A government for the People only exists by the People when the People have confidence that the results of an election are a reflection of the collective intent of the voters. That confidence will cease to exist when the ability to post-facto, independently confirm that all votes cast were counted as intended by each voter, and that no improper votes were included in the count. Without election integrity, America will become a third-world banana republic in which the people have no voice in who is declared the winner in any election.
It had been the confidence in the integrity of our elections that has set the United States of America apart from all other nations when we transfer power from one political party to another through free and open elections rather than bloodshed. The fights have been fought in political campaigns rather than on a battlefield and whether a party liked the results or not, everyone accepted the outcome without violence because people believed that those outcomes were honestly the democratic will of the people.
Over the years what is regarded as a sacred right for citizens of a free nation to determine the governance of their country has now become an obligation for some and a nuisance for others. Some people are disengaged because they are suffering from campaign fatigue. They’ve heard one too many political ads and are to the point that they just want it to all go away. Others believe their single vote does not matter, forgetting that in a system where every vote is counted, their vote could be the deciding factor. But more and more, there are those who are concerned that the integrity of the election system has been compromised to the point that the elections can be manipulated or rigged.
While I do not believe that our elections are “rigged,” I am concerned that court decisions, increased reliance on technological advances, and a deterioration of procedures originally established to protect election integrity, are issues threatening the integrity of our election process. If these are not quickly addressed with meaningful change, we may soon see a time when mistrust in the outcome of elections is fully warranted.
The first of those issues is the Voter ID legislation that was passed in Texas in 2011. The bill was challenged in court and the 5th Circuit recently ruled that the requirement to show specified identification was discriminatory and required the state to agree to include voter registration cards, birth certificates, utility bills, paycheck stubs and government documents with the voter’s name and address. If someone were attempting to access your checking account, I surely hope the bank does not take a utility bill as proof of your identification. Such a document could easily be forged or stolen from a mailbox. Is your vote less important than your money? New legislation must be passed during the upcoming legislative session to ensure that our election process allows all who are eligible and choose to vote, to do so, to ensure that an individual can only vote once and reduce opportunities for fraud or error to change an election outcome. Also regulations that sacrifice integrity for convenience in our election system must be eliminated and legislation which prohibits any state agency from waiving any procedure or requirement that could (intentionally or inadvertently) jeopardize election integrity must be enacted.
While lack of individual voter identification can result in a person voting more than once or an ineligible person casting a vote, there is an even more serious threat to election integrity. Electronic ballots without a paper trail create an unacceptable flaw in our ability to confirm the integrity of an election.
The Office of Attorney General is currently in the process of looking into discrepancies in the Republican primary election held in Hill County. According to a complaint filed with the Secretary of State’s office, in that county, “the difference between the official results and the Combination forms is 1,743 or, 19.29 % of the official results have NO VOTERS to account for said ballots.” That allegation is alarming. What is even more alarming is that it was not brought up by election officials in the county, but by a third party after the votes had been canvased and certified correct.
In an attempt to explain away this discrepancy, the company that provided the voting machines in Hill County said election personnel failed to follow standard protocol to reconcile their votes prior to the canvasing process. While we will never eliminate human error, the candidates in races in that county have no way of knowing the actual outcome of their races and no recourse to effect a change if the canvassed result is in error. That is a major problem that brings into question the integrity of elections in any place using electronic balloting. It is simply a statement of fact that without a paper there is no way to conduct a meaningful recount. We must also have regulations to automatically require a recount if the reconciled votes show a discrepancy of more than 1/2 percent.
The sad truth, that most citizens are not aware of, is that today, where electronic voting machines are used, it is not possible to say with any degree of certainty that the election outcome as indicated by the electronic device is consistent with the collective intent of the voters.
The people of Texas want, and deserve an election process that is above reproach. Rest assured, the changes needed to return integrity to Texas elections will be addressed these issues will be addressed in the upcoming session. We will propose legislation to ensure that we have the tools and procedures so Texas citizens can be confident their vote counts.