Ned Foley WaPo column.
But other pieces of S. 1 that don’t make Manchin’s list deserve to be added. S. 1 has a section that would require voter-verified paper ballots, meaning voters have the opportunity to review an official paper record of their votes no matter what computer technology is employed to cast ballots. That’s an important way to protect the accuracy of ballot-counting, which is increasingly under threat. Another useful section of S. 1 provides grants to states to conduct risk-limiting audits, a recently developed statistical technique for checking the integrity of vote tallies.
The one overarching deficiency in Manchin’s laudable proposal is its lack of attention to the escalating risk of “election subversion,” the term that election-law expert Richard L. Hasen and others use to describe how Trump-inspired Republicans in battleground states are positioning themselves to undermine vote-counting.
The “audit” of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona by the state GOP — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) notably called it “an effort to subvert democracy” — could become a model for Trump’s acolytes elsewhere to perpetuate his claim that he was robbed of the election. It’s essential that Congress prevent the methods being used in Arizona, involving one party taking possession of ballots in violation of generally accepted chain-of-custody requirements, becoming the means by which state officials try to repudiate results they don’t like in 2022 and 2024.Congress could guard against this danger by requiring states to satisfy basic chain-of-custody standards. Each house of Congress ultimately has the power under the Constitution to verify vote tallies in elections to that chamber. Therefore, as long as Congress can keep the integrity of ballots intact while they remain in the hands of state officials, Congress can assure an accurate count of those ballots — assuming that Congress itself will count votes honestly.
There is no such chain-of-custody provision on Manchin’s list. But it isn’t in S. 1 either.
Congress can defer this issue to a later bill, but lawmakers won’t be finished safeguarding democracy before the midterms until Manchin can broker a deal on protections for counting, not just casting, votes.
The more Republicans who join Manchin, the better. But the obligation of bipartisanship in electoral reform extends only to the “loyal opposition” — not to an opposition hostile to democracy itself.