Pass Legislation for Election Integrity Now
The 2018 midterm elections have proven dramatic, and in several key races, including for governor, Senate, and the House of Representatives, the outcome has not yet been determined. Both Republicans and Democrats -- depending on the race -- have called into question the integrity of the vote and have demanded recounts and, at times, have gone to court asking that the integrity of the election be upheld. At present, as good as our election system may be, there are many opportunities for activity that could result in close elections being called for the wrong candidate. Congress must act immediately and expeditiously to better protect our elections and democracy.
From close elections in Florida’s gubernatorial and Senate races, to Mia Love’s House race in Utah, and Young Kim’s House race in California (to name a few) where very few votes determine the victor, questions have arisen as to who actually won. Five House races, one Senate race, and two gubernatorial races have yet to be called. Federal election law must be updated right away to make it that much harder for vote tampering, illegal voting, and voting fraud. No one is demanding perfection; rather simply the extent of what is feasible. In a democracy, every legitimate vote is supposed to count -- and a victory by one vote should be a victory -- nevertheless, serious questions related to the vote count in close elections have demonstrated that more must be done to ensure the integrity of elections.
One example of where voter fraud may have flipped an election is the 2008 Senate election in Minnesota between Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Al Franken. At first, Norm Coleman had a slight lead of 725 votes. However, after a long process of recounting votes and the like, Franken was declared the victor by 312 votes. A 2012 book by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky points out that in the close Minnesota election 1,099 felons voted illegally, very likely flipping Coleman’s seat to Franken. Al Franken was the 58th Democrat in the Senate and the 60th Senate vote needed to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass ObamaCare (two Senators were independents who caucused with Democrats). If Norm Coleman had held the seat, in all likelihood Obamacare would have never become the law of the land.
For argument’s sake, even if one were to assume that the only illegal votes counted were by felons, those 1,099 votes were critical. A new study shows that 7 in 10 felons register as Democrats and a 2002 study by Uggen and Manza found that Democrat candidates in 14 of the 15 most recent Senate election years received about 7 in 10 votes cast by felons and ex-felons. If 70% of those felons voted for Franken and 30% for Coleman, it would have resulted in a net pickup of 440 votes for Franken. Without those 440 net votes Coleman would have won by 128 votes and Obama would never have had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
A New Mexico House race is currently under contention by Republican Yvette Herrell. At first, Herrell declared victory the night of the election, leading by 1,973 votes. Subsequently, 8,350 absentee ballots in Doña Ana County were counted, 8,258 of which voted for the House race. While 62% of votes in Doña Ana County prior to these absentee ballots went to the Democrat, 77.6% of the 8,258 absentee ballots were cast for the Democrat. Herrell filed a court motion seeking to have the court order the absentee ballots impounded so that potential voting improprieties can be investigated.
A Democrat-run House of Representatives will block any legislation that seeks to fully and properly prevent potential voter fraud. In order to ensure proper legislation is passed, if at all possible the House and Senate must pass it within a month.
The legislation, which can be referred to as the Election Integrity and Security Act of 2018, can be relatively short and straightforward. It must ensure that voters produce identification so that votes are cast legally. It should also enhance the government’s ability to prevent multiple votes -- whether in one location or in multiple locations, whether within the same state or in multiple states. It should also impose specific requirements for sealing vote containers (that contain all ballots) at poll locations prior to transport, including providing a unique ID associated with that container. Finally, it should require that every location where ballots are processed and counted must have sufficient oversight from representatives of both parties, as well as impartial witnesses. Video cameras should be installed at all ballot processing and counting locations that make it clear what’s going on at those locations and that provide officials, as well as the public, live access over the internet to view the vote counting.
In addition, the legislation should require oversight over all electronic voting systems by impartial officials to determine that no one with direct or indirect access to the voting machines has tampered with votes. It should also require enhanced cybersecurity to protect all votes from tampering and from any hacking. Perhaps it could also preclude voting by any felons or ex-felons who have been convicted of violent crimes as well as certain other minimum limits for voting in cases where states wish to legalize voting by felons or ex-felons.
The importance and timeliness of this legislation is great, as is evidenced by the 2008 Senate election in Minnesota, by the close Florida election results in the 2000 presidential election, and by a number of other elections, including some from the present midterms. A Democrat-controlled House will refuse to pass legislation requiring voter ID, prefer to allow felons (or ex-felons) to vote and likely would not support at least a number of the important oversight measures that would greatly enhance the integrity of the vote. After next month, the next time Republicans can properly resolve election law would be after the 2020 election, and that’s if Republicans retake control of the House and maintain control over the Senate and presidency -- which is a big “if.” And in the meantime, a number of elections can be “won” by those who really lost them.
In the final days of this Republican-controlled Congress, it is high time to pursue election integrity legislation -- for the sake of the integrity of our election system and democracy.