures laid out in the American Confidence in Elections Act, a bill that was introduced in the last Congress that includes a provision to completely overhaul the city’s election laws.
“Congress needs to get serious about election integrity and implement a comprehensive plan to restore confidence in America’s electoral process,” Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) said in a statement. “The American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act is landmark legislation set to build voter confidence, equip states, protect Americans’ political speech, and ensure overdue election integrity measures for the District of Columbia.”
The ACE Act was originally introduced by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who is no longer in office, and would implement a number of restrictions over how Washington officials administer their elections. These requirements would include presenting identification at polling places, adding restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes, prohibiting same-day voter registration, and requiring voters to include a copy of their identification when applying for an absentee ballot.
The bill would also ban noncitizens from voting in local elections, which would overrule a law recently passed by the D.C. Council last year. The House previously voted to overturn that law, but the effort died in the Democratic-led Senate after the chamber declined to bring it up for a vote before the 30-day deadline on which the law would take effect.
Although the D.C. Council overwhelmingly approved that bill, along with several other local election laws, the city government is still left in the hands of Congress due to the district’s lack of statehood.
Under the Home Rule Act, Washington is permitted to operate as an independent city government. The only caveat is that all laws are subject to congressional approval before being enacted, occasionally setting up showdowns between Congress and local lawmakers.
Both the House and Senate passed a bill to overturn the city’s updated criminal code earlier this year, marking the first time Congress voted to overturn a local law passed by the D.C. Council. That bill was later signed by President Joe Biden.
Republicans also sought to advance a bill that would rescind a slew of local police reforms recently passed in Washington, once again reviving tensions between Congress and local lawmakers. That resolution passed both chambers of Congress but was ultimately vetoed by Biden.
Now it seems Republicans in Congress are expanding their purview over Washington’s affairs, moving away from crime and homing in on election integrity. The hearing, which is scheduled for Wednesday, will feature testimony from four witnesses to discuss the “critical improvements [the ACE] bill makes for the American people,” Comer said.
The witness list includes Ken Cuccinelli, chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative; Charles Spies, elections lawyer with Dickinson Wright; Monica Evans, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections; and Wendy Weiser, vice president of democracy for the Brennan Center for Justice.