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Yes to Suffrage—No to Suffering!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
November 28, 2022

What do we want? Voting integrity! When do we want it? Before the 2024 elections! Voting used to be easy. When national elections were held, we were almost always presented with the results that same day in the evening—before we went to bed. Now those same elections sometimes drag on for days and weeks with no clear winners and contentious claims about fraud in the various segments of that process. We have even coined a new term for those who challenge election results: election deniers. As the country continues to polarize politically, elections are often becoming closer in their results. This means that it is becoming very important to design voting processes that can accommodate close elections. This needs to be fixed now and tested before the 2024 elections.

The Voting Landscape.

At the very top, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) enforces federal campaign finance laws and manages public funding of presidential campaigns. It also oversees limits on campaign contributions and publishes information on how campaigns raise and spend money. Election administration is decentralized in the United States. Administrators at the state and local level are responsible for running elections. That includes the entire spectrum from the establishment of voter registration records to counting ballots and reporting results. That’s the main reason that the efficiency of these processes varies so much among the states and localities. In less than half of the States, the Secretary of State is the primary leader responsible for overseeing the voting in each state, including training the administrators, ensuring the integrity of the voting registration database and giving guidance on testing the voting mechanisms in the counties. The remainder of the other states have appointed or elected leaders for these purposes. These offices make policy about voting while localities are separately responsible for implementing those policies. Almost universally, county governments are where the rubber meets the road for election administration—nearly 10,000 of these across the nation.

Recommendations.

We know that the problem statement is largely unreliable administration of the actual voting process. That said, I think we are ready for a significant redesign of both the registering and voting segments. The United States continues to have one of the most difficult and confusing voter registration processes in the world today. Since 2015, 15 states have adopted automatic registration programs. If we could simplify the process, more people would be able to vote unassisted. As for the voting process, I would offer that we should:

  • Eliminate the ballot harvesting and ballot box stuffing methods altogether.
  • Shorten the early voting windows and ensure that those early votes are entirely counted (but not reported) prior to election day.
  • Count and store all mail-in ballots before election day.
  • Make election day a national holiday.

Conclusion—Summary.

Anytime you have a nationally important function designed and run by each of the 50 states, you should consider having some federal baseline requirements that must be adhered to. After all, the nation is the customer of the voting function—every American. We have already had some recent interventions by the federal government in the voting space: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 created a national voter registration form and expanded the range of ways in which people can register to vote. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 provided funding for states to update voting equipment and created the Election Assistance Commission, which offers guidance on elections administration to state agencies. These helpful acts do not constitute a usurping of states’ rights—something we should always preserve. I am not in favor of “federalizing” the voting administration.

It appears that the breakdown is in the conduct of the election, not so much the policy set by the states. Nevertheless, I am proposing that states meet some basic guidelines that will ensure that they carry out faithful, reliable and rapid elections. The role of the federal government would not be heavy-handed but rather continue to extend resources to states in order that they quickly meet the standards which would be passed by Congress in a third iteration of voting-centric acts, following the 1993 and 2002 ones.

This next-gen Voting Integrity Act (VIA) of 2023 that I am proposing might consider some of the following standards:

  • Paper ballots along with rapid scanning technology. This would ensure capturing voter intent and provide a way to audit the process subsequently.
  • Minimum cybersecurity standards for voter registration systems.
  • Strengthen coordination between states and federal agencies on election security.
  • Shorten the early voting and mail-in windows and ensure that those early votes are entirely counted (but not reported) prior to election day.
  • Make election day a national holiday.
  • Provide federal funding for updating election infrastructure.

By analogy, if it were a car that needed manufacturing by each state, we should not prescribe the exact look and feel of the car, but we should say, “Your car must have two headlights, should get at least 35 mpg and have a navigation system.” Other than that, we don’t care what color it is, how fast it goes or if the seats are leather. For voting, we should take on the same strategy—just meet the requirement entirely, totally and faithfully in the timings that are provided—and we will provide you with the necessary resources. I’m confident that if we apply some basic, necessary guidelines to the voting process, we will be able to discover who wins the 2024 Presidential and Congressional elections before we retire for the night on election day.


Author: Dr. Robert Brescia respects the wisdom of generations, promotes the love of learning, teaches ethics to university students, government & politics to AP seniors, and leadership to organizations. He is a candidate for National Board for Certification of Teachers (NBCT) at Stanford University. The Governor of Texas appointed him to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. Contact him at [email protected]k.com or on Twitter at @Robert_Brescia.

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