POSEY: Transparency Is Needed To Ensure Confidence In Elections

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Rep. Bill Posey Contributor
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Every state should be able to provide accurate same-day election results. There is no legitimate reason for failure to do so — if their leaders want to.

When I was elected to the Florida Senate, my first responsibility was to Chair the Ethics and Election Committee and reform Florida’s election laws following the controversial 2000 Bush-Gore election chaos.  I think most remember the hanging chads and dimpled ballots. I can understand the pressure that many state legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Arizona are under. How many of the citizens of those states may be left wondering if their vote was really counted or perhaps canceled out?

My approach to reforming Florida’s election laws was to ensure every vote is legal and counted, and to make sure every Florida citizen who participated in the election process could be confident their vote was counted. We made it easy to vote early or by absentee, and mandated the use of precinct based optical scanners. We also created provisional ballots, so if there were questions about an individual voter, they could at least cast a ballot, and any issues could resolved later. A well-maintained voter database was also essential.

The legislation I authored earned bipartisan support and passed nearly unanimously in the Florida Senate and House. In fact, some of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle now serving in Congress supported the reform, including Sen. Rubio and Reps. Webster, Lawson, Wasserman Schultz, Bilirakis and Frankel. Only two members of the entire legislature voted against the reforms, one senator from Broward County and the other from Duval County. We were told our reforms served as model legislation adopted by other states as well.

The road to getting there wasn’t easy. Naturally there is a political element to elections and both political parties claimed that our proposed reforms might take away certain “advantages”.

An important lesson I learned from our election reform efforts is that people should never underestimate the lengths that political operatives will go to try to gain an advantage in an election. It’s disheartening to see what has been transpiring this year with so many reports of irregularities, disenfranchisement and reports of widespread voter fraud. We may never know the extent of voter fraud that has taken place in the 2020 election, but we do know that fraud and allegations of fraud undermine the confidence in our election and of those who are elected. Elected officials have a sworn duty to weed out fraud, put election safeguards in place and restore confidence in our electoral processes. 

According to RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, so far 500 individuals have come forward with sworn affidavits constituting a whopping 11,000 instances of vote fraud. It all should be fully investigated immediately because it invites suspicion and undermines public confidence not only in the outcome of the election but our very governing institutions. We can’t have that, which is why I have joined with 38 of my colleagues in asking the Justice Department to investigate these reports.

While it’s the responsibility of states and localities to administer elections, there must be basic tenants that are adhered to in order to ensure confidence in the outcome. Voting is an individual constitutional right and I believe state governments overstep their authority in not requiring permission to access and release the ballots of individual voters into the mail system. Those ballots belong to individual voters, not to politicians, political parties or their operatives. Blindly mass mailing ballots is an invitation for voter fraud. Even the NY Times in October of 2012 wrote about the greater risk of fraud from mail-in ballots, saying there was bipartisan consensus that “voting by mail, whatever its impact, is more easily abused than other forms.” 

Also, states that initiate mail-in voting should require an opt-in function, clean their voter lists regularly of those who have passed away or moved, and they should utilize ballot tracking technology so voters can be assured their ballots were properly sent, received and cast. Perhaps there also needs to be a point where we lock in the rules for everybody and say no more court challenges until after the vote. But most importantly, there must be transparency and full accountability for those who engage in election fraud. 

As a candidate, it’s President Trump’s right to challenge the vote tallies, and I’m glad he is continuing to fight. Former Vice President Al Gore, former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacie Abrams and many other candidates have been afforded the same right. Ultimately, any flawed procedures or unconstitutional and possibly illegal practices, that have already created controversy and mistrust, must be brought before the public.

Bill Posey represents Florida’s 8th congressional district in the House of Representatives.