If It Ain't Vote, Don't Fix It

February 5, 2021

Guess what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made her top priority in this congressional session? If you said rigging the election system against Republicans, you'd be right! The very first bill that was introduced, H.R. 1, would do just that. Worse, it would usurp responsibility for regulating elections from state legislatures and give it to the same group of people who have used the same game plan to cement one-party rule in California (hint: it's not the Republicans).

But even without Pelosi's bill, states have enough problems running elections, as the 2020 election abundantly demonstrated. The Heritage Foundation's Senior Legal Fellow, Hans Von Spakovsky, joined me on Washington Watch to point out how states can improve election security. And unlike the Twitter philosophers, he speaks from experience, having served as a county election administrator in two different states.

His list isn't rocket science. The most shocking part is that many state and local election officials aren't doing most of these things already:

Verify the accuracy of voter registration lists. Von Spakovsky said states can catch "people registering at commercial addresses, pawn shops, casinos in Nevada, etc." by checking for residential addresses with the county tax department, which "has detailed information on every single property in the county for tax reasons." They can also cross-reference the Social Security Administration's master death index to prevent "dead people" from voting.

Verify citizenship of voters. Voter registration forms do ask whether the applicant is a U.S. citizen. But, said Von Spakovsky, unlike employers, "election officials don't do anything to actually check."

Require voter ID. In 1996, while I was campaign manager for a U.S. Senate race, we lost the election to voter fraud, but after we made this reform, we've had fair elections ever since.

Limit absentee ballots. Some people just can't go to the polls. But Von Spakovsky pointed out these are the only ballots cast "outside the supervision of election officials and outside the observation of poll watchers." So states should only give them out for good reasons.

End vote trafficking or harvesting. Nearly half of states allow people to collect and deliver other people's ballots. Von Spakovsky said these operatives could include interested parties, like "campaign staffers, candidates, party activists, political consultants." They could illegally advise or pressure someone how to complete their ballot, or even "lose" ballots they expect to be unfavorable.

Allow election observers complete access to the election process. This was a major issue in the 2020 election. How do we know the votes were counted accurately if we weren't allowed to watch the counting? And we don't mean on the other end of a giant warehouse.

Provide voting assistance. Von Spakovsky noted that some people will inevitably need help to vote. "They may not speak English well. They may be illiterate. They may be physically disabled." Those who assist them should be registered so they can be held accountable.

Prohibit early vote counting. If some votes are counted before others are cast, then at some point they will be leaked, either prompting flagging campaigns to increase their GOTV effort, or discouraging participation among other voters.

Give state legislatures standing. In 2020, state election officials usurped the legislature's authority by essentially re-writing election laws. For the integrity of the election and the law, the state legislature should be able to hold rogue officials accountable.

If you're like me, the items on this list are just common sense. But many states lack these safeguards. And Democrats in Congress are actually trying to remove them. Are they trying to hide something? Election reform, at the state level in particular, is vital to restoring Americans' trust in our elections.