I have written several postings related to Various topics including the military, Voting, the economy, religion and etc in America. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address additional issues in these topics.
Most elections in the U.S. select one person; elections with multiple candidates selected by proportional representation are relatively rare. Typical examples include the House of Representatives, whose members are elected by a plurality of votes in single-member districts. The number of representatives from each state is set in proportion to each state’s population in the most recent decennial census. District boundaries are usually redrawn after each such census. This process often produces “gerrymandered” district boundaries designed to increase and secure the majority of the party in power, often by offering secure seats to members of the opposition party. This is one of a number of institutional features that increase the advantage of incumbents seeking reelection. The Senate and the president are also elected by plurality. However, these elections are not affected by gerrymandering (with the possible exception of presidential races in Maine and Nebraska, whose electoral votes are partially allocated by Congressional district).
Proposals for electoral reform have included overturning the Supreme Court‘s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, public and citizen funding of elections, limits and transparency in funding, ranked-choice voting (RCV), abolishing the Electoral College or nullifying its impact through the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and improving ballot access for third parties, among others. The U.S. Constitution gives states wide latitude to determine how elections are conducted, although some details, such as the ban on poll taxes, are mandated at the federal level.
Cost of the current system
The cost of getting elected, especially to any national office in the US, has been growing. The Federal Elections Commission estimated that “candidates, parties, PACs, super-PACs, and politically active nonprofits” spent a total of $7 billion in 2012. The magazine Mother Jones said that this money was used “to influence races up and down the ballot”, noting further that the cost of elections has continued to escalate. The 2010 congressional elections cost roughly $4 billion.
Spending averages just under $3 billion per year for the 4-year presidential election cycle.
This is small relative to what the major campaign contributors, crony capitalists (whether allegedly “liberal” or “conservative”), receive for their money. The Cato Institute found corporate welfare totaling $100 billion in the 2012 U.S. federal budget. This includes only direct subsidies specifically identified in the Cato Institute research. It does not include indirect subsidies like tax breaks, trade barriers, distorting copyright law beyond the “limited time” and other restrictions mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and other distortions of U.S. foreign and defense policies to benefit major corporations and people with substantial financial interests outside the U.S.
Other studies have estimated between $6 and $220 return for each $1 invested by major corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals in lobbying and political campaigns.
This rate of return helps escalate the cost of elections. To obtain the money needed for their next election campaign, incumbent politicians spend a substantial portion of their time soliciting money from large donors, who often donate to competing candidates, thereby buying access with the one that wins.
Electoral reform proposals
Josh Silver’s “Cure for political corruption” divides electoral reforms between campaign finance, lobbying and election administration.
Most of the proposed reforms can be achieved at least in part by legislation, though some require amending the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and related decisions would require a constitutional amendment to permanently change, and several have been proposed. Similarly, some proposed systems for campaign finance and/or restrictions on campaign contributions have been declared unconstitutional; implementation of those changes could require a constitutional amendment.
However, many other reforms can seemingly be achieved without a constitutional amendment. These include various forms of public financing of political campaigns, disclosure requirements and instant-runoff voting. The American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA) is one collection of reforms that appear to be consistent with existing US Supreme Court rulings, developed by Republican Trevor Potter, who had previously served as head of the US Federal Elections Commission under Democratic President Bill Clinton. Local versions of the AACA are being promoted by RepresentUs.
Campaign finance reform
Lawrence Lessig said, “On January 20, 2010, the day before Citizens United was decided, our democracy was already broken. Citizens United may have shot the body, but the body was already cold. And any response to Citizens United must also respond to that more fundamental corruption. We must find a way to restore a government ‘dependent upon the People alone,’ so that we give ‘the People’ a reason again to have confidence in their government.”
Lessig favors systems that share as broadly as possible the decisions about which candidates or initiatives get the funding needed to get their message to the voters. Following Bruce Ackerman, Lessig recommends giving each eligible voter a “Democracy voucher” worth, e.g., $100 each election year that can only be spent on political candidates or issues. The amount would be fixed at roughly double the amount of private money spent in the previous election cycle. Unlike the current Presidential election campaign fund checkoff, the decisions regarding who gets that money would be made by individual citizens.
