An 8-point voting plan

Americans long have “complained” or “joked’ about the way we handle elections, from how Chicago Mayor Richard Daley emptied the graveyards to secure John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960, to Donald J. Trump’s assertion that “millions” of illegals voted.

There is no proof of either.

But the “complaints” and “jokes” have turned into beliefs that question the integrity of our electoral system.

Appearances create their own reality. If about one-third of Americans feel the system is corrupt or unfair — and that includes both Left and Right according to polling — we can’t simply write them off. We must try to expand voting access while constricting the opportunity to cheat.

I know some say there is little cheating, this is a solution in search of a problem. That’s pithy, but you use seat belts all the time although crashes are rare. Like seat belts, these suggestions are for safety and to restore confidence.

If it seems like caving in to the delusional, sometimes it is better to allow the deluded to play with the white rabbit than convince them that it doesn’t exist. 

To the delusional, Trump lost.

Really, he did.

With that said, partly because of the pandemic, voting rules were changed on the fly, and different rules were imposed in different jurisdictions because our Constitution says states have the right to organize elections how they see fit, within a certain framework. This created a crazy patchwork, something the Democrats would like to fix with HR1 by putting the feds in charge.

That will be the subject of a future column.

If you enter the Way Back Machine and go to the middle of the last century, there was Election Day, not Election Week or Month. The conventional wisdom was that it was a day when we all acted together, in unity, as Americans. It was, in a quiet way, a day of national celebration.

Sometime after the ‘60s, maybe due to television, or apathy fed by a comfortable life for most Americans, or disenchantment with authority, turnout for national elections began a decades-long long slide. (It was reversed last year thanks to  by Donald J. Trump, but I am not going there.)

After the ‘60s, a mild civic panic set in and politicians started tinkering with ways to increase turnout. We have tried almost everything except teaching civics in school, or compulsory voting, such as in a handful of democracies, including Australia, Belgium and Costa Rica.  

We have expanded hours that polls are open. We have added voting by mail. We have drop boxes. We have made early voting a thing, sometimes weeks before Election Day.

Guess what? None of it has worked.

Going back to 1932, here is the percentage of presidential turnout:

1932    — 52.6%   

1936    — 56.9%   

1940 — 58.8%   

1944    — 56.1%   

1948    — 51.1%   

1952    — 61.6%   

1956    — 59.3%   

1960    — 62.8%   

1964    — 61.4%   

1968    — 60.7%   

1972    — 55.1%   

1976    — 53.6%   

1980    — 52.8%   

1984    — 53.3%

1988    — 50.3%

1992    — 55.2%   

1996    — 49.0%

2000    — 50.3%

2004    — 55.7%

2008    — 57.1%

2012    — 53.8%

2016    — 54.8%   

2020 — 62.0%

Since the ‘70s, we have been stuck in the 50s with rare exception. The all-time high was 81.8% in the 1876 Centennial year. 

Democrats are enraptured with sometimes sustained beliefs of “voter suppression,” which they call Jim Crow and which depresses turnout, they say.

I find it odd that when we actually had Jim Crow, turnout generally was higher than after the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying we didn’t need the act — we did, but things are sometimes more complicated than they appear on the surface.

For instance, if you think being able to vote by mail automatically increases turnout, I have bad news for you. Five states provide mail ballots only (and report no fraud). 

The 2020 turnout: Colorado, 38%, Utah, 38%, Hawaii, 44%, Washington, 49%. Oregon was the sole “mail only” state above the national average with 77%.

Improving confidence in the system can only help, so here are 8 points of suggested action:

1- Mail-in ballots should be available on demand. When ordered for the first time, as Georgia requires, photo ID would be required, but after that only an ID number would be required. Governments will provide free photo IDs, which are better proof than matching signatures. 

2- Ballots should be mailed only to registered voters requesting them. No mass mailings to everyone on error-studded voter rolls. USPS will postmark all returning ballots. 

3- All ballots postmarked on election day or earlier will be counted, no matter how many days it takes. Ballots will be counted as they arrive, but held securely with the early total being kept secret. That eliminates a mountain of ballots to be counted after the polls close.

