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Thoughts from Our Fellows: Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation

November 01, 2021

November 01, 2021

Welcome to Thoughts from Our Fellows, a collection of recent activity regarding the Academy's Grand Challenge of each Month. In October, the Academy focused on Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation. Below you will find:

  • The recommendations from our Election 2020 project regarding the first year of the new administration,
  • Recommendations from our fellows for the next few years of the Biden Administration,
  • Management Matters podcasts related to this grand challenge, and
  • The top 5 clicked articles on this grand challenge from our Management Matters online newsletter.
Election 2020

In November of 2020, the Academy published a paper on this topic as a part of its Election 2020 Project. The Working Group recommended the following actions for its paper, Protecting Elections and Enhancing Participation: An Agenda for 2021

  1. Strengthen the resources and support to the federal cyber security infrastructure and highlight the importance of this effort.
  2. Ensure that adequate funding is provided in order for all federal election duties to be performed well.
  3. Ensure that all key election-related positions are filled in a timely manner, with qualified individuals.
  4. Seek various legislative requirements that states must meet in regard to future elections of federal officials (various bills have been introduced in previous congressional sessions).
  5. Seek to improve the capacity of states by providing needed financial and technical assistance resources. This could include increasing federal funding to address deficiencies in state and local election systems; expanding the capacity of the EAC to provide technical assistance to state and local election officials; identifying additional steps to better equip states and localities to address cyber security threats identified by the federal government.
  6. Develop an action strategy to include state and local governments. This might be accomplished by: convening an intergovernmental working group; and/or creation of a bipartisan commission.

Thoughts from Our Fellows

In addition to our Election 2020 papers, which focused on recommended actions for the first year of a new administration, the Academy also asked its Fellows

“What should federal, state, and local leaders do now and over the next few years to protect elections and increase voter participation? What should they prioritize?”

Martin C Faga: Easy access to voting, for example, mail-in voting, while instituting measures to avoid fraud.

Edie Goldenberg: Reforms such as automatic voter registration, pre-registration at age 16, online registration, same-day registration, early voting, and no-excuse absentee voting should be implemented in those states that do not currently have them; ballot curing should become a regular part of the process; paper records of voting should exist and be retained.

Eric Hirschhorn: Ease of registration and vote-casting is essential. Artificial barriers should be removed wherever possible. This means NOT limiting voting to working hours on a weekday but, e.g., making Election Day a federal holiday, making mail-in ballots easy, ensuring early voting opportunities, and the like.

Judith Kelley: We need a massive information campaign to combat election misinformation. The biggest threat to US elections is not actual safety issues but misinformation about their safety.

The US has a very decentralized and safe election process. We need to continue to work on keeping elections secure, but right now the biggest threat to elections is not their vulnerability to bad actors, but misinformation around the security of elections.
The US has incredibly safe elections. On November 12, 2020, the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council & The Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees declared that “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” Clearly, we need to stay vigilant to keep it that way, and that includes continual updating of technologies and processes to keep elections safe.

However, the biggest threat to our elections is not technical. Rather, the biggest threat to our election is misinformation about their safety. Nothing is more corrosive to our democracy than the public losing faith in the accuracy of elections. Without that faith, democracy cannot function.

The US therefore needs to undertake a massive education campaign. This needs to include

  1. Education in schools about elections,
  2. A public education campaign reaching all elements of society,
  3. Distribution about election security at polling sites and through absentee or mail-in voting packages,
  4. Strategic countering of misinformation, and 5) thorough consideration of additional laws to criminalize behaviors that threaten the integrity of the electoral process.

Barry Van Lare: Federal legislation is needed to ensure that all states meet some minimum standards in regard to voting rights.

Andrew S Podger: Establish Electoral Commissions led by non-partisan career civil servants responsible for promoting fair elections with maximum participation, and managing enrolments and voting, and advising on electorate boundaries.

Peggy Valentine: Be transparent about how votes are counted. Conduct a social media campaign and TV commercials on the process for when ballots are cast and the various steps used to ensure votes are counted properly.

