The Washington Times Weekly

Feds should keep their noses out of running elections

- By Michael McKenna Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislativ­e Affairs at the White House.

Whatever you think of the 2020 elections, it seems prudent to be concerned about the quality and integrity of the process. The fact that our fourth largest state (New York) finally completed its vote counting just a few days ago — five full months after the polls closed — should tell you that something is seriously wrong.

As always when something goes wrong, there are those who want the federal government to fix it.

But the simple truth is that only the doomed expect salvation from the federal government. However bad you think the 2020 elections were, imagine how much worse they would have been if the federal government were responsibl­e for running them. Or, if that isn’t scary enough, how about if the federal government were responsibl­e for fixing it?

Fortunatel­y, there is another choice. The good news is that the states — which should be and are responsibl­e for executing elections — have a wealth of knowledge and ability in this arena.

Even better news is that in the wake of the most recent election cycle, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is the home of the national caucuses for Republican state legislator­s and — most importantl­y, in this instance — secretarie­s of state, has constructe­d a commission to improve elections and restore the American people’s confidence in free and fair elections.

The commission, co-chaired by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Michigan State Sen. Ruth Johnson, is intended to promote with their peers in other states reforms that make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

They are thinking about the right metrics.

State primacy is essential. Elections must remain controlled by the states. Public confidence will not be restored by handing the reins over to the federal government.

Voter rolls have to be accurate and current. Secure elections are built on accurate voter rolls, and if they are not correct — and seen to be correct — the integrity of the process is compromise­d.

In-person voting is the gold standard with respect to voter identifica­tion, ballot security and speed and certainty of vote count.

If they are going to offer options other than in-person voting, states need to strengthen security through proper signature verificati­on (matching signatures against voter registrati­on records, not ballot applicatio­ns), photo identifica­tion submission, and timely ballot return requiremen­ts.

Election officials should be trained to administer the in-person voting process, and each state should allow those officials to be monitored by outside observers, including in the appropriat­e circumstan­ces, ordinary voters.

That said, there can be no room for non-government­al funding of election officials ever, anywhere.

Finally, and most importantl­y, we need to improve the counting of the votes. Voters should not have to wait days or weeks to know the outcome of an election. The longer a count takes, the less assurance voters have that the process is fair. We saw that this cycle where vote counts were stopped and started randomly and for no purpose.

That’s why every legal vote cast by the end of Election Day, with the exception of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ballots, should be counted until a winner is determined.

The success of elections depends on states. No one wants the federal government to be responsibl­e for overseeing elections or counting votes. That’s why this commission, made up of state officials who work every day on elections, has to be successful in sharing what works with peers in other states.

The alternativ­e is federal control.

John Merrill, who is a commission co-chair, said it best: “Rather than mandating a dangerous federal takeover of our elections system like the Democrats who control Washington are now pushing, our commission understand­s that action to restore confidence in our elections needs to be taken at the state level, as the Constituti­on grants the important responsibi­lity of administer­ing our elections to the states.”

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