5 ways to build confidence in voting

Are we happy with mail ballots? I mean, really happy?

I am not — and I am not speaking in support of Donald J. Trump, who probably has done more to undermine faith in elections than anyone since Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Let’s get rid of these (Photo: AP)

But that does not mean his complaint about “non-requested’ mail ballots has no merit.

There is going to be some opportunity for fraud in a system that blasts mail ballots to every registered voter, when we know some are dead and some have moved. In the just passed election, we know some ballots were filled out and mailed in by someone other than the person to whom they were addressed.

We also know that number is small and the chance of it affecting the result of an election is infinitesimal. 

But, still, it is wrong. And we should do better. Why would you not want to improve the system?

Democrats generally oppose “cleaning up” registration rolls because they claim it is racist and/or suppresses the vote of poor people. I have trouble buying that argument.

This year, the Pennsylvania state supreme court ruled that ballots could not be rejected if signatures didn’t match, which means — why bother checking signatures at all?

If election law doesn’t want signatures checked, why are they requested?

I generally oppose early voting of any kind, and oppose mail ballots other than those requested by a voter, as in Pennsylvania.

Over the past few decades, the solitary specialness of Election Day has evaporated as more and more jurisdictions allow more and more voting to be held in more and more locations on more and more early dates. The main argument in favor of that rollout is that more opportunities to vote increases turnout.

The problem is, the data does not support that. Let’s look at turnout for national elections going back half a century.

Until this year’s hypercritical election notching 66.4%, the last time turnout topped 60% was in the ‘60s. 

Despite all the enhanced opportunities to vote since then, the turnout for the last 50 years has remained in the 50s, except for 1996 when it dipped to 49% (that was Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole and Ross Perot). 

We don’t know how much worse the turnout would be without early voting, but I suspect not much.

People who are motivated to vote will vote, whatever the time and place. Those who won’t vote, just won’t. 

This year’s turnout was the highest this century, but that still left one-third of voters on the sideline, even as both sides claimed democracy itself was at stake. 

If one-third are that disinterested, uninformed or inert, maybe we are better off not hearing from them.

Once upon a time, Election Day meant something. It meant all of America did something in support of democracy on a single day. It created a feeling of national unity, of importance. 

Maybe we should try to recapture that, and also try to correct a wobbly election system. I have a five-point program. 

Election Day should be Saturday and Sunday. Two days because some people have religious beliefs that would impact Saturday or Sunday.

Voting will be done in person, or by mail only for people requesting mail ballots. Mail ballots will be distributed upon request two weeks before the election and will be counted as soon as they are received, with totals remaining secret until close of polls on Election Day. Deadline for receiving votes is 8 p.m. Election Day. No harvesting of ballots, no hard-to-secure special ballot dropoff boxes. It will all be done by USPS. Why only two weeks out? In case of late-breaking news about a candidate.

No “curing” ballots. Once you have cast your ballot, that’s it. No do-overs. 

Voting machines that do not connect to the internet and which produce a paper receipt. If the FBI website gets hacked by teenagers, no internet-connected computer is safe. The paper readout is for verification.

Photo ID is required for voting in polling places. Signatures are required on mail ballots.

I am sick of the argument that requesting photo ID is racist. 

To cash a check you need a photo ID, you can’t get on a plane without it. You can’t buy booze, cigarettes, open a bank account, apply for food stamps, rent a car or a hotel room without photo ID.

85% of American adults have drivers licenses. Among the 15% who do not drive, we have many with government-issued ID — everything from college IDs to gun carry permits. 

That leaves a tiny percentage without photo ID. If they are disproportionately minority, or elderly, or female, there will be nonprofits galore to help them get it. Also helping will be political parties, governmental agencies and houses of worship. 

These five steps will produce elections with fewer questions.

22 thoughts on “5 ways to build confidence in voting”

  1. Stu….Never understood why elections are held on one weekday workday between prescribed hours. So many things can preclude a person from voting. We should make is easy for people to vote, not more difficult. As far as machines connected to the internet, I know in Philadelphia, they are not, so there is no danger of them being hacked. As far as photo ID, in my household, we have one who does not have a drivers license, though we are encouraging her to get one just because one should know how to drive. But I can tell you that many of her friends who grew up in the City saw no need to get a license. Thank you Uber!

