The Carter Center today issued “Ensuring Voter Access while Protecting Election Integrity,” an analysis of key arguments underlying recent legislative efforts to modify existing electoral laws in states across the U.S., many of which use unsubstantiated claims of massive election fraud to justify restrictions on voter’s access.
The report addresses the two main goals of election administration and reform—ensuring election integrity and facilitating voter access—and concludes that these goals are not mutually exclusive and should be pursued in tandem, following recognized international election principles and standards.
“In our 30-plus years of international election observation work, we’ve seen that it’s possible to make it easier for people to vote without making it easier for them to cheat,” said Paige Alexander, the Carter Center’s CEO. “Democracies are strengthened when as many eligible voters as possible make their voices heard.”
According to international election standards, states are obliged to ensure that election integrity is not compromised by fraud or by malfeasance and also are required to take proactive measures to ensure the full and effective enjoyment of the right to vote by the broadest possible pool of eligible voters. This should include making access to the polls and the casting of ballots as simple as possible.
The key guiding principles for reform are that any restrictions on voter access must be proportional to the expected benefit and based on objective anaylysis, and should represent the least restrictive approach possible.
The Carter Center report focuses on a series of election issues featured in recent reports by The Heritage Foundation, which appear to have informed state legislation. Topics include accuracy of voter registration lists; citizenship verification; voter ID; absentee ballots; vote trafficking and vote harvesting; same-day registration and automatic voter registration; voter assistance; private funding of election officials and government agencies; election observation; early vote counting; and legal standing for state legislatures.
The Center’s report finds that while several of the concepts outlined by The Heritage Foundation appear unobjectionable in principle, in practice, the foundation’s suggested legislative solutions are likely to significantly increase burdens on voters.
“To avoid creating new or unnecessary burdens, The Carter Center is urging state legislatures to adopt measures that rely on the least restrictive approach possible to secure the integrity of elections, that focus on objectively valid concerns, and that avoid unnecessary reductions in access,” said David Carroll, director of the Center’s Democracy Program.
Measures that appear likely to increase burdens and reduce voter access, without preventing clear or specific threats to election integrity, do not meet these criteria. These include reforms that set voter registration deadlines well in advance of Election Day, limit absentee voting to individuals with a prescribed excuse, curtail automatic voter registration, limit the number of days for early in-person voting, and limit the number and placement of drop-boxes for mail voting—all of which will inevitably decrease voter turnout without substantially reducing voter fraud.