Lessig also supports systems to provide tax rebates for such contributions or to match small dollar contributions such as the system in New York City that provides a 5-to-1 match for contributions up to $250. To be eligible for money from vouchers, rebates or matching funds, candidates must accept certain limits on the amounts of money raised from individual contributors.
Vouchers, tax rebates, and small dollar matching are called “citizen funding” as opposed to more traditional “public funding”, which tasks a public agency with deciding how much money each candidate receives from the government. While the Supreme Court of the United States has already struck down many forms of public funding of political campaigns, there are forms of public and especially citizen financing that seem consistent with the constitution as so far interpreted by the courts and could therefore be secured by standard legislative processes not requiring amending the constitution.
One bill that proposes such a system for U.S. congressional elections is “The Grassroots Democracy Act”. It was introduced September 14, 2012, by U.S. Representative John Sarbanes as H.R. 6426 and reintroduced on January 15, 2013 as H. R. 268.
Overturning Citizens United
The Citizens United v. FEC decision, January 21, 2010, of the U.S. Supreme Court has received substantial notoriety, pushing many people to work for a constitutional amendment to overturn it. Key provisions of that decision assert in essence that money is speech and subject to first amendment protections. Move to Amend began organizing to oppose that decision in September 2009. By June 2013, they had at least 164 local affiliates in 36 states plus the District of Columbia. They had obtained roughly 300,000 individual signatures for their Motion to Amend and had secured the passage of 367 local resolutions and ordinances. United for the People is consortium of some 144 organizations supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The web site of United for the People lists 17 constitutional amendments introduced in the 112th United States Congress and 12 introduced by March 13, 2013, in the 113th proposing to overturn Citizens United in different ways.
The libertarian think-tank the Cato Institute is concerned that most proposed responses to Citizens United will give “Congress unchecked new power over spending on political speech, power that will be certainly abused.”
Clean elections, clean money, and disclosure
Terms like “clean elections” and “clean money” are sometimes used inconsistently. Clean elections typically refers to systems where candidates receive a fixed sum of money from the government to run their campaigns after qualifying by collecting small dollar contributions (e.g., $5) from a large enough group of citizens. Systems of this nature have been tried in Maine, Arizona, North Carolina, New Mexico, Vermont, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Connecticut and elsewhere; some of these have been disqualified at least in part by the courts.
“Clean money” is sometimes used as a synonym for clean elections; at other times, it refers to a DISCLOSE Act, requiring disclosure of the sources of campaign funds. The DISCLOSE Act bill in the U.S. Congress seeks “to prohibit foreign influence in Federal elections, to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections, and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such elections, and for other purposes.”
The California Clean Money Campaign is pushing the California DISCLOSE act, which differs substantially from the federal DISCLOSE Act. The California bill would strengthen disclosure requirements for political advertisements. Among other provisions, it requires the top three contributors for any political ad to be identified by name on the ad.
Ackerman and Ayres propose a “secret donation booth”, the exact opposite of full disclosure. This system would require that all campaign contributions be anonymously given through a government agency. Their system would give donors a few days to change their minds and withdraw or change the recipient of a donation; it would also add a random time delay to ensure that the recipients of donations could never know for sure the source of the funds they receive.
Proposed improvements or replacements to the current voting system
Approval voting is a non-rank-order but graded system in which voters may select all candidates that meet with the voter’s approval. The candidate with the highest approval score (i.e. approved by the most voters) wins the election. In elections with three or more candidates, voters may indicate approval of more than one candidate.
In 2017, the Colorado legislature considered approval voting. If the bill had passed, Colorado would have been the first state to approve approval voting legislation, but the bill was postponed indefinitely.
In 2018, Fargo, North Dakota, passed a local ballot initiative adopting approval voting for the city’s local elections, and it was used to elect officials in June 2020, becoming the first United States city and jurisdiction to adopt approval voting.
Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked voting, also called ranked choice voting in the United States, is a ballot design where voters can rank their choices. Popular methods used in some jurisdictions around the world include a system called instant-runoff voting (IRV) to elect one candidate, or a system called the single transferable vote (STV) to elect multiple candidates. Each voter ranks all (or at least some) of the available options. If one option is ranked first by a majority of voters, it wins. Otherwise, the option(s) obtaining the fewest votes is (are) eliminated, and the options ranked second by those voters get those votes.
IRV is being promoted in the U.S. by numerous individuals and organizations. One of these is FairVote, which provides a long list of endorsers of IRV, including President Obama, Senators John McCain and Bernie Sanders, five U.S. Representatives, policy analyst Michael E. Arth, the Green, Libertarian, and Socialist parties, a dozen state chapters of the League of Women Voters, four state chapters of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party of Alaska, and many others. It is currently being used in some jurisdictions in the U.S., including the state of Maine and, since November 2020, the state of Alaska.
Abolishing the Electoral College
There have long been concerns about problems with the Electoral College method of selecting the president and vice president. Under this system, the party that wins a plurality in a given state gets all that state’s electoral votes. (In Maine and Nebraska, the plurality rule applies to each congressional district.)
Modern polling has allowed presidential campaigns to determine which states are “swing states” (also called “battleground states”) and which will provide near-certain victories for either the Republican or Democratic candidates. The campaigns then increase their chances of winning by focusing primarily on the swing states. This effectively disenfranchises voters in other states to the extent that their concerns differ from those of voters in swing states.
Officially abolishing the Electoral College would require amending the U.S. Constitution. However, the same effect could be achieved if the Electoral College representatives from states with a majority of the electoral votes were all committed to vote for the presidential slate that achieves a national plurality (or the majority after instant-runoff voting): Presidential candidates would then have to compete for votes in all 50 states, not just the typically less than a dozen swing states.
This is the idea behind the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. As of November 2019, sixteen states with electoral votes totaling 196 had approved the compact. To take effect it must be approved by states with electoral votes totaling 270, just over half of the 538 current total electoral votes.
In the United States House of Representatives and many other legislative bodies such as city councils, members are elected from districts, whose boundaries are changed periodically through a process known as redistricting. When this process is manipulated to benefit a particular political party or incumbent, the result is known as Gerrymandering. The Open Our Democracy Act of 2017 & the For the People Act of 2019 are bills designed to end gerrymandering. The For the People Act has passed the United States House of Representatives on March 8, 2019. As of November 2020, it has not been passed by the United States Senate.
Voting is not required of citizens in any state, so elections are decided by those who show up. Politicians target their message at getting their own supporters out to the polls, rather than winning over undecided voters or apathetic citizens. One solution to this problem is compulsory voting.
Compulsory voting has been criticized as “vaguely un-American” but potentially beneficial to democracy.
Organizations supporting reforms
Organizations that support some variant of at least one of the reforms mentioned above include ReformElectionsNow, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, National Association of Non-Partisan Reformers, Leadership Now Project, The Fulcrum, Represent Us, Democracy Found, League of Women Voters, BiPartisan Policy Center, Open Primaries, Public Citizen, Move to Amend, People for the American Way, National Popular Vote Inc., Rootstrikers, FairVote, RepresentWomen and Equal Citizens.
It’s Time For Real Election Reform
Let’s get one thing straight. Even though Sleepy Joe Biden is the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there are a host of serious questions about how the elections – note the plural – were conducted. Pennsylvania changed the election laws without constitutional authority, over the objections of the legislature. Ditto for Georgia. Required voter validation on absentee ballots was not performed. Chains of custody were violated, potentially letting phony ballots get counted, and on, and on. We just can’t have this happen again. But what’s a mother to do?
First, we have to define the word. Fuzzy Leftist equivocation won’t do. We must have a clear definition. Anything else will scramble our efforts.
Election: An accurate counting of the expressed preferences of properly eligible and registered voters. Those preferences must be expressed in a clear, legislatively approved manner and received within a specific time frame. They involve issues in and representation for a single state.
