Home Election Integrity Scant Election Reforms Since 2020 Forebode a Repeat in November

Scant Election Reforms Since 2020 Forebode a Repeat in November

Despite GOP-led efforts to address voter fraud concerns that marred the 2020 election, an analysis of five key swing states finds little fundamental change.

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The Epoch Times


Scant Election Reforms Since 2020 Forebode a Repeat in November

Despite GOP-led efforts to address voter fraud concerns that marred the 2020 election, an analysis of five key swing states finds little fundamental change.

Scant Election Reforms Since 2020 Forebode a Repeat in November

By Steven Kovac
February 16, 2024
February 29, 2024
Massive voter fraud allegations that marred the 2020 election spurred a political and grassroots movement from coast to coast to pursue an array of election reforms designed to increase election integrity.

However, with just months left ahead of the 2024 election, Republicans say little was mended, especially in contested states where they thought that fixes were needed most.

Much concern is centered around five key swing states that became the focus of 2020: Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Election reforms tend to follow party lines. Democrats commonly castigate increased election security measures as voter suppression, while Republicans often condemn laws and directives that loosen security as aiding and abetting voter fraud.

According to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, a left-leaning nonprofit law and research foundation, 23 states enacted 53 laws relaxing election security restrictions in 2023, while 14 states enacted 17 laws tightening them.
The statistics suggest that Democrats are still winning the nationwide battle, as they have for the past several years. The report found that the states that took the most actions to tighten election security were the places that already had security measures in place.

Of the 14 states that tightened voting procedures, Donald Trump won all but one (New Mexico) in both 2016 and 2020. The 14 states listed by the Brennan Center are Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The methods by which U.S. voters cast their ballots have changed markedly over the past four federal election cycles, with many people embracing election procedures such as no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and same-day voter registration.

As early as 2005, the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission raised concerns that mail-in voting was a vehicle for potentially significant election fraud, yet the method has since steadily grown.
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In 2018, one-quarter of the electorate voted by mail, according to a study by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). By 2022, it had become one-third.
Forty-six states and territories permitted no-excuse absentee voting in 2022. The number was 43 in 2020 and 40 in 2018.

Twenty-three states and territories had a permanent absentee voter list in 2022—a practice that allows a voter to request to automatically be sent a mail-in ballot in every succeeding election. No new application or update of registration information is required in most of them.

In the 2022 election, half of the states and territories allowed same-day voter registration.

In the election cycles before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 60 percent of the U.S. electorate voted in person on Election Day, according to the EAC study. In 2022, the figure was 49 percent.

Before the pandemic, mail-in ballot drop boxes were rare, with most being deployed in or around an election office. By 2022, there were 13,000 drop boxes being used in 39 states, with many boxes placed in settings that lacked security and surveillance measures.

Fifteen of the 39 states and territories using drop boxes, including Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, and Maine, couldn’t report how many ballots were collected from their receptacles in 2022, according to the EAC report.

A woman drops off her ballot for the U.S. presidential election, in Rollinsville, Colo., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images)
According to the EAC study, 334,382 voting machines were used in the nation’s polling places in 2022. The utilization of electronic ballot marking devices was up by 18.6 percent from 2020, while the use of electronic scanners rose by 7.8 percent in the same period.

Despite the push by some election integrity activists for the hand-counting of ballots as a means to improve accuracy and security, the method was used by only 17.8 percent of jurisdictions in 2022, down from 20.7 percent in 2020.

And although chain-of-custody protections for ballots are being tightened in several states, dirty voter registration rolls—resulting in mail-in ballots being sent to ineligible people, undeliverable addresses, or multiple ballots being sent to the same individual—are still a widespread issue.
The state of Georgia has been the scene of continuous controversy over the conduct of the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election in which challenger Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Trump by 11,779 votes (0.23 percent).
The persistent public outcry over alleged election fraud prompted the Republican-controlled Georgia General Assembly to pass the 95-page Georgia Election Integrity Act of 2021.
Trump supporters gather in front of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Jan. 6, 2021. (Virginie KippelenN/AFP via Getty Images)
The declared purpose of the legislation is to apply “the lessons learned” in 2020 and “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat” in the future.

An explanatory notation in the bill acknowledged that there was a “significant lack of confidence” in the state’s election system stemming from persistent allegations of “rampant voter fraud” and “rampant voter suppression.”

“The changes made in this legislation in 2021 are designed to address the lack of elector confidence in the election system on all sides of the political spectrum,” the notation reads.

In order to ensure that more votes are not counted than ballots cast, every precinct, by 10 p.m. on election night, must post the number of all ballots cast, including all absentee ballots received by the statutory deadline of 7 p.m.

