States should run elections. Here’s how they can run them better.
Last week, the R Street Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Bipartisan Policy Center, Issue One and Unite America released a new report on election reform, targeting policy changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve election administration and the voting experience for Americans across the country. The five organizations focused on solutions that can garner bipartisan support at a time when Americans feel democracy and their freedoms are under assault.
“Elections must be trustworthy, and voting must be convenient. This new legislative framework shows how long-standing Republican, Democratic and bipartisan priorities can work in harmony to improve our elections without overbearing federal mandates,” said Matt Germer, resident elections fellow at the R Street Institute and co-author of the paper.
The report focuses on four critical areas for how voters engage with elections: registering to vote, casting a ballot, counting the tally, and ensuring safe and secure election administration. These four areas each contain suggestions that are supported by either Democrats, Republicans or both at the state or federal level, and states across the political and geographic spectrum have already implemented many of these reforms.
Importantly, these reforms would ensure that states maintain the primary responsibility for administering elections that meet their unique local needs.
How it Works: Our organizations recommend election funding opportunities based on an incentive structure. If states meet the report’s 14 proposed minimum standards by 2024, they would be eligible for federal matching funds.
- States should be required to perform voter list maintenance at regular intervals.
- States should be prohibited from relying on external groups using undelivered mail to target voters for removal from voter rolls.
- States should use standard automated voter registration processes based on security best practices.
- States’ online voter registration systems should connect to other state databases to determine voter eligibility for voters who move intrastate.
Casting a Ballot
- States should adhere to a minimum requirement for verifying voter identity that includes a variety of identification options.
- Voters should have the option of voting early and in-person for a period of at least seven days in advance of a federal election. Smaller, municipality-based election jurisdictions should be allowed to join together to offer shared, convenient early voting.
- Absentee voting for all voters should be available with secure ballot tracking, a means of voter identity verification, robust ballot curing measures, and multiple return options.
Counting the Vote
- States should begin preprocessing vote-by-mail ballots a minimum of seven days before Election Day.
- In every state, mail ballots should be received by Election Day at the close of the polls to be counted.
- States and localities should conduct audits after each federal election.
Cyber Security and Physical Security
- The federal government should develop a program of cyber navigators that seeks to connect election officials with appropriate resources.
- The federal government should implement minimum cybersecurity standards for state and local election offices and include comprehensive cybersecurity training, multifactor authentication and moving to the “.gov” domain.
- The federal government, in collaboration with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), should provide funding for the protection of election officials and information-sharing resources regarding threats to election officials.
- The federal government should provide resources and funding for physical security and doxing training for election administrators and their staff.
Other Key Takeaways:
- Colorado and Georgia meet all the recommendations detailed in this report.
- Seven additional states—Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington—meet all except one of our proposed standards.
- Arizona, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Texas, and Utah have all passed laws with bipartisan support to expediently remove deceased voters from state voter rolls.
- Conditions—including outreach to inactive voters through multiple outreach channels, not just the United States Postal Service—should be met before voters are removed from voter rolls.
- Only 19 states have implemented some form of automated voter registration. Nearly 70% of states already require some type of voter identification, and nearly 75% offer early voting for at least seven days.
- Online voter registration (OVR) offers a way for voters to accessibly and easily register to vote online. It benefits election administrators by providing accurate and reliable data directly from voters themselves. Currently, 43 states and D.C. have OVR or have plans to implement OVR by the next election.
- Currently, 35 states currently have some form of voter identification required for voters to cast a ballot in person, including states that offer alternatives for voters who arrive without identification.
- By increasing to at least seven days of early voting, states are given the flexibility to adapt based on jurisdiction size without compromising voter access.
- Voters should be able to cast a ballot before Election Day in the same manner as they would at a polling place on Election Day.
Please click here to read the full report.