Though the November 2020 election is over and the results a foregone conclusion, the pervasive distrust of the U.S. elections system continues to linger. After all, when voters are given $25 gift cards in exchange for their votes like they were in Nevada, a judge is caught taking bribes to stuff the ballot box in Philadelphia, and a woman is hired in California to run voter registration drives and is caught forging signatures and changing their party affiliations, there should be a consensus that voter fraud is real.
Something needs to be done. And though Arizona may not be the worst offender, our state still has plenty to do to improve our elections and rebuild trust.
The Arizona legislature has convened once again, and Republican lawmakers have seemed to hear their voters loud and clear – address election integrity and address it now. Dozens of bills have been introduced, attacking reform from different angles and reacting to the frustrations of Arizona voters in November. With so many competing ideas, it is necessary to prioritize reforms that offer the greatest security to our election system and are feasible to implement.
For the legislature to claim victory on election integrity for the 2021 legislative session, they must focus their reforms in four key areas:
- Maintain Clean and Current Voter Rolls
Once fraud is in the election system, it is extremely difficult to prove and root out. Ensuring voter rolls only contain current, legal residents who are qualified to vote is critically important. Currently, there is no standardization across all 15 Arizona counties to scrub voter lists of deceased persons, citizens who have changed residency, or duplicative voter files. Equally important is an independent audit of this practice to ensure it is actually being done. Though legislators may trust every county recorder to follow the law, good policy ensures verification.
- Protect Mail-In Ballots
Mail-in voting is inherently more vulnerable to mistake, mishap, and mischief. Due to the delay and distance of a voter receiving their ballot and the tabulation of that ballot, extra security measures are necessary to protect this method of voting.
No doubt, early mail-in voting is popular in Arizona and efforts to eliminate the system are impractical and unnecessary. However, additional verification for early mail-in ballots is a good idea and lawmakers should focus reform in this area.
- Ensure Legislative Oversight
Election integrity is a matter of statewide concern and therefore is a legislative concern. Many Arizona voters were understandably frustrated at how seemingly little power the legislature had to intervene and require an audit of the 2020 election results.
Not only should election procedures be standardized across all counties in Arizona, but the legislature needs to be empowered to oversee election practices, results, and compliance.
- Prohibit Outside Influence
In the past, election officers have been permitted to use internal or external resources to sway the outcome of an election. These practices aren’t illegal, but they should be. Whether that is using taxpayer money to target voter registration activities, using third party lists to target potential voters, or accepting money from outside organizations with a political agenda, this must be eliminated. Curing voter distrust includes ensuring government can’t put their thumb on the scale of election results.
Election integrity is a top priority of Republicans at the legislature this year. But success will not be measured by the volume of election integrity bills that get passed, but by their quality. Bills concentrated in each of these areas of reform will help improve the credibility, transparency, and security of our elections.