4- In-person voting will require photo ID the first time a person votes, any other ID in subsequent elections. Persons without ID will cast provisional ballots, as will people at the wrong polling place.

5- No “harvesting” or collection of ballots by anyone except duly sworn poll workers.

6- Voting by ballots received in the mail will be permitted for seven days before the election at supervised drop boxes open for 12 hours daily located only at secure locations in government buildings.

7- No “curing” (changing) ballots once they are cast. No do-overs.

8- Voting machines will not connect to the internet, but will produce a paper record.

Why photo ID? Many U.S. states and foreign nations require them and 85% of Americans have driver’s licenses. Many have other forms of government-issued ID. For the few remaining hard luck cases, there are civic, social, political, and charitable organizations which will help them get the documents. Being poor, elderly, or nonwhite does not mean you are hwlpless.

Since everything in daily life from entering a federal building to cashing a check requires photo ID, it is not a great burden. 

Will a few extra guard rails improve low turnout?

Nothing else has worked, it’s worth a shot. 

24 thoughts on “An 8-point voting plan”

  1. Sounds like a plan, Stu, and a good one! Kudos on another great article. BTW, I am also in favor of using ID as you have listed in the situations above.

    Have you reconsidered teaching again ? The term “investigative journalist” is ridiculous. Every column that you write, you fully investigate before you put pen to paper. Teachers of journalism should explain that factoid to the students.
    Your 8 points are definitely worse consideration. I was aware of the voter turnout records, since I too research the topic on my mind.
    I am presently reading what is now called S 1. I had read HR 1 and as I said before. The good that was written into the bill was lost with the load applied by the dims. One thing that does appear in both offerings – and I am against is statehood for Washington D.C.. Read the Constitution. The founding fathers actually knew what they were doing.

  3. Stu
    You have hit a grand slam! Congrats. There arre probably a few tweaks that will improve it further but I can’t think of them at the moment.
    Well done.

  4. Sounds good Stu. If we need an ID for the vaccine, as well as the other ones you mentioned, we should need one to vote.

  5. Stu,
    You put forward a sound and rational approach, as usual. In an technologically advanced democracy, figuring out how to hold secure elections really shouldn’t be a matter of concern. So it’s kind of weird that it is in the US. A couple of additional thoughts, based on how it’s done north of the border (where issues around fraudulent voting basically don’t exist). 1) when you file your federal and state income tax return, this info should be used to update voter lists. It isn’t comprehensive, but it cover a sizable portion of voters at no real cost 2) Ensure there are enough voting places so that long lines are not an issue. Making voting easy need not make it less secure. 3) Figure out how to do something to stop gerrymandering. This should be reserved for banana republics. Really. 4) Voter photo ID requirements are pretty much the norm in other democracies, so requiring this isn’t ‘voter suppression’. It’s also easy enough to accommodate the small percentage of eligible voters who legitimately don’t have such ID. It isn’t rocket science.

  6. Stu, Good, not least citizens-only Voter ID. But also: Mail-in voting cutoff far enough ahead that USPS certifies all delivered by poll closing election day; voting machines and access to them under uninterrupted direct personal observation of IT-trained watchers of both sides from voting start to count finish, urinal overflows notwithstanding; minority watchers right there with officials examining mail ballot outer envelopes, not kept x feet away; segregation, including outer envelopes, of minority-challenged majority-accepted ballots; rejection of unfolded ballots obviously never in envelopes; both sides watching manual recording of ballots rejected by machine in first pass; organized retention of everything needed for forensic-audit recount if warranted; prevention of ballots being fed in more than once; no insertion of memory sticks into voting machines by anybody; both sides-participating pre-election auditing of voter rolls to living citizens-only resident in precinct, prevention of voting in multiple states or precincts, locking of cemeteries during elections. (I probably left out a lot.)

  7. Please forward to all of our elected representatives for their consideration and place a copy of your ID so they can understand just what is an identity card. I would add only one addition and that would add some other benefit to the ID card which would allow the card to be used for other purposes. For instance, If you are above certain age it could be used on Septa or some Historical site which would include the explanation of the 1876 vote.