Related Podcasts

Grand Challenge: Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation
NAPA podcast-logo
Fall Meeting Preview: Protecting and Advancing Our Democracy with Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Fellow: Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Season: 1 Episode:77 | October 25, 2021

Grand Challenge: Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation
NAPA podcast-logo
The Complexities of the Electoral System with Amy Cohen

Season: 1 Episode:74 | October 04, 2021

Grand Challenge: Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation
NAPA podcast-logo
The Role of Counties in Executing Elections with Anthony Griffin

Fellow: Anthony Griffin

Season: 1 Episode:28 | October 26, 2020

Grand Challenge: Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation
NAPA podcast-logo
Operating Successful Elections at the State and Local Level with Ann Bowman

Fellow: Ann Bowman

Season: 1 Episode:27 | October 19, 2020

Grand Challenge: Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation
NAPA podcast-logo
The Role of the Postal Service During Elections with Dan Blair

Fellow: Dan Blair

Season: 1 Episode:26 | October 13, 2020

Grand Challenge: Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation
NAPA podcast-logo
Fostering a Robust Democracy with Valerie Lemmie

Fellow: Valerie Lemmie

Season: 1 Episode:25 | October 05, 2020

Top 5 Articles on Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation


The Conversation: Global voter turnout has been in declines since 1960, we wanted to find out why, by Filip Kostelka and Andre Blais

Any democratic nation in the world holding a legislative or presidential election in the late 1960s could expect around 77% of its citizens to turn up to vote. These days, they can expect more like 67% – a decline that is both problematic and puzzling.

Research shows that low turnout is bad for democracy. It usually means that socioeconomically underprivileged citizens vote less and, as a result, public policies benefit the rich. Politicians feel less under public scrutiny and turn a deaf ear to the needs of the wider public. Instead of formulating general public policies serving society at large, governments can more easily target benefits to their core supporters.

And the decline has occurred against a backdrop that might be more likely to imply an increase in election participation. Educational attainment has increased since the 1960s, for example, and election results have become closer – which would be thought to mobilise electorates.

Read The Full Article

Washington Post: As redistricting begins, states tackles the issue of 'prison gerrymandering', by Emmanuel Felton

The pitched battle over the landscape of American democracy for the next decade is underway in state capitals across the country, as lawmakers begin drawing lines for congressional and state legislative districts based on the 2020 Census. And there is a key question facing these drafters: How will they count the 2.3 million people housed in the nation’s jails and prisons.

While inmates aren’t allowed to vote in 48 states, they count for the purposes of representation. Since at least the 1850 Census, the Census Bureau has counted inmates as residents of the communities where they are imprisoned, instead of the communities where they hail from and probably will return to after they serve their sentences. That’s because of the bureau’s centuries-old “usual residence rule,” which defines a person’s residence as the place where they usually eat and sleep.

Read The Full Article

Brookings: Redistricting 2021: Red states, blue voters, by Elaine Kamarck

After a COVID-19-related delay in getting out the census data, states across the country are now moving to draw new lines for congressional districts and for state legislative districts. The stakes could not be higher, since the new maps will dictate politics for years to come.

Not surprisingly, many people want to know which party is gaining an advantage as a result of this redistricting. Let’s look at the possible changes in the U.S. House of Representatives.

At the heart of any attempted forecast is a paradox. Republican states picked up the most congressional seats and Republican legislatures control the process in the most states, but Republican counties lost population while Democratic counties gained.

Read The Full Article

FiveThirtyEight: What redistricting looks like in every state, by the FiveThirtyEight Staff

Seven states have now finalized their redrawn congressional maps for the 2020s: Oregon, Maine, Nebraska, Indiana, West Virginia, Texas and, most recently, Colorado. Democrats have gained seven seats nationally from the redistricting process so far, Republicans have gained one, and the number of competitive seats has dropped by five. Some of this is because Republicans lost a seat due to reapportionment in West Virginia and Oregon Democrats were able to use their control of the redistricting process to draw a significantly more favorable map for themselves, but it is also due to Texas Republicans giving Democratic incumbents safer districts in exchange for shoring up their own seats. But voting-rights advocates are already suing over the map, so this may not be the end of the redistricting saga in the Lone Star State.

Read The Full Article

The White House: Biden administration promotes voter participation with new agency steps,

While the President continues to call on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which includes bold reforms to make it more equitable and accessible for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote, he also knows we can’t wait to act. That is why on March 7, the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the President signed an Executive Order to leverage the resources of the federal government to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting, helping deliver on the promise of Congressman Lewis’ fight against these anti-voter burdens and the fight of so many others seeking to protect the right to vote before and since. Today, more than a dozen agencies across the federal government are announcing steps they are taking to respond to the President’s call for an all-of-government action to promote voting access and to further the ability of all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.

Read The Full Article