The new law mandates that the total number of cast ballots must equal the number of ballots counted.

No pauses, as were seen in the early morning hours in Atlanta in 2020, are allowed once the counting begins.

To help achieve a timely vote count, the statute allows absentee ballots to be processed days before the election, but the voter’s choices must not be tabulated until the counting begins on Election Day.

The act provides that ballots shall be printed with authentication marks in order to eliminate counterfeiting.

To deter duplicate voting and ballot harvesting, the statute mandates that mail-in ballot applications be sent out only at a registered elector’s request, and no one but statutorily specified individuals may return a marked absentee ballot filled out by another person. Seeking to obtain more than one absentee ballot can now expose an individual to legal penalties.

When applying for an absentee ballot, the new law requires a person to provide the numbers from either their driver’s license or state-issued identification card or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

To expand opportunities to vote, early voting is now an option for three weeks before the election. The law makes early voting on a Sunday available at the choice of each county.

Election personnel check in provisional ballots at the Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections offices in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Nov. 7, 2020. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
The new legislation codifies the use of drop boxes in 2024 but mandates that they be placed in secure, well-lit locations with continuous human monitoring. To protect the chain of custody, two people are now required to deliver the contents of a drop box to an election clerk.

The act prohibits local officials from accepting nongovernment funds, grants, or gifts in connection with election administration.

In 2023, the Georgia legislature passed SB-222 to bolster the 2021 prohibition and make violation of it a crime.

In protest of the new 2021 measures, Major League Baseball deemed them “restrictive” and moved that year’s All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado.

Georgia state Sen. Colton Moore, a Republican, said that although improvements have been made since 2020, much meaningful work is still needed.

“Nothing of substance has changed since 2020. Every mechanism to facilitate a steal is still in place,” he told The Epoch Times. “We must work to eliminate the vulnerabilities still in place today.”

Mr. Moore also highlighted the “ridiculous” number of absentee ballots still used in Georgia elections and said they ought to be restricted to military personnel and medically disabled citizens. He said he is also worried about the institutionalization of the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, which he believes should be done away with altogether.

“We need to make it a legislative priority to stop authoritarian figures like [Fulton County District Attorney] Fani Willis from prosecuting people for merely questioning our elections. Her actions have created a chilling effect among my colleagues in the legislature,” Mr. Moore said.

“Unless we obtain a legislative solution soon, we must resolve to overcome fraud through an overwhelming turnout in November.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a news conference at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta on Aug. 14, 2023. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Right after being elected in 2018, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, used her veto power to shoot down nearly 20 election integrity reform bills sent to her desk by the then-Republican-controlled state legislature.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, speaks in Lansing, Mich., on Aug. 30, 2023. (Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News via AP)
In the 2020 presidential election, President Trump lost Michigan to challenger Joe Biden by 154,000 votes, or 2.8 percent.

Afterward, judges in six different court cases found that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, another Democrat, issued inaccurate or legally unauthorized guidance to local officials in the run-up to the 2020 general election.
When Ms. Whitmer was reelected in 2022 and Democrats captured control of the legislature, 12 new Democrat-sponsored election laws were enacted—all of which Republicans say loosen security—within a year.

The new Democrat-authored statutes extend automatic voter registration to other state agencies and offices beyond the secretary of state’s office, which issues driver’s licenses in Michigan.

They liberalize online registration and allow a person to apply for an absentee ballot online. They permit 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote.

During the past several election cycles, Democrat activists, backed by out-of-state, big-money donors, effectively used the ballot initiative process to repeal existing election laws, enact new laws, and amend the state constitution. Two of the largest contributors were the Sixteen Thirty Fund ($11 million) and the George Soros-founded Open Society Foundations ($1.2 million).
The ballot initiative method was employed to expand and institutionalize the use of mail-in ballot drop boxes, allow no-excuse absentee voting, permit same-day registration and voting, and shorten the length of residency required to register to vote.

The initiative process was also used to weaken photo ID requirements by mandating that election officials accept an affidavit of identity signed by the prospective voter instead. It also enabled people to request to automatically receive an absentee ballot for every election in perpetuity, and it authorized taxpayer-funded, postage-free mailing for people returning absentee ballot applications or mail-in ballots.

Left-wing activist groups also utilized the initiative process to obtain the constitutional right to nine consecutive days of early voting; early voting sites can now be used by people from more than one community within a county.

The ballot proposals enacting these new laws were approved handily by the Michigan electorate at the polls.

