The 2020 election cycle left a wide range of Americans feeling unsettled about the election process in this country. With new election laws to accommodate mail-in ballots and other pandemic related changes made by election bureaucrats and the courts, many Americans wondered aloud if the election would transcend traditional partisan politics and inspire confidence in the election’s results.
Of course, the typical partisan bickering has persisted past the election, with politicians staking out reflexive, knee-jerk positions that seem more geared to entrench their own interests rather than create viable solutions to empower voters.
Election reform is needed, but the U.S. House-proposed “H.R. 1” bill does not appear to be the answer. There are elements of the legislation that create reasonable concern – such as repealing voter identification laws in every state and allowing ballot harvesting.
These concerns touch on a pillar of successful election reform: security. If you do not have transparent and airtight security measures to ensure every vote is legal and every legal vote is counted, how do you expect voters to have confidence in the election?
H.R. 1 does not require all states to authenticate voters’ citizenship and identity before casting ballots. The bill also permits all states to allow third parties to collect an unlimited number of sealed absentee ballots.
More concerns can be raised about the spate of emerging state-driven election rules. This is why sensible, voter-driven election reform is the path forward.
Let’s continue with this straightforward agreement around national interest: Election rules should not be designed to benefit either party.
Partisan election reform, whether driven by Democrats or championed by Republicans, is always a bad deal for voters looking for fair and equal access to voting rights. Election reform, by definition, needs to be driven by a bi-partisan coalition that rises above partisan advantage as an end-goal and has as its purpose the expansion of voting rights and the protection of voter confidence in election integrity.
We had an example of ideal election security measures right here in Pennsylvania. In a successful argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Department of State argued there was little chance for voting fraud because Pennsylvania requires all mail-in ballots be signed and dated. The problem with that argument: Pennsylvania Department of State, going against its own agency guidance, did not uniformly apply this standard in every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The result: people’s trust in fair elections is eroded.
Election integrity requires uniform standards – you cannot have fair elections if the rules are different depending on where you live or what political party runs the bureau of elections.
There are security applications of this approach that can work across the entire country, and a national election reform commission – not just bi-partisan, but non-partisan – is a sensible step toward elevating best practices at the state level. Pennsylvania formed a bi-partisan election reform commission, and I hope it will bring together the same kind of honest, civic-minded experts who successfully managed the extreme polarization and uncertainty of the 2020 election.
On the formative issue of election reform, putting people before partisan politics is the essential first test if voting reforms are really in the best interest of voters.
State Senator John T. Yudichak, founder of People. Not Politics., is in his third term serving Carbon and Luzerne counties as a member of the Pennsylvania Senate.