Secretary of State Adams to Congress on elections: 'Kentucky knows best what's best for Kentucky'

Posted at 8:59 PM, Jul 12, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LEX 18) — Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams was one of four witnesses to appear before a U.S. House of Representatives committee Monday for a meeting on elections.

The hearing, titled "The Elections Clause: Constitutional Interpretation and Congressional Exercise," was held by the Committee on House Administration, which is charged with overseeing federal elections.

During the hearing, Adams urged Congress to leave the responsibility of running elections to the states.

"With respect to Congress, I think we do a better job at the state level of finding space across the aisle to actually work with each other and get things done," said Adams.

The Elections Clause, which can be found in Article 1, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, says that states are in charge of determining the "time, places, and manner" of holding elections for senators and representatives, but that Congress "may at any time by law make or alter regulations" by states.

Joshua Douglas, a professor of election law at the University of Kentucky, said he agrees with the secretary of state on the notion that states should be in charge of determining how their elections are run, but he noted that since last November, several states have passed legislation that has prompted calls for federal intervention.

"The problem is that you have states like Texas and Georgia passing laws with clear partisan intent and a partisan backing," Douglas said. "And that does not instill confidence in the voting process for the other side."

Douglas has been a vocal proponent for voting reforms, lobbying Secretary Adams to shepherd efforts making it easier to vote.

He has consistently applauded Adams, a Republican, and Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, for reaching across the aisle during the early days of the pandemic to expand absentee voting for the primary and general elections in 2020.

"The expanded voter reforms and enhanced security measures we implemented proved so successful and so popular that our legislature just made most of them permanent," Adams told the committee.

He attributed the success to the fact that the changes were free of congressional input.

"Kentucky knows best what's best for Kentucky," Adams said. "And I would urge you to let Kentucky be Kentucky."

Adams called states "laboratories of democracy that lead to innovation and a decentralized elections system."

The hearing came as close to 60 Democratic lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives fled the state to avoid a special session in the state legislature, in an effort to deny a quorum and quash a Republican-led elections bill.

Opponents of the bill have argued that it undermines voting rights, citing provisions that would limit early voting hours, introduce criminal penalties for election missteps, and more.

Democratic lawmakers in Washington D.C., meanwhile, are clinging to hope that they can neuter such state laws by passing the "For the People Act."

The sweeping voting rights bill, also known as S. 1, includes provisions that would mandate states offer 15 consecutive days of early voting, expand early voting, and establish automatic voter registration.

The measure passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year but was filibustered by Senate Republicans last month.

Douglas said he supports many provisions in the federal bill, but he recognizes that some components may have to be cut in order to garner Republican support.

Secretary Adams, meanwhile, told the committee that he would not support a federal voting reform bill.

"My argument is I don't want to see a Democrat or Republican national bill change the election rules," he said.