That’s not too hard, is it? Obviously, the egregious maleficence exhibited during the last “election” shows that we must have clear guardrails. The most important guardrail is the fact that all elections involve single states or subdivisions within single states. Even the “Presidential Election” is about electing persons from within a single state who are sworn to represent that state in the actual election of the President.
The very first action must be to rigorously cleanse the voter rolls of ineligible persons. A change of address, invalid address, or an underground address should result in that name being removed. Agencies within the state, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, should transmit address changes to the Voter agency. Cooperation between states is essential as well.
Next, Silicon Valley billionaires have no legitimate interest in Georgia Senate elections, yet many millions poured into it from California. And Washington. And… So we must make all political contributions from outside a state illegal. That’s right, outlaw the $100 I sent to David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Only allow registered voters to contribute. Under Citizens United, corporations can speak, so limit their contributions to corporations domiciled in the state. Since Amazon – and Jeff Bezos – are based in Washington State, they should be prevented from meddling in Georgia’s elections. As David Harsanyi notes, “There are provisions [in the Constitution] making it hard for California to pass whatever laws it wishes in West Virginia. That’s not a bug; it’s the point.” It should also be hard for California to elect whomever it wants in Georgia.
Imagine what this would do. Georgia has about 10.6 million people. There are about 5.6 million registered voters, so every voter would have sent about fifty dollars to a campaign to get to the $250 million-plus that was spent on just the senate runoff. In fact, over ninety percent of that came from outside Georgia. As of November 23, Democrats had raised $114 million to the Republicans’ $56 million, or roughly double. But if they had been limited to contributions from Georgians, the Democrats would have had $4.56 million to the Republicans $4.5 million. Georgians would have had a real voice in the debate over who should represent them. Can you spell “level playing field?” May we have a “We took the money out of elections!” cheer?
Next, it is absolutely essential that every legal vote be counted. This starts with verifying that each “vote” is cast by an eligible, registered voter. There has to be a functionally accurate form of voter identification. It must apply to both in-person and absentee voting. Anything else allows an improper vote to cancel a valid vote, destroying the “one-man-one-vote” rule confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Before any votes are counted, firm calendar limits for voting must be established and honored. The Pennsylvania stunt of counting votes arriving three days late cannot happen again. Any “vote” arriving early or late must be rejected. If a voter cannot be responsible enough to read a calendar, then perhaps they aren’t responsible enough to cast a ballot.
Absentee ballots must first pass through the voter ID process. If there is a dispute regarding the validity of the ID, there must be a fair and effective adjudication process before the ballot moves into the counting process.
All ballots must have a secure chain of custody. Those ballots are evidence in any potential election challenge and must be protected by no less careful security than evidence in a criminal case. And just to make this chain even more secure, every ballot image scanned by a vote-counting machine should be made immediately available to every interested party. This will allow those third parties to create their own count of votes. Such an open system would make shenanigans very easy to see. Of course, we must go one step further and require that no electronic counting machine be able to receive data or instructions from outside during the counting process. Ballots must be preserved and indelible records of them maintained.
No questionable ballot should be adjudicated by an electronic device. If the equipment flags a problem, the ballot must be rejected for examination by election officials and parties for the specific campaigns. Only after they agree, or a referee rules, should the ballot be counted. Of note, cameras and remote monitors can make all these verification steps non-intrusive. The record that they produce will be inarguable.
We should note that every step I’ve proposed is absolutely neutral with regard to who wins an election. Rather, these are essential steps to guarantee election integrity. Detailed language can be worked out by legislators, and it’s possible that one state might create a model language for the rest.
Until we have verifiable election integrity, the losing side in almost any election will likely raise loud claims of a stolen election, famously raised in Bush v. Gore as well as the last two presidential contests. Excluding fat cats from out of state will keep campaigns in the control of the voters who are actually interested in who wins. California has no business telling Georgia who to elect.
All of these reforms are possible within individual states. They present no Constitutional conflicts since they follow Article II, SCOTUS precedent, and the basic principle that Georgia’s business is Georgia’s business.
7 election reforms that will safeguard American democracy
The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol showed democracy itself is threatened, not just from foreign adversaries but also domestic terrorists.