    1. I think we have made it too easy. I recognize that many young adults do not have drivers licenses. Many of them have student ID or can get other government-issued IDs with little effort.
      I did a column once on the “rite of passage” — getting drivers license — is declining.

      1. Pennsy will issue you an official “I.D.” card for the non drivers.
        As for weekday voting. This was decided before we were born. The crops are done. Farming is all caught up. It’s early enough in winter to still get around by horse and buggy. Plus a few more non related topics.

    Nice topic. You could give me credit for my points way back when. I said that mail-in can easily be “hacked”. I only gave you simple lay man’s attempts at voter fraud, not the massive machine manipulation.
    The swamp wanted mail ins just the way that we got it. Lots of confusion while the swamp dwellers keep their jobs. It is ironic, that we need investigations by the various federal agencies that have already been proven corrupt. ( are there any agencies that are not corrupt ? )
    I have also stated that I would like to see SCOTUS order congress to clean up the voter registration files and provide better direction in the 12th amendment. ( fat chance of that happening ! )
    Our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania surpassed all previous levels of audacity, by our Supreme Court allowing the changes to the voting regulations spelled out in our constitution. ( see you in court ! ) Harrisburg tried to give us voters a good mail in ballot and procedure. They did okay in the primary, but improved the ballot process for the November election. The court has a different idea. You did mail in, as I. You filled out the information request – with signature, as did I. ( not necessary, apparently ! )
    As you stated. By design, the voting regulation at state level, were permitted to get out of hand. This can only be corrected at the federal level. One system. One machine. One mail in ballot.
    And yes, maybe changing election day to election weekend is a good idea.

  3. Just have PA duplicate the system that is in place in Florida. And I am not talking about the 2000 “hanging chad” scenario nor the fact that 2 Supervisors of Elections in Democrat bastions of Palm Beach County and Broward County sowed doubt and confusion for several election cycles until Governor DeSantis fired one and the other retired just ahead of getting fired. The rest of state had no significant issues during the corrupt reign of those two. There were no reported major issues during the 2020 election cycle. Isn’t amazing that the 3rd largest state in the US by population can have its results accurately reported within a few hours of the polls closing but PA accidently on purpose it seems found a way to cause issues in almost every conceivable way. Florida has strict voter ID laws, something that PA Progressives find to be racist and unconstitutional. Without voter ID and signature verification on mail in ballots PA election results will continue to be viewed with suspicion. This isn’t brain surgery — just use the Florida model as a basis for PA election reform.

      1. Yes the reforms made several years ago allows the current Florida system to work well and in my county (Manatee County) adjacent to Sarasota, when you call the Supervisor of Elections office, the clerks are actually helpful and pleasant. It is easy to track your Vote By Mail ballot on a website that is not difficult to navigate.
        In case you were wondering, native of Philadelphia; lived in formerly “Red” Bucks County for 30 years….now live about 10 to 11 months in Florida….come back to metro Philadelphia about 3 times / year.
        On a side note: The mayor is a joke & an embarrassment to LaSalle alumni everywhere.

  4. Thank you, Stu! This is one of your best posts ever! I am going to post it on my FB page. My Dad’s requested absentee ballot didn’t arrive until well after election day, so I took him to vote in person using a provisional ballot. The volunteer there was not friendly and took his ballot and put it in a pile. I checked his receipt yesterday and there was no record of his voting…I will try to file a complaint, but I also would like us all to be able to check and see that our vote was counted…

    Thank you for your articles. While I don’t always agree with your opinion, it is always well presented and makes me look at all sides.

  5. At last! Sanity! 100% agreement, Stu, ESPECIALLY with the ludicrous idea that requiring an i.d. to vote is somehow racist. I make that point whenever I can, especially at Wegman’s when buying wine (for a gift or guests… I am a dry). At Wegman’s one must show a driver’s license to buy wine, which the cashier then enters into a data bank! I comment, “Did you ever wonder why you need an i.d. to buy booze but not to vote?” The cashiers, usually young people, basically go ‘duh.’ A lot of non-thinkers out there, which is why the USA is in such lousy shape. The Left HATES the idea of voter i.d. because dead people cannot produce one.

