What’s the matter with H.R.1, Part 3

Last week in<Part 1> we covered our three greatest concerns with the election administration portions of H.R.1: U.S. House Resolution 1, “For the People Act of 2021” <read H.R.1> and then in <Part 2> we covered our minor concerns which alone would argue against the bill as currently written. In this final installment we will cover what is good about the election administration areas of the bill. (We have refrained from commenting on the rest of the bill which concerns campaign finance reform, gerrymandering, and other issues which we generally do not cover and lack expertise to comment on in detail, other that we are sure that they, like the entire bill, are well-intended).

What is good about election administration in H.R.1?

  • It prohibits excessive requirements for authenticating absentee ballots such as the requirements that they be witnessed by one or two people.
  • It provides grants for the development of voting equipment for those with disabilities.
  • It provides grants for Risk Limiting Audits (RLAs), although the definition of RLAs and requirement for grants should be improved to require more transparency, public verifiability, and require that races to audit not be chosen by partisan bias or based on expediency after results are known. It could also offer grants for ballot security and other, so called, process audits.
  • It provides funds for replacing equipment that is over ten years old. We wish that those grants were limited to systems which require hand-marked paper ballots and one ballot marking device per polling place, and cover only VVSG/EAC certified equipment.
  • It adds ePollbooks to the definition of voting systems, thus subjecting them to the Election Assistance Commission’s Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines, subject to certification testing as well.

What can be done to make election administration portions of H.R.1, more acceptable, short of eliminating all the areas of our concern?

  • Overall the requirements should be spread over several years, perhaps 2022 through 2026 or 2028.
  • Absentee ballots should not be required to be accepted after Election Day, that one requirement adds 10 days to the election cycle, delaying results. Voters knowing the deadline can be expected to mail them earlier or get them to drop boxes in time.
  • Curing should be required only for ballots received 12 days before election day and processed such that letters go out no less than 10 days before election day and cured by election day. Mandatory curing requirements should be delayed until 2026.
  • Officials should not be responsible for voters receiving absentee ballots. Voters should be able to request absentee ballots in-person and receive them on the spot until 5 days or less before the election. Requests received by mail should be mailed back within 24 business hours.
  • Election Day Registration should only be required for election day. Voters should be able to register in-person five days or less before election day, and any mailed-in or on-line requests received by that date processed.
  • Considering that states like CA and CO have shown that only a small number of voters use early voting when no-excuse absentee voting is available, there should be no requirement for early in-person voting. At worst it should only be required for a minimum of 5 days in the two weeks before election day.
  • Chief election officials should only be required to step aside, when they are on the ballot and not running for reelection.
  • Drop box ballots should be counted like absentee ballots. Drop boxes should, at most, be required to be wheelchair accessible and to have instructions in braille.
  • Unrealistic requirements for all voters with disabilities to be able to vote independently and privately should be dropped or made realistic, based on the capabilities of commonly available VVSG/EAC certified equipment.
  • Enforcement provisions should also be made more realistic to protect pollworkers and election officials from excessive risk and harrassment.
  • The unrealistic requirement for voters never having to wait over 30 minutes in line should be removed or drastically changed.
  • Having IDs on ballots which can link them to voters should be prohibited, never required in any circumstance. IDs on envelops are acceptable.

That is all for now, unless there are further developments.

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