    1. It would be great for EVERYONE to send to politicians. I will send to a couple of Council people. Per added benefit, your driver’s license allows you to drive. 😃
      Per 1876, my guess is patriotic fervor.

  8. Stu:
    Great work again. Anyone who is against voter photo ID is destined to somehow devise a plan to cheat. That is only logical reason why they are opposed to voter ID!!
    It is very simple and is required for almost anything you can think of. The law requires ID to buy cigarettes’, booze, etc. ; so if you are dumb enough to smoke then you should be smart enough to prove your identity to vote.

  9. I agree whole heartedly with the eight suggestions you have made in order to assure accurate voter count. Thank you, again, for writing about a topic of primary importance to our nation.

  10. Good points. I still think a Presidential election should be held separate from state elections. Have a national Election Day for the President only.

  11. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    Thanks for your thorough treatment of the subject. The perception of free and fair elections is important to public confidence in the electoral system. The legislatures should do what they can to make the process clear and understandable. On the other hand, I am pretty skeptical of plans to “expand” voting –especially regarding whatever Representative Pelosi may have in mind. I am also pretty skeptical of plans to “suppress” voting.

    My sense of the matter is that the best thing that could be done to encourage voting and citizen participation generally would be to begin teaching civics again in the schools. If we believe in the democratic system, then it should be taught to young people so that it is generally understood –and so that people understand what their representatives are supposed to do.

    Not teaching civics, say, by state mandate, suggest that some folks in high places don’t quite believe in “government by consent of the governed” ? But if it is not worthwhile teaching civics and the meaning of that phrase, then why encourage voting? We should expect not only voting by citizens but also a sense of responsibility on the part of the citizens –so that they are less subject to manipulation and bandwagon group-think.

    “Enlighten the people generally . . . No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness.” —Thomas Jefferson

    H.G. Callaway

  12. Everyone is given a social security number at birth. All one needs to do is (a) show up at a poll, (b) give your social security number, (c) show proof you are who the number says you are, (d) vote. An assumption for this to work: there is a central national data base the poll places can access the SS information. This will also weed out the illegal aliens who steal social security numbers.

      In our Commonwealth as in many states, I.D. is required the first time you vote. Thereafter, not in PA, but other states upon a challenge. Both S 1 ( US Senate ) and Georgia Voting Law improve on this item. I read through the Georgia law and it’s closed most of the loop holes. Disregard the nonsense that you hear and read up on it. I’m still working my way through S 1. The House has finally passed HR ! after several years of trying. It’s a fifty – fifty bill as I read it. Plus, naturally, they get off the subject of voting as only the Feds know how to do.
      For sure, all of the states will be forced to clean up their mess if/when this bill go through the Senate.

  13. Tony: On another (and unrelated topic), how do you feel about the mandate effective June 1st that requires all adults from age of 18 to age 65 to wear a plug in one nostril to cut down CO2 emissions by 50%? Talk about government overreach!

    1. Actually Vinnie, I’m in favor of ALL politicians either using a cork or “Duck tape” to cover an external speaking port. Mandating that they can only talk out of one orifice at a time.
      I don’t know how closely you have followed politics over the years. I have tried to keep it local, but naturally, it involves Harrisburg and D.C.. I know that we no longer have statesmen. I also know that initially, Representatives hope to be for their represented district and state. They soon learn that you, as a freshman, will fall into step and be “one of us” or out you go. Senators. They don’t screw around. It’s all about them.
      In spite of all of that.
      HAPPY EASTER to all

  14. Add one more point: make election day a national holiday. Don’t mind the late answer;I have Covid.

    1. At We don’t need a national holiday for something that takes a couple of hours. If you have early coring on the weekends, that ought to be enough, in my opinion.

      1. Stu,
        I don’t know about now, since I’m long retired, but the building trades had election day off and most of the unions paid their guys for the day. ( that ain’t chump change )
        The biggest joke of that. Although most voted regardless, most spent the day in the bar ( when they were open ) or the various Veterans’ clubs.
        This may have been just for national elections. Been too long ago and too many concussions.

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