Volunteers gather in the 14th District Democratic headquarters during the midterm election in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2022. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)
Mismatched Numbers
A recent report by Michigan Fair Elections (MFE), a nonprofit election integrity watchdog coalition, provides evidence that the state’s official Qualified Voter File shows that 104,137 more votes were counted in the 2020 presidential election than the number of people who voted.
“The number of votes should match the number of voters,” MFE Chairwoman Patrice Johnson said in a Jan. 30 statement.

In the 2022 midterms—an election with a much smaller turnout than 2020—17,974 more ballots were counted than the number of people who were recorded as voting.

According to the MFE report, the state of Michigan has never reconciled the discrepancies in either election.

The group sent the report to the inspector general of the Federal Office of Election Assistance and requested an assessment.

According to the MFE report, the release of each succeeding monthly Michigan Qualified Voter File report reveals that the number of recorded voters and their voting histories has changed in subsequent reports.

The data are an important part of the historical record and “should be etched in stone,” the report states.

The MFE report asserts that the state improperly assigns a second voter identification number to every voter that is “always a different number than the identifier that local clerks use.”

“Voter histories should not be changing, and voters are supposed to have only one voter identifier,” Ms. Johnson said. “These practices invite double voting, and they make audits next to impossible. They are against the law.”
In a memorandum to county and municipal election officials, dated July 10, 2023, Michigan Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater wrote that multiple ID numbers for a single voter are not for “some nefarious purpose” but for verification and security.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, leaves after electors cast their vote for the Electoral College in Lansing, Mich., on Dec. 14, 2020. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, leaves after electors cast their vote for the Electoral College in Lansing, Mich., on Dec. 14, 2020. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)
Bloated Voter Rolls
Since 2019, Democrats have taken over the offices of governor and secretary of state, and Michigan has become a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).
ERIC is a national, nonprofit organization hired by 24 states to help clean up and maintain accurate voter registration rolls and to promote increased voter registration.

Based on the latest growth rate of voter registrations, MFE researchers project that by Nov. 5, the percentage of registered voters in Michigan will be 105 percent of the eligible voting-age population.

The overages were 102 percent in 2020 and 103 percent in 2022.

The MFE report alleges that there has been a “deliberate and sustained bloating of the voter rolls,” and that Michigan is “failing to make reasonable efforts to remove invalid registrations” as mandated by law.

Two years ago, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a national law firm fighting for election integrity, filed suit to force Ms. Benson to clean up the voter registration rolls as required by the Help America Vote Act.

“Michigan still has more than 20,000 deceased people registered to vote. We have to ensure that voter rolls are accurate before the 2024 election,” PILF spokesperson Lauren Bowman Bis told The Epoch Times in a recent interview.

“Every error on voter rolls presents an opportunity for fraud.”

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office stated that it doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.
On Nov. 3, 2020, challenger Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump in the state of Pennsylvania by 80,555 votes.
General dissatisfaction with the election system of the Keystone State has prompted numerous reform efforts by both Republican and Democrat lawmakers that have been stymied by a divided government.

During the 2021–22 legislative session, when Republicans controlled both legislative chambers, their election reform bill, which would have tightened voter ID and registration rules and shortened the mail-in ballot application deadline, was vetoed by then-Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks before President Joe Biden takes the stage in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Aug. 30, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks before President Joe Biden takes the stage in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Aug. 30, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
The GOP’s loss of its majority in the state House of Representatives in 2022 further diminished its hope for reforms.

“We are confronted with the unfortunate reality that the Democrats are in control of the House and the governor’s mansion and have blocked any meaningful reforms to secure our elections heading into 2024,” Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican, told The Epoch Times.

In November 2021, House Democrats sponsored a reform bill (HB 2090) that sought to relax election security. The measure failed to pass in the then-Republican-dominated chamber.

The legislation called for 15 days of early voting prior to Election Day, same-day voter registration at the polls on Election Day, statewide use of electronic poll books, and the right of voters to correct mistakes or omissions on submitted ballots.

It would have required at least two absentee ballot drop boxes per county and an additional one for every 50,000 residents; the processing of mail-in ballots 21 days prior to Election Day, and pre-paid mail-in ballot return postage.

The proposed bill would have allowed 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote and require colleges to serve as National Voting Rights Act voter registration agencies.
Arizona has been the scene of intense public scrutiny and protracted, systematic inquiries over the 2020 election, especially focused on Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county.
Challenger Joe Biden won the state by 10,457 votes over President Trump.

The current overall condition of election integrity in the state differs little from 2020, according to Mark Finchem, former state representative and unsuccessful Republican candidate for secretary of state.

Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem and President Donald Trump in a file photo. (Courtesy of Mark Finchem’s campaign)
“The conduct of that election was irredeemably compromised,” he told The Epoch Times.

“There is a gaping hole in federal law. Congress has been feckless and inept. Thousands of ballots should not have been counted in 2020. Hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballot envelopes never had the signatures verified. Tens of thousands were accepted with no signature at all.”

One of the key concerns in Arizona is how easily noncitizens can vote in federal elections.

According to the Arizona secretary of state’s website, a registrant who doesn’t submit documented proof of citizenship and whose citizenship cannot be verified via the Motor Vehicle Division or other statewide databases “is registered as a ‘federal-only’ voter”—someone who is eligible to vote solely in races for federal office.
The prospective voter just needs to fill out the National Mail Voter Registration Form, which thousands of noncitizens do, according to Mr. Finchem.

The federal form, available in 21 languages, requires only a personal sworn declaration that the registrant is a U.S. citizen. No further proof is necessary to obtain a federal-only ballot.

According to a response from the Office of the Recorder of Maricopa County to a public records request by GOP precinct committeeman Tristan Manos, 4,484 federal-only ballots were cast and counted in the county in the Nov. 3, 2020, election.
Each of those votes came from individuals who provided no documented proof of U.S. citizenship.

Mr. Finchem said mail-in ballots were sent out to thousands of foreign nationals residing in the state during the 2020 presidential election.

The potential for even larger scale abuse has been aggravated by the record number of illegal immigrants who have entered the country since 2020, he said.

Illegal immigrants arrive at a remote U.S. Border Patrol processing center after crossing the U.S.–Mexico border in Lukeville, Ariz., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Moore/Getty Images)
The prospects for meaningful change this year are small because “the same people are still in charge,” Mr. Finchem said.

In 2022, Katie Hobbs was elected governor, Adrian Fontes was elected secretary of state, and Kris Mayes was elected attorney general. All are Democrats.

Mr. Fontes succeeded Ms. Hobbs, who was secretary of state in 2020.

Republicans control both houses of the Arizona legislature by two-vote margins.

However, by 2022, the Grand Canyon State had enacted more than a dozen election reform laws, according to the Center for Arizona Policy.
The new provisions include a ban on Election Day voter registration and the private funding of elections. Localities can no longer alter election-related deadlines, and the secretary of state is required to cross-check Arizona’s voting records with death records and out-of-state voter rolls annually.

As in Georgia, it’s now illegal to pause vote counting in Arizona.
As in Michigan, lawsuits in Wisconsin have been successful in overturning several 2020 election actions.
The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled against several 2020 guidelines from the Wisconsin Elections Commission over the utilization of drop boxes and other directives.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court listens to arguments during a redistricting hearing at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 21, 2023. (Ruthie Hauge/The Capital Times via AP, Pool, File)
In 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the state by just fewer than 21,000 votes, or 0.7 percent.

Since 2020, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has vetoed more than 20 election reform bills passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature.
These include bills to prevent the unsolicited mailing of absentee ballot applications, improve access by election observers, tighten voting procedures in long-term care facilities, further restrict the curing of absentee ballots, end the indefinitely confined ID loophole, outlaw ballot harvesting by political operatives, and prevent private money from influencing the administration of elections.

Wisconsin state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, a Republican, largely blames state election chief Meagan Wolfe, of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), for not acting to tighten up election security.

She said Ms. Wolfe played a role in allowing absentee ballot drop boxes and in letting thousands of voters declare themselves indefinitely confined, thereby permitting them to cast mail-in ballots without any identification, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Wolfe kept special voting deputies from senior care facilities, meaning there was no chain of custody for their absentee ballots,” Ms. Brandtjen told The Epoch Times.

“She also allowed millions of dollars in nonprofit organization grant money to flow into Democrat strongholds during 2020. The groups’ representatives were even allowed to work inside the clerk’s offices at election time.”

Evidence supporting Ms. Brandtjen’s criticisms can be found in the Gableman Report, which was published on Nov. 10, 2021.

The interim report contains the findings of an investigation into the 2020 election conducted by retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who was hired as a special counsel by the Wisconsin State Assembly.
Ms. Wolfe defended her performance as the state elections chief in a letter to county and municipal election officials in June 2023.
“Contrary to what a vocal minority may claim, my tenure at the WEC has been marked by successfully run elections during some of the most difficult circumstances in our state and nation’s history,” she wrote.

The Wisconsin state Senate has voted to remove Ms. Wolfe from office and articles of impeachment have been filed against her in the State Assembly. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

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