Democracy Depends on Transparency

Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council. This article appeared in CNS News on August 11, 2021.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to thoroughly examine what happened during the 2020 elections and take steps to make sure it can’t happen again. 

The left has kept up a steady chorus of “nothing to see here” whenever anybody has pointed out irregularities, inconsistencies, or even outright violations of law in the administration of the 2020 elections, but their attempt to deflect is no longer credible. At a certain point, you simply can’t pretend that you can see no evil, and we’ve clearly reached that point – which is probably why the left has, in desperation, shifted to attacking those who question the integrity of last year's elections as enemies of democracy. 

But criticism and dissent are essential to the proper functioning of any democracy. If we can’t question those in power, then we don't live in a free society. And if we can't demand both transparency and accountability in the conduct of our elections, then we don’t truly have a representative system of government. 

The failure to substantiate a given question or criticism does not make the initial act of raising it invalid, and absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence. What we already know about the (mis)conduct of the 2020 elections is plenty to justify ameliorative action, and what we have reason to suspect about it demands rigorous investigation. 

We already know, for instance, that private interests poured hundreds of millions of dollars into local election offices in swing states all over the country, and that much of that money came with strings attached in the form of grant agreements compelling election officials to adhere to terms dictated by leftist nonprofits. We also know that in at least some places – such as Green Bay, Wisc. – private interests used the influence they had purchased to turn public election offices into partisan get-out-the-vote operations. 

Allowing private funding of public elections clearly opens the door to improper influence, at the very least, and outright corruption at worst. That’s why numerous states have passed laws this year either banning or imposing strict conditions on private funding of election administration. 

This trend will pick up steam as we learn more about the questionable practices that plagued election administration in 2020.

In Fulton County, Ga., public records confirm that thousands of ballots were “adjudicated” by humans after being rejected by machines, usually due to votes for multiple candidates. Georgia election law allows this under certain circumstances, but not when ballots are explicitly “spoiled” by the voter. Nonetheless, hundreds of spoiled ballots were counted, raising serious questions about whether election officials deliberately included invalid votes in their final tallies. 

We also recently learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center, an ostensibly nonpartisan organization with a virulent and undisguised hatred of Donald Trump, gave $85,000 to Fulton County election officials as part of a broader effort to boost African American turnout. The group’s simultaneous focus on defeating President Trump and other Republican candidates in 2020 sheds harsh light on its motivations for granting money to Fulton County. Even more troubling is the fact that, according to internal auditors, Fulton County officials failed to return unspent funds. They’ve also failed to abide by an agreement to publicly disclose the number of ballots returned through absentee ballot drop boxes. 

Americans need to have confidence in the integrity of our elections, but that won’t be possible unless we make a serious effort to understand what happened in the 2020 elections and correct any problems we identify. Audits are an indispensable tool for state lawmakers, irrespective of their party affiliation, to ensure the integrity of elections, and we can’t afford to capitulate to the left’s attempts to thwart sincere efforts to get the facts.