In the wake of this deadly assault on our political system and government institutions, we must now cleanse our nation’s wounds with truth and facts, disinfect them with accountability and reform, and bandage them with a renewed vow to honor the first word in the name our founders bequeathed us: United.
Accomplishing this work will require the goodwill and determination of every citizen, both political parties and all three branches of government.
We remain optimistic. If we, two former chairs of opposing political parties, can find common ground on election-related reforms that need to be made, so, too, can the American people and the U.S. Congress. Now is the time for Congress to make such commonsense improvements to our laws.
Here are seven reforms that would safeguard our democracy:
►We call for the updating of the Electoral Count Act so that members of Congress from both parties are dissuaded in the future from attempting to consider competing slates of electors by invoking this 1887 law.
►Congress should establish a more regular stream of funding for elections via the Election Assistance Commission so states and localities do not need to rely on private philanthropy and corporations for election costs in the future. And to protect voters, Congress should amend federal criminal law to prohibit any person from knowingly communicating false information about how, when and where to vote.
Hold social media accountable
►Congress should pass the Honest Ads Act, a bill with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate that would close major loopholes in campaign finance law by making the internet abide by the same rules that govern media companies. This legislation would require social media platforms like Facebook and Google to maintain standardized public databases of all online political ads regardless of whether they mention specific candidates.
►We further urge Congress to review the Ethics in Government Act as well as the Hatch Act to ensure the appropriate application of their provisions to a president’s political activities as well as those of federal or presidentially appointed employees on behalf of the president. And Congress should strengthen current laws protecting whistleblowers and strengthening the offices of Inspectors General throughout the executive branch.
►Congress should incentivize all states to join the Electronic Registration Information Center to strengthen the efficiency and integrity of their voter rolls. And Congress should also incentivize states to implement a variety of best practices for absentee ballots, including providing election officials with ample time before Election Day to process the absentee ballots they receive. This would prevent the delayed reporting of results we saw in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in November.
►It is time for every state to adopt automatic voter registration — a practice successfully passed along bipartisan lines in red and blue states across the country. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that automatic voter registration increased registration rates in every state that implemented it. As a bonus, experts believe the streamlined database created through automatic voter registration actually deters voter fraud.
Don’t tolerate candidates who lie
►And here’s a novel reform that we as former party chairs believe can be effective for political parties: Ban lies. We don’t mean factual mistakes. We mean the parties must hold candidates who lie and mislead accountable. One lie, first strike. Two lies, they’re out of the party.
The Republican Party and Democratic Party — as well as parties like the Green Party, Libertarian Party and Constitution Party — should refuse to financially support candidates who lie about the integrity of an election or our electoral system.
They should refuse to allow such candidates to participate in party-sanctioned debates, and they should refuse to allow them to be nominated.
The events of Jan. 6 underscored the need for all candidates to have a willingness to accept the results of elections, regardless of whether they win or lose, and to oppose, not foment, calls for political violence.
When someone asked what sort of government the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention had created, Benjamin Franklin famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Well, we’ve kept it. But we will only continue to keep it by consistently cleansing its wounds and disinfecting them through accountability and reform. And by the continued grace of God we shall, but Congress, the states and the political parties must all rise to the moment we now find ourselves in.
9 Election Reforms States Can Implement to Prevent Mistakes and Voter Fraud
Here’s a list of best practices states should adopt for elections.
1. Verify the accuracy of voter registration lists. Computerized statewide voter registration lists should be designed to be interoperable so that they can communicate seamlessly with other state record databases to allow frequent exchanges and comparisons of information.
For example, when an individual changes the residence address on his or her driver’s license, that information should be sent to state election officials so that the voter registration address of the individual is also changed to his or her new Department of Motor Vehicles residence address.
2. Verify citizenship of voters. Only lawful citizens can vote in federal elections. States should, therefore, require proof of citizenship to register to vote, as well as verify the citizenship of registered voters with the records of the Department of Homeland Security, including access to the E-Verify system.
