“Three easy steps to help prevent a calamitous election failure”

Ned Foley WaPo oped:

The first change is a one-sentence addition to a state’s election code. This would provide that all of a state’s ballot-counting procedures, including recounts and judicial contests of results, must be complete by the federal “safe harbor” deadline, Dec. 8.

The safe-harbor deadline protects states against having election results second-guessed by Congress, so long as a state finishes all its vote counting by then. Meeting this deadline is a way for states to prevent partisan conflict from subverting the will of the people by having the clock run out on counting ballots. Several states have this kind of provision, and Pennsylvania especially should add one….

Of the battleground states, Pennsylvania seems most vulnerable to running out of time, because of the particular way it permits challenges and appeals to specific ballots. Adding a specific statutory requirement that all these procedures conclude by the safe-harbor deadline would give local administrators and judges leverage to prevent abusive delay tactics.

The Pennsylvania legislature and governor are in the midst of negotiating how much time before Election Day to allow for verifying the eligibility of absentee ballots — an extremely worthwhile change just adopted in Michigan. Their negotiations should also include this single sentence on the safe-harbor point.

The second simple measure would be for Congress to extend the safe-harbor deadline from Dec. 8 to Jan. 1. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has already proposed such a measure. It’s the flip side of the previous point: Because states are at risk of running out of time, just give them some more. There’s no reason not to, and the Rubio bill should receive swift bipartisan support.

Finally, two influential state-based groups — the National Governors Association and the National Association of Secretaries of State — should issue clear bipartisan statements that the presidential election in each state should be based on counting the ballots as existing law requires. No state legislature should intervene to repudiate that result, posing the threat of competing slates of electors submitted to Congress.


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