A Bipartisan Solution to America’s Election Crisis

One thing that Americans across the political spectrum seem to agree on is that our democracy is in crisis.

One side blames those who raise concerns about irregularities and lawlessness in the election process, saying that this undermines public confidence in our democracy. The other side considers those irregularities and violations of election law a sign that we can no longer trust the reported outcome of our elections – and thus that we cannot trust in the legitimacy of our elected officials.

The 2020 presidential election was the most lawless in American history. Election laws were ignored, and in many cases unilaterally changed by government officials without the approval of state legislatures. Private organizations with a vested interest in the outcome were given unprecedented access to the inner working of election administration after “donating” hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local election officials. Radical changes to election administration were made in violation of existing election laws under the pretense of keeping people safe from COVID.

The solution, it would seem, comes down to reforming our election laws according to principles that are universally accepted as integral to free and fair elections.

The U.S. Agency for International Development identifies three key principles when evaluating the legitimacy of foreign elections – they must be accountable, inclusive, and transparent.

The election experts I work with at the American Voters’ Alliance believe this is a good litmus test for American elections, too. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, after all, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone – Republican or Democrat – disputing the desirability of accountability, inclusiveness, or transparency in the elections that decide who runs our government.

We tend to federalize almost every political issue these days, but election reform is one subject that must be dealt with at the state level. Not only does the U.S. Constitution assign primary responsibility for managing elections to the state legislatures, but there is virtually no chance that Congress will find the bipartisan will to make meaningful changes.

The very first bill Democrats proposed after taking control of both house of Congress in 2021 was a sweeping election reform that would have federalized most aspects of American elections and resolved virtually every partisan dispute over election laws in Democrats’ favor. The radical proposal alienated Republicans, ensuring that it could not pass the Senate.

Just recently, House Republicans unveiled their own proposal, the American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act. The bill reflects a much more contemplative approach that seeks to make meaningful progress toward restoring public confidence in our elections, rather than merely serving as a vehicle for scoring partisan political points.

Unfortunately, the ACE Act’s own sponsors acknowledge that its sole purpose is “to draw a line in the sand on election integrity issues,” because it has no hope of even coming to a vote in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. They express hope that Republicans will win back control of Congress in the midterm elections and reintroduce a modified version of the ACE Act next year, but even if that happens, the bill would certainly fall victim to President Biden’s veto.

The only way to make meaningful changes to the election process within the next two election cycles is for state legislatures to carry the ball themselves – which is just what the Framers of the Constitution intended, anyway.

The fact that election laws vary from state to state – and even from county to county – makes any effort to develop a comprehensive model law a daunting challenge. Others have already tried and failed. The American Voters’ Alliance assembled a team of experts and spent well over a year studying what went wrong in 2020 and how. We also studied the details of state election laws, identifying instances where loopholes were exploited and others where lack of accountability led to blatant violations of both the spirit and the letter of the law.

What we came up with was the most comprehensive model legislation available to help guide state lawmakers who are serious about fixing the election process and restoring public confidence in our democracy.

We provide remedies for election law violations, so that if those laws are broken in the future, it will be possible to make corrections before the election results are certified. We also address the issue of equal treatment, ensuring that all voters are treated equally and given equal access to the ballot box.

Our model legislation also closes loopholes that enable private vendors to perform the function of government election officials without being subject to the same transparency requirements. If you participate in the administration of our elections, you should be required to make the same public disclosures as public officials and be subject to Freedom of Information Requests from citizens who wish to know how their elections were conducted.

Most importantly, AVA’s model legislation includes the unique innovation of a truly bipartisan joint standing committee whose sole purpose is to evaluate the conduct of elections and report its findings and recommendations to the state legislature before the results are certified. This allows disputes to be discussed and resolved by the people’s elected representatives in a timely manner so that they don’t fester in the courts until it’s too late.

America’s election system is in crisis, and it will take bold leadership to forge a solution. The only way to restore public confidence in our democracy is through genuinely bipartisan action in state legislatures across the country. The American Voters’ Alliance is here to help make that vision a reality.

Reporting from Real Clear Politics.