  6. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    I’m also skeptical of mail-in voting and early voting. The emphasis on mail-in voting had the rationalization (at least) of voter fear of the epidemic. But also, it struck me that everyone knew that Mr. Biden was way ahead in the polls and that elections tend to narrow as election day approaches. In consequence, it favored Biden if as much earlier voting as possible could be encouraged. Personally, I could not count up the sheer number of telephone calls and mailings I got –encouraging me to request a mail-in ballot. But I just went to my local polling location, with due precautions, as I did in the Spring primaries.

    Organization of elections is a matter for the states and counties, I take it, because it makes it more difficult to organize election fraud top-down by the national party organizations. Too many people would have to be involved.

    If there was any election fraud this cycle, then it surely would not be the first time. We all remember Chicago’s Mayor Daley. I reflect again on the lack of public wisdom of the effective one-party rule in the large cities –or anywhere else. Especially because in our own fine town, the dominant party seems unable to weed out corrupt candidates in its ranks.

    H.G. Callaway

  7. I’d suggest the problems go a bit deeper than just the arrangements for the vote. Electoral boundaries should be set by a non-partisan independent electoral boundary commission – not jerrymandered by whichever party happens to be in power. And maybe you want to consider a constitutional amendment to nullify the Citizens United decision and get the corrosive effect of money out of the process. This year was a cropper, but given the pandemic, it was never slated to be ‘normal’.

    1. “And maybe you want to consider a constitutional amendment to nullify the Citizens United decision and get the corrosive effect of money out of the process”.
      So does that also apply to organized labor PACS and their in-kind contributions including their “corrosive effect of money” that overwhelmingly goes to Progressive candidates? Does that restriction also apply to Soros and his many “front” PACS or how about Bloomberg who spent $100MM (100 million) in Florida on behalf of Biden & crew and got NOTHING for his efforts? His candidates all lost. Do you support Soros flooding elections for his chosen DA candidates such as “Let ’em Loose Larry” Krasner; Kim Foxx in Chicago; the DA in St. Louis who indicted 2 people for protecting their property? Or is it that you just want to limit campaign contributions that go to Republicans?

      1. Yup. Set a reasonable maximum for political donations (say $3,000/year) that applies to individuals, make this tax-deductible, and ban contributions from corporations, unions, Super-pacs, etc and all other ‘non-persons’. The media would howl due to the loss of ad revenue, but those running would pay much closer attention to their constituents. And much more time, while in office, doing their jobs rather than endlessly fund-raising. Money in the political process corrupts, whether in support of the right or the left.

  8. All sound suggestions to restore public confidence in elections, Stu, but also needed are

    – both parties’ poll watchers with right-there, close-up access throughout the counting process, including during any counting suspensions, with signature and voter address checking;
    – signature verification of mail-in ballots against voter registration signature, not against signature on the application for the mail-in ballot (hospitals etc have palm validation; or fingerprint validation, why not?);
    – annual cleansing of state voter rolls for deaths and move-aways;
    – minimum period of residence in state before registration;
    – citizen-proof ID for registration and no voting-day registration;
    – method to check against voting in two states;
    – methods to keep machines honest;
    – laws against “social media” lockout of either party’s or newspaper’s messages.

    To convince us Republicans 2020 election was legitimate, full evidentiary trial on the merits of Trump, Powell and Gen. MacInerney fraud and other election illegality claims.

  9. Another spot on article Stu, with reasonable suggestions for securing the future elections.

    The lack of a Photo ID has always puzzled me; can’t fly without one, can’t drive without one, can’t bank without one, but I can vote without one. In today’s society, I don’t buy the barriers to acquire an ID or the voter suppression arguments either, especially since cities like Philly already offer low cost “official” IDs to anyone with the “proper” paperwork.

    The infamous quote “Vote early, vote often” exists for a reason…

  10. Stu, is it true that Trump has said the monoliths being found come from his friends in the Alpha Centauri star system and they contain the fraud proof he has been talking about?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

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