With the selection of candidates mostly complete, Labor Day marks the traditional start of the 2022 fall mid-term election season. With the nation facing historic economic, social, and geo-political challenges, the stakes are high for the control of Congress. Confidence in the integrity of the election is essential, given that the outcome may continue to mirror the razor-thin margins in Congress today.
Polls are indicating that Americans are losing confidence in the integrity of our elections. Such a decline in voter confidence is dangerous to the fabric and effectiveness of our democracy. It is incumbent upon public and private sector leaders to act quickly to restore Americans’ confidence in the integrity of our elections. Ensuring a credible election is a shared responsibility.
Here are 10 steps we should take to ensure that our elections are not only secure but also accessible and credible.
Have a voter-verified paper trail. Require paper ballots to assist with audits and recounts and ensure that all voting machines produce a paper record of ballots cast.
Start counting sooner. To help achieve a quick count as more citizens employ different ways to vote, states should both start counting early ballots before Election Day. This will increase confidence that the vote count is credible and secure.
Modernize and secure voting equipment. While many jurisdictions have modernized their voting equipment, too many state and local governments have underinvested in it over the past decade, raising fears that their systems can be compromised. At a minimum for this election, all components of election equipment capable of connection to the internet should be disabled and rendered unusable. By 2024, no election equipment should be capable of any connection to the internet at all.
Make sure people are adequately trained to perform their role. Election administrators should prioritize recruiting and training poll workers to ensure elections run smoothly.
Employ credible audits. Rigorous, nonpartisan audits can raise confidence in elections. Virginia’s audit of two districts in its 2021 House of Delegates elections, for instance, found that there was a 99.743 percent likelihood that the result in the district studied was correct — and only a .00256293556 percent chance that it was wrong.
Make voting accessible. States should promote access to the polls by providing at least 10 days of early voting, including some evening and weekend hours. They should also ensure a sufficient number of polling places so that in-person voters do not have to wait in long lines that discourage turnout.
Protect election administrators. Action on the state and local level, including the enforcement of federal laws against voter intimidation, will help ensure that those who administer elections, from precinct workers to state election officials, and voters are free from harassment or intimidation. The US Election Assistance Commission has developed a helpful resource for election official security, including guidelines on what constitutes harassment and how to report incidents. Reporting harassment will help support the Department of Justice’s task force, which will partner with and support U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices to investigate and prosecute these offenses where appropriate.
Modernize the Electoral Count Act. Congress should act quickly to update the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which regulates how Congress counts the states’ electoral votes for president. There is a strong vehicle to do so: A bipartisan group of 16 Senators has introduced legislation which would raise the threshold for raising challenges to a state’s electors, and confirm that the vice president has a ceremonial role in counting electoral votes, among other provision.
Beef up security funding for elections. Since 2017, the Department of Homeland Security has treated election systems as critical infrastructure, just as water and electrical systems are. In line with this, Congress should increase resources, including clear cyber hygiene guidance, for state and local governments to strengthen both physical- and cyber-security efforts for this election — and for the next cycle.
Business must play a role. In early 2022, the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, an important study across 28 countries measuring popular trust in institutions such as business, government, and the media, concluded that business emerged as the most trusted institution. It should leverage that role in the interest of promoting secure and credible elections, including initiatives to give time off from work to vote or to serve as nonpartisan observers at polling places, inform workers of rules and changes in polling places and voting requirements in the communities where they operate, and provide sources for accurate information.
These are strong steps to promote secure, credible, and accessible elections. But time is short. Public policy leaders, in concert with business leaders, must move quickly to adopt these steps, both for this cycle and the fast-approaching presidential election in 2024.
Paula Stern is former chairwoman of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and founder and president of The Stern Group. Robert Kueppers is Former Senior Partner, Global Regulatory & Public Policy, Deloitte LLP. They are Trustees of the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board (CED) and co-chair CED’s Sustaining Democratic Institutions Committee. This article was originally published by RealClearPolicy and made available via RealClearWire.
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