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Policy to Carry Us Beyond the Next Election: The 2022 midterm election showed resilience in election administration. Now, we must build it.

April 10, 2023

This report is a departure from the "sky is falling" tone that has become typical of debates about election administration. Protecting democracy is and always will be urgent. However, with 20 months before the next federal election, we have a rare opportunity to consider not just the next election but the next 100: to think long term about where we want our democracy to be for future generations, and what policy changes must be made now to get us there.This report pairs long-term vision with concrete, interim reforms. We lay out six goals for the future of election administration and detail actionable policy recommendations that, if implemented soon, would help make those goals a reality. We strive to supersede partisan politics as a motivator and instead place voters and election administrators front and center.

Independent State Legislature Theory Undermines Elections Principles

October 31, 2022

The Supreme Court will soon hear a case with the potential to upend both election administration and the basic principles of how American democracy works. Its ruling will be handed down less than a year before primaries begin in the 2024 election, possibly creating a massive disruption to voting just before a contentious contest.The case, Moore v. Harper, involves state legislative power over congressional redistricting. The petitioners bringing the case posit that Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution,1 commonly referred to as the Elections Clause, endows state legislatures with exclusive power to decide how federal elections are administered within their states. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of this theory, the laws state legislatures pass to regulate federal elections would become immune from the normal checks and balances of state constitutions and state judicial review that apply to all other state lawmaking activities. Legislatures could enact laws inconsistent with their state constitutions, effectively overriding the source of their own legislative power.The novel concept is named the independent state legislature theory (ISL). We believe that ISL—if endorsed by the Supreme Court in maximal form—could not be limited to state legislative control over redistricting. ISL would necessarily extend to all aspects of state regulation of federal elections under the Elections Clause.In the most extreme possibility, local election administrators could be forced to run simultaneous elections—one for federal contests and one for state contests—on different ballots and with different rules. Voter confusion and anger in 2024 and beyond would be certain.This brief focuses on three principles that are essential for U.S. election administration and how the implementation of ISL would upend them:Principle 1: State legislatures cannot move quickly enough to establish statutes, regulations, or guidance for elections in the heat of election cycles when legislatures are out of session.Principle 2: State constitutions, voter-enacted initiatives, and state courts—in addition to state legislatures—have legitimate roles in shaping voting and the administration of elections.Principle 3: The voting experience is smoother and election administration is more efficient when each state has uniform rules and practices for state and federal elections.

Fortifying Election Security Through Poll Worker Policy

October 17, 2022

The smooth functioning of elections relies on hundreds of thousands of part-time workers across the United States to support the voting and counting process. Poll workers and other temporary election workers support all aspects of the voting process. They are responsible for setting up voting equipment, checking in voters, and assisting in the counting of ballots. To ensure the smooth functioning of an election, workers must conduct their job with integrity and discipline. Their role, and the public's trust in their role, is a cornerstone of the democratic process.Concerns are mounting that temporary election workers recruited and trained by organizations with nefarious intent may undermine election security and public trust. In a statement released in early October 2022, the Bipartisan Policy Center's Task Force on Elections condemned "any effort designed with the intent of using temporary election workers to undermine the credibility of the election ecosystem."The COVID-19 pandemic made recruitment of election workers more difficult and highlighted the importance of temporary election workers. Since then, there have been several isolated incidents in which temporary election workers attempted to undermine election administration in pursuit of partisan goals. Before Michigan's August primary, some poll workers were instructed to unplug voting equipment in the name of exposing fraud. On September 29, 2022 a Michigan poll worker was charged with falsifying records and tampering with voting equipment during the primary.To restore and maintain trust in the election system, the public must have faith that poll workers will uphold their duties and defend the election infrastructure that allows U.S. democracy to function. This explainer surveys the state of temporary election-worker policies across all 50 states, highlighting both the litany of protections in place and the gaps that remain.

