Elections Need Regular Tune-Ups, Too
- BY Sarah Coffey
I’m driving down the freeway, in a hurry. Then, the orange oil light on the dashboard of my sporty Honda Civic flicks on: I need to get an oil change soon.
I sigh and roll my eyes. It’s so inconvenient—I’m busy and my car isn’t having any issues right now. I’m tempted to procrastinate and put it off, but as soon as I get home, I make an appointment at the local body shop to get the oil changed.
The election process is a lot like my car. Regular tune-ups are necessary to ensure things run smoothly and are always improving, instead of declining. Voter rolls or a V6, voter registrations or a radiator flush—you make changes before there’s a problem to ensure optimal performance.
Continuous maintenance on my car will keep it running efficiently and will ensure that I get to where I need to go—and it will also keep me, the driver, safe in the long run. The same goes for elections: Cleaning voter rolls and securing voter registration are proactive reforms that will keep the election process running smoothly and efficiently and, most importantly, will protect voters from bad actors.
The Left Claims…
…that limits on voter registration and voter roll maintenance make it more difficult to get ballots into the hands of voters. They accuse such policies of suppressing voters. But to the contrary, ensuring those voting are truly eligible is just a commonsense way to make sure every legal vote is fairly counted.
A ballot represents an American’s stake in their own government, and the election process is a hallmark of our republic. Why would we leave the process to decay and corrode without regular improvements?
Our Election Process’s Two Warning Lights
If our elections process were a car, we’d be seeing be two warning lights flashing on the dashboard—ones that we’ll ignore only at our own peril because they’re pressing vulnerabilities that can result in legal voters’ ballots being canceled out.
Twenty-one states allow for same-day voter registration. This leaves little room to determine if those casting ballots are eligible—poll workers verify eligibility after the election, but doesn’t this seem a bit counterintuitive? Votes are anonymous and untraceable—if a voter is determined to be ineligible, there is little to no recourse.
This inevitably opens the door to ineligible voters and causes problems for election workers. For example, in Nevada, there were 433,000 unregistered residents in the state. Any of these individuals could have registered to vote on Election Day, voted, and impacted the election, with their eligibility status unbeknownst to the poll worker handing them a ballot.
Further, outdated voter rolls all but welcome ineligible voters to cast a ballot. It’s federal law that states maintain a voter registration database, but availability varies across the states. In many states, voter registration data is all but impossible to obtain.
This lack of accessibility is compounded by the fact that many states haven’t updated their voter rolls in years to scrub them of people who have died, moved, or have otherwise become ineligible to vote. In Nevada, nearly 41,000 people hadn’t made changes to their registration or voted in more than a decade. Presumably, many of them were deceased or no longer even living in the state.
You wouldn’t go decades without a transmission flush—so why do states go decades without more closely examining who is and isn’t eligible to vote?
This was a particular problem in the 2020 election because of the widespread usage of mail-in ballots. Many states even sent out mail-in ballots to everyone registered to vote, with little consideration of who was eligible. This, unsurprisingly, paved the way for many people casting votes in the names of deceased family members. Voter rolls with bad, outdated data create opportunity for ineligible people to cast ballots that will cancel out the valid, legal ballots of those are eligible to vote.
Let’s Get Where We Want to Go
When a car engine is sputtering or the brakes are squeaking, the mechanic will often find that there’s a simple, easy-to-fix cause. Likewise, the solutions to alleviate these two vulnerabilities in elections aren’t complicated. They’re common sense.
One solution is to require voter registration applications to be submitted by a specified time, preferably 30 days before an election. Voters would have plenty of time to register before an election, and poll workers would have ample time to determine eligibility up front.
Secondly, voter rolls should be regularly scrubbed of bad, outdated data by crosschecking with local, national, and public databases. Allowing voters to cancel their registration—for example, when they move out of a state—and prohibiting permanent early voter lists by requiring voters to sign up for absentee ballots each year will ensure that those on the voter rolls are eligible.
Similarly, chief election officers should be required to provide the legislature with annual reports on voter list maintenance actions taken. You probably can’t imagine going to a mechanic and driving away with no knowledge or report on what problems were found and what was fixed—nor should legislatures be left in the dark about what steps are being taken to secure the election process.
And these solutions are incredibly popular. More than half of all voters support requiring voter registrations to be received at least 30 days before Election Day, and almost three-quarters of voters support verification of voter rolls when they know it can help catch instances of voting fraud.
Protect voters by avoiding preventable problems
If you never rotate your tires or replace them when the tread wears out, you’re risking serious harm to the integrity of your vehicle. Hit one pothole, and you suddenly face a serious and expensive problem that was entirely preventable.
Never updating or refining our elections process risks much the same—not cleaning up voter rolls and registrations by improving areas of weakness will only result in a glaring lack of efficiency and transparency, and voters will be the ones paying the price.
Nearly 60 percent of voters in the real world expressed concerns that their ballots weren’t accurately cast and counted in the 2020 election. If we aren’t careful, distrust in the outcome can result in distrust in the entire process—and that’s how we disenfranchise voters.
When voter rolls remain outdated, and potentially ineligible voters are allowed to cast a ballot, who wins? Political crooks. Commonsense policy reforms that protect voters, however, ensure that those who are eligible to vote have their ballots counted and their voices heard.