On a rare visit to my home in Washington, DC, shortly before the midterm elections, an envelope in my thick pile of mail read, “Official Ballot.” Inside I found a complete ballot and a stamped envelope to ensure my vote could be counted in the District of Columbia election. No identification or authentication was required.
It was comforting to know that local election officials were watching over me, but I haven’t lived in the nation’s capital since 2005 and never applied for a mail-in ballot there. I am registered to vote, liable for jury duty, and licensed to drive, hunt, fish, and carry concealed weapons in Florida, where I first voted in 1996.
Since I am not a felon, I rejected my DC ballot and only duly voted once, in person at my local fire station in Palm Beach. In this I mirrored many other registered Republicans, who typically vote in person on Election Day in far greater numbers than Democrats.
This is just one person’s anecdote of failed election integrity, but those who allege the potential for abuse in mass mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, large-scale mail-in voting and similar techniques often introduced during or just before the COVID-19 pandemic are regularly castigated as “racists”, “fascists”, “conspiracy theorists” and evildoers bent on “undermining the ‘integrity of our elections’ and threaten ‘democracy itself’.
Ostensibly intended to secure the right to vote by removing perceived barriers to reaching physical polling places, these blanket and worrisome unsupervised measures have remained in effect in many states even as the pandemic has receded. Only a handful of state governments have reversed some of these measures to ensure that our elections are indeed determined by votes that count, rather than those who count votes.
After the 2020 elections, concerns about election integrity received little practical attention. The mainstream media denigrated even addressing the issue, and it became publicly taboo. It’s easy to see why: any challenge to the relaxed system could have delegitimized the defeat of former President Donald J. Trump and jeopardized future Democratic electoral success.
Federal courts have almost uniformly dismissed legal challenges on the basis of jurisdiction or standing, which exempts them from engaging with the underlying substantive issues. As it has so mendaciously done with public health policy, Big Tech has routinely banned or flagged dissident posts, accounts, and even hashtags (e.g., “#StopTheSteal”) suggesting the 2020 election reflected something else. than democracy in its purest and purest form. With these few exceptions at the state level, Republican leaders have largely followed this narrative. Nobody likes to be called a racist, fascist or conspiracy theorist, especially not bow-tie Washingtonians worried about their cocktail invitations.
In 2022, however, the narrative collapsed. Under Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida banned mass mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, and the use of funds donated by possibly biased third-party players (e.g. “Zuckerbucks”) to help organize the local elections. He also required photo ID to vote and vowed to prosecute people who violate state election laws. Criticism rained down on the governor before and after the election, but the results were undeniable as the predicted nationwide “red wave” hit Florida’s shores. DeSantis won reelection by 19 points, and similar margins of victory blessed Republican candidates on the ballot. Importantly, these numbers reasonably resembled pre-election polling data, given the few-point advantage that polls often inaccurately attribute to Democrats. Additionally, the Sunshine State’s 7.2 million votes were counted in just five hours.
Compare with Arizona, where the state electoral system, which was heavily challenged in 2020, has seen few significant changes since this year. Additionally, the state’s chief election officer, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, was also the Democratic candidate for state governor in 2022. Hobbs’ Republican opponent Kari Lake asked her to recuse himself, as many irregularities arose on election day. These included the reported malfunction of more than 20% of voting machines in Republican-leaning areas of the swing county of Maricopa, as well as the state’s general inability to tabulate all ballots for several days, so even that almost all other states have completed their own counts. Hobbs refused to step down. The final results, which showed Lake and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters both lost, while many other Arizona Republicans on the ballot won, left further doubts in many minds as to the integrity of the result.
More analysis could be done and more evidence could be gathered, but the bottom line is this: Florida’s reformed system has yielded results no one doubts, while Arizona’s largely unreformed system has yielded results that many are wary of. This fact alone is very problematic for the faith in democracy that we all share, regardless of which party has benefited from it.
What is there to do? Constitutionally, each state runs its own elections. No law passed by Congress can force states to adopt Florida’s superior model, revert to Arizona’s problematic variant, or do anything else. To safeguard Our Democracy™, Republicans at the state level must work diligently to reform election laws to ensure we have accurate, qualified, and verified electorates that cannot be thwarted by procedural blind spots. In states where Republicans hold legislative majorities, this process can begin tomorrow and should be driven by the cautionary tale of Michigan, whose Republican-controlled legislature did next to nothing to address the problem after 2020 and now finds itself controlled by Democrats.
In other states, Republican minorities should reach out to Democrats who are honest enough to admit there are structural problems and wise enough to see that insecure and easily manipulated processes could backfire if activists Republicans are getting into the mail and collecting ballots. , as many now promise to do.
For its part, the new Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives must prioritize the Electoral Count Reform Act, a hitherto stagnant piece of legislation designed to modernize the thoroughly outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887, which prescribes how State votes must be tabulated and verified. in presidential elections.
In the absence of a legislative solution, legal action could also prevail in federal courts with the power to require states to abandon election practices that are fraudulent, discriminatory, or fail to provide equal protection guaranteed by law. Constitution. Like so many other issues affecting our political system — from abortion to gun rights to affirmative action — electoral integrity may ultimately be a matter for the Supreme Court to decide.
Time will tell if Republicans have the organizational skills, the attention span, or the guts to take on those boring and difficult jobs in the branches of government where they still have a say. But if they don’t, they will become a permanent minority party in most states that don’t start with “F”, and much of the Union will become a banana republic.
Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.