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US Vote OpEd Published in The Fulcrum

From our perspective at U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote), the build up to the election and the incredible participation levels across all states. Now, the aftermath of this successful 2020 election is a barage of laws across many states. Not all of them are bad, there are some that expand on the success of the recent general election. But some of these voting laws are designed to crush the level of engagement we just witnessed. 

That's what we write about in the April 8, 2021 opinion piece that appeared in The Fulcrum, entitled "In Georgia, the most insidious suppression may be weakening the will to vote."

Going from bad to worse: from Internet voting to blockchain voting

Published 16 February 2021 in the Journal of Cybersecurity, Volume 7, Issue 1, 2021, tyaa025, https://doi.org/10.1093/cybsec/tyaa025, by Sunoo Park, Michael Specter, Neha Narula, Ronald L Rivest, MIT

Abstract

Voters are understandably concerned about election security. News reports of possible election interference by foreign powers, of unauthorized voting, of voter disenfranchisement, and of technological failures call into question the integrity of elections worldwide. This article examines the suggestions that “voting over the Internet” or “voting on the blockchain” would increase election security, and finds such claims to be wanting and misleading.

While current election systems are far from perfect, Internet- and blockchain-based voting would greatly increase the risk of undetectable, nation-scale election failures. Online voting may seem appealing: voting from a computer or smartphone may seem convenient and accessible. However, studies have been inconclusive, showing that online voting may have little to no effect on turnout in practice, and it may even increase disenfranchisement. More importantly, given the current state of computer security, any turnout increase derived from Internet- or blockchain-based voting would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they were cast, and not undetectably altered or discarded.

Georgia’s Runoff Election: A Sordid History Underlies the Peach State’s Election Process

 

Election 2020 has been full of surprises, and chief among them is the fact that control of the Senate was not decided following the November election. Instead, the majority party for the new congressional term will be settled through a runoff Senate election in Georgia on January 5, 2021.

Both races to represent Georgia in the United State Senate failed to give any candidate a clear majority of the votes, and under state law, the lack of majority means the two candidates with the largest plurality of votes have to face each other again in a runoff election. While it’s already unusual that both senators from a particular state are up for election in the same year, a double runoff is an even more rare occurrence.

However, runoff elections in Georgia – and Louisiana, the only other state that requires them – are hardly a quirk limited to the 2020 election. The history of the January 5 runoff election in Georgia starts back in the 19th century, when the perceived threat of newly emancipated (male) slaves actually exercising their right to vote ushered in an increasingly systematic and violent campaign of voter suppression, of which the runoff election is one manifestation.

Early results from US Vote’s 2020 Voter Experience Survey: Voters’ Perceptions of Election Integrity and Confidence are Higher, and Less Partisan, Than Many Think

One of the unfortunate narratives coming out of this complex election year has been a raft of accusations about the integrity of the election process. The concerns have spanned a gamut of issues: from fears of foreign interference and the casting of fraudulent ballots to concerns about the accuracy of the final ballot count. Underlying these general concerns have been intimations of a partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats that pits one set of partisans who embrace the narrative that the election was deeply flawed and therefore invalid against another side that maintains that everything went well. 

Not so fast. It turns out, like many aspects of this election, simple black and white comparisons across party lines don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

It’s Not Just About the White House: Down-ballot Voting is Important Too

While record numbers of voters are planning to cast a ballot this November – or are doing so right now, depending on the availability of early voting and mail-in balloting in your state – a troubling question is starting to emerge: will these voters, many of them first time voters, vote for more than who they want to see sitting in the White House come January 20?

The issue of a lack of “down-ballot voting,” as it is called, is hardly new. In a typical presidential election year, when barely 50 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, a third or more of those voting don’t bother to fill out the entire ballot. While this will be by almost any measure a very atypical election, the question remains whether that same 30 percent of ballots will be about only one race and none other.

The good news is that voters don’t have to vote for everything on the ballot in order for the votes they do cast to be valid. Which is how it should be. But the bad news is that not voting down-ballot for state and local representatives and not voting on local issues – school bonds and referenda and funding for police and social services – means wasting an opportunity to have the broadest impact possible.

And that impact actually extends all the way back up the ballot as well. Not voting locally doesn’t just leave important issues up to a small minority of eligible voters, it can have a huge impact on future national elections in ways that may not seem obvious at first. Which is why we’re here to encourage you to fill out a much of that ballot as possible.

