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Reimagining Federal Election Funding

April 19, 2022

The smooth execution of elections is a cornerstone of our democracy, yet elections in the United States are chronically—and, in some cases, hazardously—underfunded. The majority of existing funding comes from state and local sources, with only intermittent, discretionary federal appropriations.Inadequate funding leads to antiquated technology and equipment, understaffed election offices, and overworked officials. The 2020 election exposed this reality when election officials had to bootstrap a contentious election amid a pandemic. Private funders stepped in to fund aspects of the voting process that should be resourced by the government.Recent federal appropriations for election security in the fiscal year 2018, FY2020, FY2022, and through the CARES Act in 2020 have incentivized states to make investments in their elections processes; however, relying on one-off discretionary "money drops" of varying amounts is an inefficient and inadequate way to provide funding when election officials need consistency and predictability. Foreign cybersecurity threats in the 2016 election and unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 election have resulted in renewed public attention to the intricacies of the U.S. election system. The American public demands election security and accessibility. This cannot happen without proper funding. Regular, continuous federal funding for elections would allow state and local governments to budget for the short, medium, and long term.With so many competing priorities for the annual budgeting process, creating a reliable federal funding source for elections requires a separate, dedicated approach. Fortunately, the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF) provides an existing mechanism to do just that.

The Dangers of Partisan Incentives for Election Officials

April 6, 2022

Election administrators are expected to perform their duties in a nonpartisan manner, even when the elections they administer lead to outcomes they do not personally endorse. Many election officials are elected in partisan elections or selected by members of political parties. This party affiliation means that these individuals experience motivation or encouragement derived from their party, a dynamic that we will refer to as reactions to partisan incentives.The growing susceptibility to partisan incentives in election offices undermines the expectation that elections will result in legitimate winners. While, in the past, the individuals administering the elections process operated with relative obscurity, party leaders have targeted them and their offices in the hopes of controlling the voting process. This amplified attention may incentivize extreme partisans to attempt to subvert, undermine, or overturn an election. Acting with political self-interest, partisan officials could use their power to undermine legitimate and fair elections and overturn the will of the people.The threat is no longer theoretical. If Americans intend to maintain a democratic system of government, we must reimagine election administration to reduce or remove partisan incentives and strengthen the firewall between politics and the administration of the voting process.

Bipartisan Principles for Election Audits

November 8, 2021

This report aims to outline what a secure, precise, trustworthy audit of an election should look like in every state. Recommendations in the report include that audits should take place before the results are certified, that election officials must maintain custody of the ballots during audits, and that audits should be open to the public for observation. Extralegal investigations in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin do not meet most of the unanimously endorsed recommendations put forward in the report.

Improving the Voting Experience After 2020

April 6, 2021

A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center's Task Force on Elections that outlines ways to enhance local election administration in light of issues surrounding the 2020 U.S. election. The authors list twelve recommendations on topics ranging from emergency election procedures to ballot return standardization to expanding early voting and more, with the goal of meaningfully improving voters' access to a secure ballot.

The 2018 Voting Experience

July 9, 2020

This report documents the results of a nationwide study that the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted in 3,119 individual polling places across the country to measure wait times at the polls during the 2018 midterms. It provides the type of fine-grained analysis of voters' reality as they waited to cast ballots that survey data cannot replicate.

Improving the Voter Experience: Reducing Polling Place Wait Times by Measuring Lines and Managing Polling Place Resources

April 1, 2018

Long lines at the polls can undermine the voting experience, even to the point of discouraging people from voting. Reducing polling place wait times by measuring lines and managing polling place resources can improve the voting experience.

The New Realities of Voting by Mail in 2016

June 29, 2016

The vote-by-mail process can be more convenient for voters who are unable or unwilling to contend with lines at polling places on Election Day. However, voting by mail is not a voting option without risk. Outdated laws, new administrative policies, and the realities of the political process today introduce obstacles voters may not be aware of. Without recognizing that voting by mail in 2016 is very different than in years past, voters are more likely to unwittingly disenfranchise themselves.