“We Must Vote in November. This Is How to Ensure That We Can. Elections should not be among the victims of the coronavirus.”

Bob Bauer, Ben Ginsberg, Nate Persily NYT oped:

Who will assist with the best, most informed decisions about the spending of these funds? Our country’s elections are conducted in over 10,000 state and local jurisdictions — and in the face of a bewildering maze of federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations. Far-reaching, permanent reform will be impossible to achieve right now. Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided over fundamental issues, like the authority of partisan elected officials and the role of the federal government. But extraordinary measures to shore up professional election administration should attract support across both parties.

Our commission was successful because its membership drew from the business community and local election officials. A similar approach, led by the private sector rather than government, is needed to deal with the current crisis. The commission could be led, for example, by former presidents and supported by organizations like National Association of State Election Directors, the National Association of Secretaries of States, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Academy of Sciences. But its members should be people who have actually run elections at the local level. It should also include people from private industry with relevant experience, the military for expertise in logistics and the medical community for knowledge about infectious disease….

But the adoption of these policies only mitigated the ever-present difficulties of the electoral process. Today’s public health emergency exacerbates them and adds new ones. The calls for expanded voting by mail, for example, pose a fresh set of issues. States without a robust history of mail balloting will need to pay great attention to signature verification and chain of custody. The overarching principle is that every qualified voter must have the opportunity to cast his or her ballot.

As always, success depends on the details: sound planning and good practice. A national commission structure such as one we propose could help cut through the confusion and partisan contention and bring real help.

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