Here’s our top three reasons to fill out that ballot from top to bottom:

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Press Releases

U.S. Vote Foundation Releases 2020 Election Day Voter Experience Study and Policy Perspective

Voters’ High Satisfaction with their Voting Experience Contrasts Sharply with their Sentiments about Election Integrity and the US Electoral System

February 23, 2021, WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and Overseas Vote published two documents: 1) the 2020 Election Day Voter Experience Study (the Study); and 2) a Policy Perspective: Reflections on the US Vote 2020 Election Day Voter Experience Study and the For The People Act.

The Study’s results – based on a survey of 15,495 voters – showcase the overwhelming success of the overall election process and the reforms of 2020 that were implemented as a result of the pandemic. That success, which led to the highest voter turnout in modern times, took place despite the myriad obstacles voters faced in the primaries and the General Election.

The resulting turnout and positive voter sentiment captured by the Study highlight the need to solidify these reforms as permanent and to continue the non-partisan efforts of US Vote to expand voter access.

“We are concerned about what appears to be concerted efforts in some states to reduce ballot access. It flies in the face of logic that the most successful election our country has ever seen would motivate actions to make voting more difficult. We will not ignore these efforts, and neither will US voters,” stated US Vote Chairman, Michael Steele.

Voters in 21 States Can Register and Vote on Election Day

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Local and State Media to Broadcast Election Day Registration and Voting Option

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 2, 2020 – U.S. Vote Foundation today released a comprehensive list of the 21 states where unregistered voters can still exercise their right to vote in tomorrow’s election. This includes swing states and others where close Senate and state races are underway. An estimated 13 million unregistered voters live in these states where on-site registration is available, and their participation could change the dynamic of the election.

Unregistered voters in eligible states can go to their polling place, clerk’s office, or other site designated by election officials to both register and vote on Election Day. Consult US Vote’s Election Day Registration and Voting chart for details.

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls for Immediate Action to Halt the Destruction of the United States Postal Service’s Functional Efficiency

The United States Postal Service is essential tax-payer funded infrastructure and must be protected.

Congress must act now! 

WASHINGTON, D.C. August 18, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and our Overseas Vote initiative decry the deliberate crippling of the United States Postal Service (USPS) by the Postmaster General and the stated intention of the executive branch to irrevocably dismantle its efficiency in order to thwart the movement of ballots in the November 2020 General Election.

We call for Congress to recognize this situation as a Constitutional emergency and take immediate action to stop the devastation of the USPS before it is too late. Extra funding and a clear directive should be established to support the USPS to excel in mail delivery for the upcoming election and beyond.

The USPS stands today as the largest postal service in the world by both geography and volume, and is estimated to deliver 47% of the world’s mail: in sum, the USPS is essential infrastructure that the taxpayers have funded and it is an outrage that it be sabotaged to take away the voice of our nation’s citizens.

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020

Immediate Legislative Action is Required to Provide All Voters Access to Vote-by-Mail Ballots

WASHINGTON D.C., March 24, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020 to ensure that all voters have access to vote-by-mail and adequate early voting options in the event of natural disasters and emergencies, such as what we are experiencing now with the COVID-19 epidemic.

"As specialists in absentee vote-by-mail ballot request services, US Vote knows that to successfully expand vote-by-mail, it cannot be a last minute decision. We strongly encourage Congress to take swift and decisive action to pass this legislation and to fully fund the improvements that will be needed for the 2020 election to be a safe one for all Americans. When exercising one's right to vote threatens lives, we have a moral duty to act to protect both the voters and our democracy," said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, US Vote President and CEO. "Increased vote-by-mail volume could overwhelm election administrators unless immediate action is taken and they are given time to prepare."

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Mandate a Nationwide “No Excuse” Vote-by-Mail Option Across All States for 2020 Elections

Nationwide Response to Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Should Include Uniform Election Law Across All States to Allow All Voters to Request Vote-by-Mail Ballots without an Excuse

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to issue a requirement that all states remove any and all barriers to vote-by-mail/absentee ballot request across all states at all levels, federal, state and municipal, for all 2020 elections including primaries, special, runoff and general elections.

“Ensuring voters can vote from home is a responsible and forward-thinking policy action that Congress should include in its response to the current public health situation,” said Michael Steele, Chairman of US Vote and its Overseas Vote initiative. “It is impossible for voters to predict whether they will be healthy and able to vote in-person. They should be assured they can vote safely with an absentee vote-by-mail ballot.”

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