Election Security Means Standardization

Ideas and Issues
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November 24, 2020

New Orleans      Here’s a full disclosure first. I read everything that passes in front of me that is written by tech wizard and take-no-prisoner-analyst, Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina and a contributing writer for The Atlantic and the New York Times. I became a fan when she called fake on the claims that Twitter and other social media sources were able to organize the kinds of protests we have seen in Egypt and elsewhere.

Closer to home, she spoke truth to power in a recent column about how we needed to organize elections.  I’ve already said I’m a fan, and of course, part of that is the fact that Tufekci comes so close to what we have been advocating about voter lists and elections at the Voter Purge Project, a partnership that ACORN, Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center, and the Ohio Voter Project assembled.

Here’s what she advocates to bring confidence and security back to elections.

  • Easier registration, with standardized voter databases, would keep voters from being incorrectly purged from the rolls.
  • automatic voter registration which she points out is already being used in 19 states and should be national.
  • A common data format and data exchange be shared among states, and we can tell you from our work that all states are different and many are anti-transparency, creating more suspicion.
  • Nationwide use of standardized, secured electronic poll books, with a paper backup copy, would greatly help speed up voting, lessen suspicions of fraud and instances of disenfranchisement — and even make counting faster by reducing the need for provisional ballots when a registration is disputed.
  • we should have risk-limiting audits after each election after the counting is complete but before the result is certified.
  • national standards for handling of mail-in ballots
  • Election Day should be a national holiday.

Ok, anyone can make a list of what needs to be done better, but this one is a good place to start. The problem is how to get it done.

Partisanship should be limited to the marks on a voter’s ballot for one candidate or initiative or another not on the “how” of voting. Partisanship should have nothing to do with setting the rules of the road. Even if states are handling the nitty-gritty details on election day, there is no objective reason why there should not be nationally established minimum standards that assure voting access and integrity, so the fighting can be about the candidates and not the very essence of the democratic process. Both parties need to step back from advantage seeking and step forward for election protection, access, and integrity.