Voting at the federal, state, and local levels is fundamental to American democracy, and citizens must have confidence in electoral systems, processes, and results. Electoral integrity and voter participation are enhanced by (1) ensuring that everyone with a legal right to vote is able to do so; (2) protecting such critical election infrastructure as storage facilities, polling places, and centralized vote tabulation locations; and (3) safeguarding such information and communications technology as voter registration databases, voting machines, and other electoral management systems.
The US Constitution stipulates that state governments have the primary role in the conduct of elections. As a result, the United States has a highly decentralized election administration system, with state and local governments having the primary responsibility for the administration of elections in such areas as:
Moreover, states and localities may also play a significant role in urging voter participation and in distributing information to assist voters in understanding the ballot and pending issues.
Immediate Actions Must Be Taken to Ensure an Accessible, Fair, and Safe Election. In this critical time when threatened by COVID-19, we urge federal, state and local governments to take immediate action to adjust our electoral processes in ways that will allow every eligible citizen to participate in the 2020 elections while ensuring the integrity of the election process and the health of citizens and election workers.
Elections are administered primarily by state and local governments, and they vary widely in their legal and administrative requirements. It is incumbent upon state officials, in particular, to scrutinize their rules and procedures to see what they can do now to address the health and safety concerns of both voters and election workers for the primary and general elections in 2020. Coordination with the local election officials in their state is also important.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution or approach to adapting long time election procedures to this new COVID-19 reality. However, all components of the election administration system need to be reviewed. Those include voter registration, absentee and all mail voting, early in-person voting, and Election Day voting. It is likely that specifications that may have made sense in normal times will need to be changed or temporarily waived. Current election laws and regulations should be reviewed with consideration of voter participation, social equity, and the financial and administrative practicality of various changes. Although this is an enormous task and one that needs to be done on a short timetable, examples of alternative approaches can be found amongst the states themselves and in various studies and reports from other organizations.
We believe that, if they have not done so already, state and local governments need to utilize all the tools at their disposal to address the COVID-19 challenges to the election system. Those include legislative changes, administrative changes, adequate funding, information gathering and sharing, working with new partners, and expanded efforts to keep the public informed.
Please visit the Election 2020 Homepage for more action plans.