Brennan Center: Election Integrity: A Pro-Voter Agenda

Whenever we open a report with multiple recommendations we start from a skeptical point of view. We expect to agree with some proposals and disagree with others.  A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice is the exception.  We agree with every recommendation:
Election Integrity: A Pro-Voter Agenda <read>

It starts with the right criteria it has a great agenda, strong supporting arguments, and ends with an appropriate call to action:

This history strongly suggests two overarching principles that should guide any further efforts to secure election integrity. Such efforts should have two key elements:

  • First, they should target abuses that actually threaten election security.
  • Second, they should curb fraud or impropriety without unduly discouraging or disenfranchising eligible voters.

Efforts that do not include these elements will just result in burdens to voters and little payoff.

One: Modernize Voter Registration to Improve Voter Rolls

Two: Ensure Security and Reliability of Our Voting Machines

Three: Do Not Implement Internet Voting Systems Until Security is Proven

Four: Adopt Only Common-Sense Voter Identification Proposals

Five: Increase Security of Mail-In Ballots

Six: Protect Against Insider Wrongdoing

We do not have to choose between election integrity and election access. Indeed, free and fair access is necessary for an election to have integrity. This report examined genuine risks to the security of elections, highlighting current vulnerabilities as well as those that will be faced in the future. Recommendations have been made about how to reduce each risk. We invite and urge policymakers to tackle these problems.

As  examples, we particularly support its call for sufficient post-election audits and attention to detecting, preventing, and punishing insider fraud:

Require Post-Election Audits. Many machines now issue a paper record of a voter’s selection. But these records are of little security value without audits to ensure that vote tallies recorded by a particular machine match any paper records. Despite near universal expert agreement on the need for audits, some vendors have vigorously opposed these paper trails, contending that they increase costs and slow the voting process. Security experts also recommend that states pass laws for effective “risk-limiting audits.” These require examination of a large enough sample of ballots to provide statistically “strong evidence that the reported election outcome was correct — if it was.” Also, the audit process should not rely on any one individual who might be in a position to manipulate either the voting machine or the recount device. According to experts, these insider attacks are the most difficult to stop. Voting technology experts also say machines must be “software independent,” which is technically defined as when “an (undetected) change or error in its software cannot cause an undetectable change or error in an election outcome,” but practically speaking means that the election results can be captured independently of the machine’s own software. Auditors should be assigned randomly to further ensure the process is not being gamed. Finally, audits should be as transparent as possible. This not only is essential to garnering public confidence, but can show a defeated candidate that she lost the election in a contest that was free and fair…

It is not surprising that many instances of election fraud, both historically and in the present day, involve the actions of insiders. Recent abuses by insiders have included lawmakers lying about where they live, magistrate judges willfully registering ineligible persons, and legislators running fraudulent absentee ballot schemes. A pollworker in Ohio was famously found guilty of using her authority and training to conduct voter fraud and take certain steps to evade detection. Culprits have even included the chief election officer of Indiana. This is why election officials and workers should receive special attention because their insider status increases their opportunity to both abuse the system and avoid detection. Moreover, when organizational leaders are involved in wrongdoing, it can create a culture for fraud, encouraging others to commit misconduct.



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