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EDITORIAL: Pa. should follow election security recommendations from bipartisan coalition

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • A bipartisan coalition has made six recommendations for election security.
  • The coalition was made up of think tanks and advocacy organizations.
  • Officials in Gov. Tom Wolf's administration say the suggestions aren't new to them.
Voters exit Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church after voting in the Primary Election in York Township, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be cheap.

There’s little doubt, however, that it needs to be done.

The pillars of our democracy depend on it.

We’re talking about election security.

It’s vital that the citizens of America have faith in our free and fair elections. Without such faith, our democratic foundations are likely to crumble.

That’s why Gov. Tom Wolf, his administration and the state Legislature should implement six recommendations on election security made by a high-profile bipartisan coalition of think tanks and advocacy organizations.

High-profile, bipartisan group calls on Wolf to boost Pa. election security

Their proposals include: banning all voting technologies with internet connectivity, having paper ballot backups in case electronic machines malfunction, installing 24/7 video monitoring of all ballot-processing areas; ensuring that all voter verification receipts are easy to read, allowing touch screens to be used only on a limited basis to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and conducting a post-election audit.

To be honest, it’s hard to imagine any reasonable person arguing against those suggestions.

EDITORIAL: Stop stalling on voting fix

Officials in the Wolf administration, for their part, say the suggestions aren't new to them.

"The Pennsylvania Department of State has already implemented or is in the process of implementing the majority of measures listed in the letter, and has been investing in many other critical election security and accessibility advances over the last several years," spokesperson Laura Weis wrote in an email Friday.

Elections run much smoother this time, York County voters say

Checkered history: We’d like to take Weis at her word, but Pennsylvania’s election history isn’t without blemish. Folks here in York County can attest to that fact. The Nov. 5, 2019, municipal election bordered on a disaster, with long lines caused by horrendous problems with new paper ballots. The county did a much better job in the June 2, 2020, primary, but the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election promises to be a much stiffer test.

The presidential election will also come under much heavier scrutiny. It’s no secret that our nation is struggling with a bitter partisan divide. That divide will only lead to increased politicization of the election process. Because of that, election officials must be unerringly accurate and completely transparent in tallying the results.

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Anything less will be unacceptable, because the election losers will almost certainly be ready to jump on any voting issues to charge that the results are inaccurate, or even worse, fraudulent.

Vote-by-mail: Pennsylvania would also be wise to offer a more universal vote-by-mail process, following models used in states such as Colorado, where all registered voters automatically receive a mail-in ballot. That reportedly resulted in a 9.4% increase in turnout during the 2018 midterm elections.

President Donald Trump and other Republicans have criticized universal vote-by-mail systems as susceptible to fraud. States such as Montana, California and Arizona, however, have secure systems that can be implemented elsewhere, but such systems are costly.

There’s one more simple way to improve elections: Young people need to volunteer to be poll workers so county officials don't have to cut back on polling locations. The majority of poll workers are elderly, who are at high risk of complications from contracting COVID-19. With many of them becoming fearful of exposure, counties across the state are struggling to staff their usual number of polling locations.

If our state officials follow the coalition's recommendations, the chances of having a free, fair and indisputable 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania will increase exponentially.