3. Require voter ID. A voter should be required to validate his or her identity with government-issued photo ID to vote in-person or by absentee ballot (as states such as Alabama and Kansas require). Government-issued IDs should be free for those who cannot afford one.
4. Limit absentee ballots. Absentee ballots should be reserved for those individuals who are too disabled to vote in person or who will be out of town on Election Day and all early-voting days.
5. Prevent vote trafficking. Vote trafficking (also called “vote harvesting”) by third parties should be banned. That would ensure that candidates, campaign staffers, party activists, and political consultants are prohibited from picking up and potentially mishandling or changing absentee ballots and pressuring or coercing vulnerable voters in their homes.
In other words, a political group can’t offer to pick up ballots and then bring them to the polling place and/or mail them, with no third party supervising that group’s behavior in the interim.
6. Allow election observers complete access to the election process. Political parties, candidates, and third-party organizations should all be allowed to have observers in every aspect of the election process, because transparency is essential to a fair and secure system. The only limitation on such observers is that they cannot interfere with the voting and counting process.
However, a representative of the election office should be present to answer the questions of the observers. They should be legally allowed to be in a position—exactly like election officials—to observe everything going on, other than the actual voting by individuals.
Election officials should be prohibited from stationing observers so far away that they cannot observe the process, including such procedures as the opening of absentee ballots and the verification process.
7. Provide voting assistance. Any individuals providing assistance to a voter in a voting booth because the voter is illiterate, disabled, or otherwise requires assistance should be required to complete a form, to be filed with poll election officials, providing their name, address, contact information, and the reason they are providing assistance. They should also be required to provide a photo ID.
8. Prohibit early vote counting. To avoid premature release of election results, the counting of ballots, including absentee and early votes, should not begin until the polls close at the end of Election Day. However, if a state insists on beginning the count before Election Day, it should ban the release of results until the evening of Election Day, subject to criminal penalties.
9. Provide state legislatures with legal standing. State legislatures must ensure that they have legal standing—either through a specific state law or through a constitutional amendment, if that is required—to sue other state officials, such as governors or secretaries of state, who make or attempt to make unauthorized changes in state election laws.
For example, if a secretary of state extends the deadline set by state law for the receipt of absentee ballots, legislatures should have legal standing to contest that unilateral change that overrides state law. They should be classified as a necessary party in any lawsuit.
And voters should be provided by state law with the ability to file a writ of mandamus against any state or local official who fails to abide by, or enforce, a state election law requirement.
In 2020, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar made changes to election law unilaterally. We need to ensure that can’t happen again in other states or in future elections.
Along with these nine (and other) reforms, there are specific measures states shouldn’t take.
For instance, there should be no same-day registration for voting. Registration should be required before Election Day to give election officials sufficient time to verify the accuracy of the registration information contained on a registration form and to confirm the eligibility of the potential voter.
There also shouldn’t be automatic voter registration. States should comply with the National Voter Registration Act and provide registration opportunities at state agencies. However, all individuals should be asked at the time of the state agency transaction, such as the application for a driver’s license, whether they want to register to vote.
No one should be automatically registered without their consent or knowledge, since this can lead to multiple registrations by the same individual, as well as the registration of ineligible individuals, such as noncitizens.
As we all know, elections have consequences. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that every vote counts and isn’t diluted by election fraud and other problems. It’s time for states to implement these reforms to ensure voters will have faith in our elections.
This article will be posted with the article I have written entitled “Voter Fraud in 2020 Revisited.” It is a companion piece to the vote fraud article. The article on fraud will help to show the reason for election reform. If this country is to have any elections that the general population can trust, we need to correct the areas that fraud occurred in the 2020 election. In this article I have discussed two different proposals for reform. If these proposals are acted on, I feel confident that we can have fair elections in 2022 and in 2024. Whether or not the republicans win any of them is another matter. With unlimited immigration and every illegal alien in the US, gaining citizenship, our country could still become a one party country.
