Looking back on what happened in the election field in 2023 can give us a better sense of what to expect in this year’s presidential election.
Legislators in many states improved procedures for ensuring secure and honest elections. But other states either failed to act or made things worse by failing to implement effective practices for accurately administering voter registration, the casting of votes, and the tabulation and reporting of results.
In 2021, The Heritage Foundation launched an Election Integrity Scorecard that grades the election laws and procedures of all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to 47 different best-practices criteria developed in consultation with trusted election experts.
Those best practices cover everything from how to ensure an accurate, up-to-date, statewide voter registration list, to handling absentee or mail-in ballots, to the access given to poll observers to guarantee transparency in the election process.
No state scored a perfect 100. The top state in the country is Tennessee with a current score of 88, followed by Georgia (84) and Missouri (83).
One silver lining to the controversy over the 2020 election: It finally made many state legislators aware of some of the vulnerabilities in our election system. By the end of 2023, Tennessee had improved its score by six points, and Missouri by 10 points since the scorecard debuted in 2021 after state legislators passed needed election reforms.
Another positive development in 2023 was the result of an Oct. 17 referendum election in Louisiana. Voters there overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their constitution banning all private and foreign funding of state and local election offices and election administration.
Allowing partisan donors to attempt to manipulate election officials and election rules through political donations is an obvious danger. Fortunately, Louisiana followed more than two dozen states in banning such funding.
Unfortunately, some states have refused to take any steps to reform their elections. Those include ones with Democrat legislatures such as Hawaii, Nevada, and California, which sit at the bottom of The Heritage Foundation’s scorecard with embarrassing scores of only 26, 28, and 30, respectively. They are taking none of the steps needed to improve public confidence in the election process.
In fact, when Democratic-led cities like New York and the District of Columbia pass ordinances allowing foreign nationals to vote in their elections, public confidence takes a hit. Most Americans believe that only citizens, who have the responsibilities that go along with citizenship, should be voting and making decisions about how we are governed.
This situation isn’t helped by the litigation filed by election-reform opponents. They seem to oppose any measure that helps provide even a modicum of security to the election process.
There are numerous meritless lawsuits in progress across the country in which basic, long-held, traditional practices are being attacked. These include voter ID requirements, which voters support wholeheartedly, and other security procedures, such as requiring witnesses and voter signature comparison on absentee ballots.
Sensible state bans on ballot trafficking are also being attacked in the courts. Ballot trafficking is the practice of allowing third-party strangers to pick up and deliver an individual’s absentee or mail-in ballot. Giving candidates, their campaign staffers, political consultants, and party activists—all of whom have a stake in the outcome of the election—access to voters’ ballots is a very bad idea. It invites fraud, coercion, and intimidation of voters.
Yet reform opponents are suing to get such trafficking prohibitions overturned, making the absurd claim that they’re discriminatory. Yet they only discriminate against bad actors willing to misbehave in the election process.
So, what’s the perspective for 2024? We’ll continue to see changes made by some state legislatures intent on improving the election process. But other states may make changes that weaken the security of that process.
Opponents of commonsense election integrity reforms will continue to file lawsuits attacking positive changes, and we will, undoubtedly, get court decisions on their viability throughout the year, right up until the election.
Overall, many parts of the country will be in better shape in 2024 than they were in 2020 when it comes to the security of their elections. The 2020 election had the highest turnout in a presidential election in decades and, given what may be at stake in 2024, we may have another record-setting election.
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