America lucked out. The 2020 election had all the ingredients for disaster: A president who called it rigged before a single vote was cast, a pandemic that produced an unprecedented mail-in response and attempts at inference by Russia and other adversaries.
Democracy can’t afford 2024 to be the debacle that 2020 almost was.
To repair the voting process that is the beating heart of a democracy, the Biden administration needs to create a bipartisan commission to address two principal problems.
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The first is the sanctity of the vote itself and the right of every adult citizen to participate.
The mechanics of the most recent election failed to convince a large fraction of the populace that votes were fairly cast and counted. We were amazed and encouraged that such a rickety, balkanized system displayed no material evidence of fraud.
Yet, the methods of counting and recounting are far from transparent. Nor is there much rigor in the timing or the tallying of votes at the state and local level.
A commission should determine what steps to take at the state and federal levels to ensure the right to register and vote easily anywhere; the right to have all votes definitively counted and, where necessary, recounted; and a guarantee that national and state totals are announced in an authoritative non-partisan way in an expedited manner.
Make better use of technology
Many of the answers undoubtedly lie in better use of technology. Individual tax returns are highly confidential and personal documents, yet 89% of Americans file them electronically from home or office. A federal statute 20 years ago made electronic signatures legally valid.
So why can’t the country with the best technology brains in the world find more efficient methods of voting than lining up for hours or sticking something in the mail and hoping it gets there in time? Or better methods of counting than a process that takes several weeks?
And how can this more efficient process be secure, trusted and independent of interference by foreign governments or candidates themselves?
The second challenge for the commission is the Electoral College. In four elections out of six in this century, the winner of the national popular vote has lost or nearly lost the Electoral College.
This year, Joe Biden won three swing states — Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona — by less than three-quarters of a percentage point. If Donald Trump had changed the minds of just 22,000 voters in those states, electoral votes would have tied at 269, and the House of Representatives, with each state caucus casting one vote would have determined the president, almost certainly inciting deep bitterness