Preparing for Ballot Paper Shortages in 2022 and 2024

June 6, 2022

The U.S.-China trade war, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war have spurred upheaval and uncertainty in an increasingly interconnected global market. Product shortages and soaring prices are fixtures in national news headlines; American voters rate the economy as their top concern for the 2022 midterm elections. Supply chains won't only be on the ballot this November, they'll also shape how and when Americans get their ballots to begin with.Paper is foundational to American election administration. Yes, the paper needed for our beloved "I Voted" stickers—but also the paper that is used to create ballots, ballot envelopes, voter registration forms, and other essential elections collateral. Voter-verified paper ballots, the gold standard of secure elections, typically require high-quality paper types. Ballot materials demand specialized production, intentional delivery, and secure storage.Long-term trends, exacerbated by recent market factors, have put the supply of paper for the midterm elections at risk. Paper orders that once took days or weeks are now taking months. Costs have increased by 40% or more.This report by the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Elections outlines three challenges for election administration created by the global paper shortage: supply, timing, and cost. Within each category, the task force offers actionable recommendations for election officials and policymakers on how to administer secure elections amid supply chain disruptions both in 2022 and future elections.

Balancing Security, Access, and Privacy in Electronic Ballot Transmission

March 28, 2022

Trade-offs are inherent to election administration. Election officials and policymakers must regularly make decisions that restrict or expand voter access, detract or enhance election security, and reduce or enshrine voter privacy. These decisions ought to be simple: policymakers should prioritize expanding privacy, security, and access over restricting it.The electronic transmission of ballots is a direct embodiment of this conflict. Election officials and cybersecurity experts agree that electronic ballot return yields vulnerabilities that cannot be mitigated while preserving ballot privacy. Despite the vulnerabilities, electronic ballot transmission is crucial in ensuring that citizens unable to vote through traditional voting methods (such as mail or in-person voting) can still cast a ballot. Electronic ballot return is already being utilized to some extent in at least 31 states, particularly for military and overseas voters. Despite its fairly extensive adoption, there remains almost no real conversation among election experts about how to do it well and what policy options facilitate those practices.This paper strives to provide state lawmakers and election officials with thoughtful and proactive guidance on how to improve the administration of electronic ballot transmission. Rather than focus on the expansion or removal of electronic ballot transmission options, it outlines best practices that are informed by the learned experiences of election administrators, cybersecurity experts, and accessibility advocates.

Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform

January 20, 2022

Stark partisan dividing lines in Congress currently distract from potential areas of common ground in fostering an election system that puts voters first by being fair, accessible, secure, and transparent. These crucial topics include voter registration, voter identification, options to vote before Election Day, clean and accurate voter rolls, and audits.This report outlines a realistic framework for bipartisan election legislation. If implemented, this framework would massively improve election administration and Americans' voting experience.Federal election legislation, while rare, has a long track record of being bipartisan. For as much attention as members of Congress and the public have paid to how Americans vote, the most recent comprehensive elections bill passed in October 2002. But the urgent need for shoring election infrastructure becomes more obvious with each election.This report authored by a working group of five nonprofit think tanks elevates the election and voting reforms that have gotten lost in the highly partisan federal debate about elections. The working group comprises individuals from five nonprofit think tanks from across the political spectrum: Bipartisan Policy Center, American Enterprise Institute, Issue One, R Street Institute, and Unite America. The data used in this report is sourced from Voting Rights Lab. We came together to publish this report to ensure that important concepts—such as accessible voter registration and accurate voter rolls—are understood to be nonpartisan proposals that will improve elections and not benefit one party more than another.

Policy to Advance Good Faith Election Observation

January 10, 2022

This report outlines policy best practices for election observers and challengers. The set of recommendations is unanimously endorsed by the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Elections, a diverse group of state and local election officials from across the country. Election officials have the best perspective for how election policy works when put into practice. To secure the integrity of the 2022 and 2024 elections, we need look no further than the dedicated professionals long committed to our democracy.The recommendations made in this report stand to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of elections. For maximum effectiveness, the recommendations should be considered as a unified set. Election administration is a complex ecosystem: Changes to one policy have upstream and downstream impacts for countless other parts of the process. This set of recommendations anticipates those impacts and works cohesively to address them.

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.