Three Areas of Needed Election Reform
Reforms are desperately needed this legislative session to stem hemorrhaging trust in Texas elections.
The three most important areas to address before sine die 2021 are list maintenance, mail-in balloting, and big tech election interference.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, merely items the legislature has been given every possible reason to tackle after the shambolic execution of the 2020 election.
One note on election administration; there are counties where minimally altered elections were run in 2020. These counties are not the problem but will be aided by reform. Notable exceptions Harris, Dallas, and Travis are bad actors who need to be leash trained.
Additionally, the Secretary of State, who serves at the Governor’s pleasure, needs more precise directions on the aforementioned priorities after a similarly inglorious 2020.
Let’s get to work on these items before the entire system is irreparably corrupted.
Clean Up Voter Rolls
Polling from Texas Lyceum in 2019 showed that the majority of Texans want only qualified voters to take part in elections.
This is a bipartisan issue.
Still, for the past 20 years in Texas, when work to clean up voter rolls has kicked off, Democrats and bureaucrats stop said efforts.
This lack of focus on maintaining the voter rolls is causing distrust to rise. If we don’t know who is taking part in elections, how can we be sure the results are fair and free of fraud.
Texas needs a well-defined and enforceable set of rules applied universally to the state’s upkeep of voter rolls.
There are bills currently introduced that seek to address this glaring list maintenance issue, but more are likely to be filed and needed, including requirements for a dual-track maintained list.
Of late, Secretary of State Ruth Hughs’ office has been criticized for lack of transparency in how it is working to maintain voter rolls and advising local election officials to skirt Texas election laws, including greenlighting drive-thru voting, a not even thinly veiled illegal expansion of curbside voting.
Election integrity measures, including list maintenance, need to have built-in redundancies and penalties for non-compliance.
Local officials should be mandated to maintain voter rolls following Texas and U.S. law. If they do not dutifully comply with the law, they should be punished.
As a safeguard against maladministration of an election and to act as a check, the Secretary of State’s office should be empowered to maintain a list as well. Penalties including removal from office for non-compliance, including active scheduled participation in the interstate cross-check.
Legislative intent on this and any other election integrity measure should be firmly established and published for the record.
Reform Mail-in Balloting
Mail-in ballot access and use must be limited, and in an ideal world, the practice would be eradicated.
As this American Thinker piece aptly suggests, “be like Europe” is a refrain consistently if not selectively rammed down American’s throats by the left.
When it comes to mail-in voting, Europe has largely done away with the practice because it has been correctly maligned as cheat-able.
Historically, mail-in voting has been called out for its insecurity on a bipartisan basis. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) railed against paper ballots in 2004 when Democrats alleged that Republicans stole the election via voting machine hacking.
An election commission featuring former Democrat President Jimmy Carter found in 2005 that absentee ballots was the easiest way to commit election fraud.
As with all of the areas that require focus, not all mail-in balloting reforms will be good ideas in theory or practice and should be avoided, like centralizing mail-in balloting at the Secretary of State’s office.
Historically, the office has shown little interest in Plus; there’s no way that the office could handle (read: giant fiscal note) processing statewide mail-in balloting.
One of the more troubling developments during the 2020 election deserving immediate attention from the legislature is outside direct spending to hijack state election infrastructure.
Outside spending in 2020 came with strings attached to circumvent state law; in the case of Harris county, according to a recent interview, this included the illegal expansion of curbside voting into drive-through voting.
The spending was mostly from a Facebook linked non-profit.
In addition to limiting the free flow of information and being used to spread disinformation about the 2020 election, social media behemoth Facebook via the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) used cash to turn state employees into political drones and dictate election policy.
In Harris and Dallas County, this was most pronounced. Facebook dictated and was reportedly given access to sensitive information, weaponizing what should be a non-partisan government office for the company’s partisan political aims.
This can not happen again. Penalties for election administrators and public employees who enter into agreements with and do the bidding of private companies for cash are needed.
Full Steam Ahead
Lawmakers must ignore the fear blamed for tanking election integrity bills in 2019. The left is always going to sue and work to subvert policies by engaging the bureaucratic state.
Inaction is inexcusable and doubly so if the excuse is, but Democrats will sue.