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Let’s fix the problems

It isn’t hard to find agreement on steps to restore voter confidence

Voters fill out ballots in Topeka, Kan., on Nov. 8. Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Riedel

Let’s fix the problems
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We’re not yet far from the midterm elections. Despite the vast technological capacity of the age in which we live, there are still races that have not been settled because all the votes have not yet been counted. It took over a week after the date of the election to determine that the Republican Party would control the House of Representatives. According to Real Clear Politics, one Congressional race in California reported on Nov. 18 that only 51 percent of votes had been counted. Unsurprisingly, given the incredibly low levels of trust in American society, many voters are left with tremendous skepticism and a concern that rampant cheating is occurring.

Even if one completely supports the fairness and accuracy of the process that led to the result of President Biden’s victory in 2020, there is little question that the drawn-out process of counting votes bolstered the impression many had that the election’s outcome was somehow altered behind the scenes. The apparently incompetent and inefficient administration of elections opens the door for any number of partisans left or right to fan flames of suspicion and resentment. If we don’t act to improve the situation, the entire foundation of American government will be endangered as leaders struggle to maintain the legitimacy elections should confer.

What kinds of steps can Americans take to remedy the lack of faith millions have in the process? And can we come up with reforms that will be accepted across the political spectrum?

I’ve written in the past about the great work that is being done by the organization Braver Angels (of which I am a member). The group has remained rigorously committed to its mission of bringing people who disagree together to talk about politics. The goal has never been to bring about some kind of ideological compromise, but rather to arouse feelings of good faith and respect.

In an attempt to discover a path forward on a non-ideological reform of the voting system, Braver Angels brought together “red” and “blue” Americans to talk about what could be done. Despite the significant difference in their political opinions, it turned out that there was substantial agreement about how we can restore the confidence of ordinary Americans in our elections.

Whatever it takes, Americans should be able to know the result of elections on the day of the event.

Every attendee affirmed that they wanted to see voting honored as a citizenship right of Americans and that the entire process should be transparently accountable. They also agreed that fraud should be a concern for everyone and that it is essential that the only votes that are counted should be those that are legitimate. In addition, they all expressed concern with excessively partisan media, the purposeful use of misinformation by both sides, and the impact of big money.

But what can be done? The group unanimously set forth a series of proposals. Their top recommendation was that all votes should be counted on election day. If the objection to that is that there aren’t enough machines or enough workers, it would be difficult to argue that confidence in the system that determines political power in our society is not worth the investment. Whatever it takes, Americans should be able to know the result of elections on the day of the event.

The bipartisan group also emphasized the importance of civics education for high school students. There are real questions about the degree to which Americans are actually well-informed about the nature of their government. Education and participation beget greater confidence and a sense of personal agency. Americans are citizens rather than subjects. Subjects simply endure their government like the weather. Citizens engage in politics and take on the challenge of self-government. The liberal arts get their name from being the arts of liberty, the arts suitable to citizenship.

Though there were too many excellent recommendations to explore fully here, other ideas endorsed by all participants included immediate remedies for election day problems such as excessive lines and rigorous systems to ensure that voters do not appear in multiple jurisdictions and are rapidly removed from them after death or relocation.

The Braver Angels gathering of conservative and liberal voters proves that people of goodwill can readily identify ways to improve confidence in our system of elections and that they can do so unanimously. There should be no room for advantage in the mechanism of voting. The process should be entirely see-through from end to end.

Will it cost money to make the system more efficient, more immediately accountable, and ready to provide complete outcomes on election day? Yes. Is it far more costly to leave problems unaddressed? The answer is certainly in the affirmative. Let’s fix the problems.

Hunter Baker

Hunter Baker serves as dean of arts and sciences and professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He is a research fellow of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the author of three books (The End of Secularism, Political Thought: A Student's Guide, and The System Has a Soul).

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