The Necessity of Integrity
Recently my local community newspaper reported that one of my state representative’s top priorities was to “promote election rights through increased voting access and protecting voting by mail.” I wrote to him that he needed to focus on voting integrity.
A Gallup poll conducted in February of 2020, well before the presidential elections, reported that 59 percent of Americans were not confident about the honesty of US elections. The United States ranks near the bottom of the OECD countries in the percentage of citizens that trust their elections, near Turkey and Mexico. And after the election, and after months of President Trump vilifying the election process, seventy percent of Republican voters don’t trust that the voting results were accurate.
If you lose an election fair and square, you move on. You have to figure out why you lost the election and reformulate your platform for future elections in a way to appeal to more voters. But if you believe that you lost because you were cheated, you can’t move on. You burn with anger at the unfairness of the result and at the supporters of the other party. That’s how the Democrats felt after the 2016 elections, and that’s how Republicans feel after the 2020 elections. It is that kind of anger that precipitated the insurrectionist riot at the capitol in January.
A country cannot be a true democracy (or even a representative republic such as America) if the people have no faith in the elections process. Many countries go through the motions of holding elections where the results are a foregone conclusion. Countries such as Russia, Venezuela and Iran.
And many times, after an honest election, parties coming into power try to cement that grip on power by changing election rules in their favor. They change constitutions to promote their continuation in power. They change the supreme courts that can rule on elections. They change the composition of elections commissions that control the election process. As a result, the population loses faith in the elections process and with it, they lose faith in democracy itself. And the country descends into an inevitable populist dictatorship.
Voting integrity is not a partisan issue, it is a bipartisan issue. A lack of faith in the election process can only exacerbate all the division and hate that dominates the public square. In twenty-first century America, voters for the other party are not fellow citizens with different ideas on how to solve common problems, but enemies that must be defeated at all costs.
So If Republicans and Democrats love America and believe in democratic principles and values, they must come together to create an elections process supported by a vast majority of the American people. The trust that the people have in US elections has been declining since the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. There are no reports in Americans’ trust in elections from further in the past - because such things were not even considered. But, as a proxy, Pew research reports that Americans’ trust in government to do the right thing declined from three-fourths of the respondents in 1958 to only 18% in 2017. And Americans’ trust in the other institutions of our society has also declined.
Rebuilding the trust of Americans in their government and in democracy itself will not be an easy task. But I am convinced that no progress can be made if there is no trust in the integrity of the election process. In order to rebuild the confidence of the American people in the integrity of US elections we must do something that is almost unheard of in twenty-first century politics – compromise.
Democrats see concepts such as proof of identity and proof of citizenship as voter suppression, while Republicans view ideas like expanding access to underrepresented groups as opening up the voting process to rampant fraud and abuse. We have four years until the next presidential election and the technology to accomplish this task. What we need is the will to do it.
If underrepresented groups lack adequate ID to confirm their identity and prove their citizenship, then get them the damn ID. Have task forces in each state go door to door in underrepresented areas with expertise to evaluate the documents those persons have and the equipment to provide them with photo IDs on the spot. If people want mail-in ballots, develop a process that can confirm the identity of the mailer and have the ballot coded so that the ballot is matched to the voter. If voters want to vote with their computer or smartphone develop an app that can confirm identity with the cameras these devices have. Create a central data base that tracks votes in each state to make sure that each ballot is connected to a single voter. Get rid of ballot harvesting. Modernize the voter registers so that voters do not have multiple locations and that dead people are taken off the registry. We also have four years to make sure our voting machines can’t be hacked by enemies, foreign or domestic. All these things can be done without voter suppression or fraud and abuse.
The Texas legislature is now in session and I am going to contact my state representative again, as well as my state senator, and send them this commentary. The states control the election processes in each state, so action is needed at the state level to institute these changes to rebuild America’s faith in its elections. I recommend that you also contact your state elected officials and urge them to rebuild the integrity of US elections and the people’s faith in our democracy. You are welcome to send them this commentary if you wish.
I will also send copies to my elected officials in Washington as well. The Constitution gives the states the power to regulate the elections in their territory, which has led to a lot of confusion among voters. When the pandemic hit, election officials scrambled to adjust but sometimes did not follow legislatively mandated procedures resulting in a lot of uncertainty of the validity of those changes. While the federal government cannot force the states to make changes, it could develop a list of acceptable standards, which the states could use as a guide. While the standards would not have the force of law, standards backed by a broad bipartisan consensus would carry a lot of weight.
Developing this broad consensus will not be possible if Democrats follow through on some of their proposed changes that would entrench the Democratic Party in control of the country. With majorities in the House and Senate they could push through changes in the number of justices on the Supreme court, add new states to change the balance in the Senate or make changes in the Electoral College. But they have only a slim majority in the House and will require a partisan tiebreaker to pass anything in the Senate. This is not the broad consensus that is needed to unify our country as President Biden has said is his top priority.
Progressives on the left-wing of the Democratic Party are pressing for Democratic lawmakers to take partisan advantage of the slim majorities in Congress to impose progressive policies permanently on the 49% of the people that did not support their platform. These are the tactics of populist dictatorships. We will be able to tell by their actions if they love America and respect its people.
We must restore faith in the process before we can accept the outcome.