The current delay in counting votes in this week’s election has many Americans wishing for a better way. Surely the process can be improved to guarantee that every vote counts but that fraud and deceit are prevented.
When the Constitution was written, a system of checks and balances was established to limit governmental power. One of those checks and balances is called “federalism”: some aspects of our government are centralized (military, foreign affairs, printing money) but many are divided among smaller jurisdictions—states, counties, and municipalities. Local leaders often make better decisions than can be made by a central government. Methods of voting have always been determined on a local level rather than by the national government.
The growth of national government in replacing local decision-making is one of the important tensions in American history. Many concerns that were once local now have national guidance, including police protection, highways, and public education. According to an old political adage, once you allow a camel to stick its nose into the tent, the rest of the camel is sure to follow. For this reason, wiser minds prefer not to allow federal guidelines and regulations to control voting throughout the United States.
If not for that caveat, though, some guidelines might be in order. Namely:
- Ballots should only be mailed to voters who request ballots by mail; no government should mail ballots to all registered voters.
- A clear and reliable method of identifying voters should be in place to reduce election fraud through identity theft.
- While votes should be counted only on election day, those who oversee the vote should be allowed and encouraged to process early votes and mail-in votes to speed the counting of those votes on election day.
- Poll watchers from both political parties—as well as watchers not affiliated with either party—should be present whenever ballots are processed and counted, and they should be well-trained to observe, to document any inappropriate activities, and to report such inappropriate activities to the proper authorities.
Elections will continue to be close and will continue to evoke strong emotions in many people. Cheaters are still going to find ways to cheat. While the judicial branch has historically removed itself from the electoral process (another check and balance from the Constitution), inevitably judges will need to decide cases where cheating appears to have happened. A more uniform way of conducting elections might reduce opportunities for election fraud. J.