Editor’s Note: Bryan King, author of this guest column, is a former Republican state representative and state senator whose district included Carroll County.
In previous columns, I have addressed voter fraud myths and reality. However, in this column, I will be focusing on post-election issues and future election solutions. There is no doubt that several concerning issues will arise after this election. There will be problems in the processing of mail-in and Election Day votes, honest mistakes as well as partisan election officials making slanted decisions, allegations as well as actual election fraud, and inequality in elections administered across the nation.
This seems like a long list, especially as elections as a whole go surprisingly better than one might think. But with elections administered in massive numbers across the nation by a wide gamut of partisan individuals, not to mention the variety of election laws, and expected and unexpected technological and equipment complications, one can’t be too surprised when “things” occur.
Think of an airplane that remains in a hangar not flown except for a couple times a year. Think of all the preparatory and continual maintenance done by numerous individuals to keep that airplane ready for flight. Many of these individuals have zero experience while others bring extensive experience to the hangar. All their jobs are focused on keeping that plane in perfect operational condition, so that when the airplane is taxied out to the runway, the expectation of all is that it will fly flawlessly. Well, that’s similar to what it’s like to run an election.
As a former election commissioner and legislator, I can assure you that overseeing and managing the election process is difficult. During the actual election process, all eyes are on the process and counting. However, once the election is over, most people just want to move on. While this is an understandable and natural human tendency, it often creates problems for the next election. No solutions occur at the moment of discovery; just move on and worry about it next time. Then when the next time comes around, the cycle is repeated. In my past elected positions, I’ve witnessed election problems. Here are some of my suggestions that I feel would increase election integrity and transparency while increasing voter confidence in the election process.
Allegations and actual election fraud: All allegations must be investigated promptly with impunity. Not addressing allegations only leads to mistrust and more corruption.
The vast majority of election process problems are honest mistakes or things that can happen anytime in elections. As I stated earlier, elections are not held that often and it’s a given that problems will occur. Knowing that mistakes will happen, confidence could be ensured and maximized by utilizing an outside evaluation team composed of objective, nonpartisan, independent individuals with prior election experience to oversee the process. If you are a candidate and experience problems with the election process, you should be able to request outside independent election evaluations.
Political protectionism and partisan decision-makers who make slanted decisions or are simply not qualified to work elections: Most people working the elections do a good job and have the best of intentions. However, it’s the remaining minority that’s the problem. Again, there should be outside independent election officials with experience in elections empowered to do recounts or assessment of decisions and outcomes on performance of election officials and workers.
Let me go into further detail about this issue because I believe this contributes greatly to election distrust.
For example, County A will have similar characteristics as counties B and C . But counties A and B will go through the election process with minimal problems or controversy while County C will have continual problems and controversy election after election. Sadly, partisan and political protectionism often prevail and people lose trust. Rightly so. Sometimes the right assessment of a problem is personnel, but politics rule unfortunately.
Sometimes, election problems are brought about by politicians looking to score political points. One time in the legislature, a colleague wanted a particular election change. While I agreed with his intent, in reality, he had no clear concept or plan about how to administer the change. He had given no thought to the problems his change would present to election workers or how the change would be funded. Most county election commissions are strapped for cash so any additional financial burden just causes more problems. Unfortunately, politicians create some of the problems just as political bragging points.
Inequality in elections: The mention of inequality in the administration of elections usually only comes up from certain political perspectives. But I will address some items in hopes of bringing about some unity on inequality. One of the decisions I made as a county election commissioner was purchasing new election machines paid for by federal funding. This decision was made possible not by county funding, as traditionally done, but by funding from the HAVA Act passed by Congress.
While I am almost always a states-rights person, the federal government must fund and possibly make uniform some election laws and standards.
If we went back to each county funding election machines, this would create election inequality. Imagine Beverly Hills election machines vs elections machines in a small rural Arkansas county. OK, before I start sounding like Sen. Bernie Sanders, let me say that the congressional person for Beverly Hills casts an equal vote in congress as the congressional person that represents that small rural county in Arkansas. Therefore, the machines that tabulate votes in Beverly Hills should be equal to the ones in any county in the nation. We should not go back to the days of one county has a “Rolls Royce” machine while another county has a “Cash for Clunkers” trade-in.
We also need some, and I say some for good reason, uniformity in election laws and standards for certain situations.
All things considered, most election workers and officials deserve our gratitude and respect for doing a great service for our country, especially this election, with all the discourse and COVID dangers. But we must always promptly address and work to improve each election problem with integrity and transparency. While many don’t want to think ahead to the next election so soon, we must do so because at some point we have to pull that airplane out again and fly it. Wouldn’t it be better and less stressful if the issues were addressed correctly before hand?
My next column will be on a great election fraud that has been going on for years. It’s called gerrymandering.