A swath of changes to voting rules meant to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic should not become permanent, say a group of state Republican officials.
The Republican State Leadership Committee, which focuses on Republican legislators and secretaries of state, launched a commission to study reforms that “make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges and exposed that our election processes are far from perfect,” said Michigan state Sen. Ruth Johnson, a co-chair of the commission, in a statement Wednesday. “The good news is that states are truly the laboratories of democracy, and we can all learn from what others do well as we try to provide assistance to the leaders across the country that are spearheading the effort to reform our elections.”
The commission will focus on creating best practices recommendations for issues such as ensuring accuracy in voter rolls, speeding up the canvassing process so that votes are counted without interruption and by the end of Election Day, creating a telephone or mail hotline for voters to report fraud, and strengthening mail-in ballot verification measures.
Many state officials last year dramatically expanded vote-by-mail provisions and mail-ballot applications in response to the coronavirus pandemic, among other reforms. The state of Nevada in August decided to send mail ballots to every voter on the state’s voter rolls, resulting in some ballots reportedly being sent to defunct addresses or to deceased people.
“Increasing voter participation in this country will require thoughtful repairs to restore the public’s confidence in our elections, and we need to make the reforms necessary to regain trust in the process,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, another commission co-chair. “While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to anything, every state in the nation should be working to assess and improve their respective election laws.”
Former President Donald Trump’s opposition to vote-by-mail and other reforms prompted many Republican voters to reject the method, and his largely false claims of mass election fraud extended to his opposition to congressional acceptance of Electoral College results on Jan. 6. The saga culminated with Trump-supporting “stop the steal” protesters breaching the U.S. Capitol building.
Republicans maintain that legitimate, if less salacious, problems in state election systems remain.
One focus of the commission will be providing a way for election officials to be “thoroughly monitored by outside observers,” echoing a key complaint from Republicans and the Trump campaign when it came to 2020’s results.
The commission, though, is not proposing “one-size-fits-all” solutions to the web of state elections administrators. And it is not opposed to mail-in voting as a principle — a method that Republicans in Florida previously successfully organized around to win elections in the state.
“Some states will continue to emphasize election day voting; others will have more expansive mail-in and early voting elements, while still others will elect to do all mail-in ballot. Whatever path a state takes, it should maintain its own codified uniform standards for consistent administration across their counties and local jurisdictions,” state the election commission’s principles.