en.wikipedia.org, “Electoral reform in the United States,” By Wikipedia editors; townhall.com, “It’s Time For Real Election Reform,” By Ted Noel; usatoday.com, “Donna Brazile, Michael Steele: These 7 election reforms will safeguard American democracy: Congress, the states and the political parties must all rise to the moment we now find ourselves in,” By Donna Brazile and Michael Steele; dailysignal.com, “9 Election Reforms States Can Implement to Prevent Mistakes and Voter Fraud,” By Hans von Spakovsky; deseret.com, “America needs election reform. Here’s where to start: Utah has emerged as a leader in voting by mail. The 2020 election was much less smooth for other states,” By Scott Rasmussen;
America needs election reform. Here’s where to start
In election 2000, “hanging chads” became the national symbol of a dysfunctional election process and made Florida the butt of many jokes. In response, the state reformed its voting process and last November handled the election as well as any state in the nation.
I cast my ballot in Florida for the first time last year and was impressed by the ease of registration and voting. They quickly printed out my ballot, checked my driver’s license and pointed me to a cubby for filling out the ballot. Then, on election night, Florida announced the results fairly early in the evening and that was that.
This year, several other states looked as disorganized as Florida did 20 years ago. It was partly the result of trying to make everything work in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. That led states like Pennsylvania to deal with an onslaught of mail-in ballots far greater than anything it had seen before. Not surprisingly, 83% of Pennsylvania voters believe it’s important to reform the state’s voting laws before 2022 arrives. Sixty-three percent say it’s very important.
You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that those numbers don’t include only disgruntled supporters of former President Donald Trump who somehow still believe he was the legitimate winner in election 2020. Just about everyone would prefer their state to conduct elections in a way that looked more like Florida than Pennsylvania last November. That’s why 88% of Pennsylvania voters want their state’s government agencies to clean the voter registration files prior to each election. For the vast majority, it’s common sense to remove the names of all who have moved or died.
It’s also why 75% of Pennsylvania voters favor a requirement that all mail-in ballots must be received by Election Day. That requirement is one reason Florida was able to report their results on election night. Had then-candidate Joe Biden been declared the winner in Pennsylvania on election night, nearly half the nation would have been disappointed. But their disappointment would have been easier to accept if the results were delivered in a timely manner that conveyed confidence in the results. And, of course, that would have saved the nation months of postelection trauma.
These realities would lead some to believe that Congress should pass laws establishing a uniform set of election laws. Perhaps the national laws could be modeled after what Florida did after the election 2000 debacle. There are two problems with that: one legal and one practical.
The legal problem is that the Constitution of the United States specifically gives states the authority to set their own election laws. The practical problem is that we live in a world where the only constant is constant change. Whatever reforms are needed this time around will need to be tweaked again and again over the years.
In a deeply polarized nation, all of us share an interest in ensuring the integrity of the election process.
This requires experimentation and competition, not rules issued from on high by those in official Washington. Florida did well in 2020, but it’s far from the only state with good ideas. Utah has a history of mail-in voting, providing lessons that are certainly worthy of consideration. Just last year, a hard-fought primary battle to determine the state’s next governor was decided by just over a single percentage point. But the process was sound, and the losing candidates graciously accepted the results.
Besides, real reform is far more likely to emerge from the states than the federal government. In 1869, half a century before Congress got around to recommending the women’s suffrage amendment, Wyoming gave women the right to vote. Why? Because there were six men for every woman in Wyoming at the time. Voting rights became part of a marketing campaign to attract more women to the state.
Over the next half century, while Congress routinely rejected any efforts to give women the right to vote, more and more state and local governments followed the lead of Wyoming. Often, the political dynamics had nothing to do with voting rights per se. Liquor companies vigorously opposed allowing women to vote because they expected most women would support the prohibition of alcohol. But, over time, seeing women vote became part of the nation’s electoral landscape.
In fact, before Congress got around to formally granting women the right to vote, a woman had already served in Congress. Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, was elected in 1916. She was eligible to server because her state allowed women to vote. By the time Congress finally recommended the 19th Amendment, roughly half of Congress was already being elected with the votes of women.
In a deeply polarized nation, all of us share an interest in ensuring the integrity of the election process. That desire is likely to fuel election reform in state after state between now and election 2022.
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