I don’t know if the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.” Or “rigged.” I know it was a very close race, and there were several legitimate concerns about irregularities related to the surge of early voting and mail-in voting tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
Officially, U.S. president Joe Biden won Georgia’s sixteen electoral votes by 0.2 percent (11,779 votes), Pennsylvania’s twenty electoral votes by 1.2 percent (81,660 votes) and Wisconsin’s ten electoral votes by 0.7 percent (20,682 votes). Meanwhile, Arizona’s eleven electoral votes went to Biden after an apparent victory margin of only 0.3 percent (10,457 votes).
In other words, former U.S. president Donald Trump appears to have come up just 42,921 votes shy of forcing an electoral college tie (had he won Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin) – and 124,582 votes shy of winning a second term outright (had he won Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin).
Like I said close … but no cigar.
I believe Trump had a compelling case to make on the issue of alleged voter fraud … he just didn’t make it (nor has it been made after the fact). This is why the U.S. supreme court – a third of which he appointed – wound up ruling against him. And his own vice-president declined to intervene on his behalf during the counting of the Electoral College votes.
Guess that’s just the way it goes when Lin Wood is your wingman …
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Furthermore, I think Trump’s 2022 litmus test – in which anyone seeking his endorsement is compelled to affirm that the 2020 election was stolen – is stupid. Trump’s best means of proving this point? Beating Biden in 2024.
Whether you think the 2020 election was on the level or not, we should all believe in the principle of unus civis, una suffragium – “one citizen, one vote.” After all, nothing is more indispensable to the notion of representative government than trusting the process by which our representatives are chosen.
Can we trust that process today? No …
In South Carolina, lawmakers are currently debating changes to the state’s election law. This week, a subcommittee of the S.C. House of Representatives met to discuss H. 4919 – a bill which would provide modest new voter security measures (including a ban on notoriously insecure ballot drop boxes).
Is this bill real reform? Hell no … this is South Carolina. “Real reform” never happens here. On any important issue.
Which, of course, have yielded chronically abysmal outcomes on multiple fronts …
If real reform were within the realm of possibility, though … what would it look like in the Palmetto State when it comes to election reform?
Good question …
To start on this subject, I want to go all the way back to April 2008 – when I laid out a comprehensive reform agenda for the Palmetto State called the ‘95 Theses.’ That document included a recommendation (Thesis No. 6, for those of you keeping score at home) to place the office of secretary of state within the governor’s cabinet and task its holder with serving as the “chief election officer” for the state.
Currently, the secretary of state is elected independently – and has no role in administering elections. That job falls (in part, anyway) to the executive director of the S.C. State Election Commission (SCVotes.gov) – an administrator who serves at the pleasure of five commissioners appointed by the governor.
As I recently noted, such an arrangement strikes me as superfluous … seriously, why not make the chief election officer directly accountable to the governor? Who needs a bunch of taxpayer-funded middlemen?
The real structural question, though, isn’t who is in charge at the state level. Don’t get me wrong: That matters … but the real structural question is how to create a system capable of holding municipal and county-level election commissions accountable.
Because that is not happening.
And guess who appoints the vast majority of these commissioners? Yeah … the same people appointing our judges.
So, before addressing rules of voter eligibility or specific safeguards which ought to be in place regarding ballots, South Carolina must 1) establish an election officer who reports directly to the governor, and 2) make all local election commissions political subdivisions of the state.
Otherwise, we will continue to see scandals like this …
Once the proper structure is in place, it’s time to address the steps necessary to insure the integrity of the ballot box.
In May of 2020 – seven months before the contested fall election – I addressed the issue of mail-in voting extensively, arguing that if properly implemented it could actually be more secure than in-person voting (especially if it created a more definitive “paper trail” of ballots requested and cast).
Does that mean I think mail-in voting should replace conventional elections? No …
“Voting by mail should never replace in-person voting,” I noted at the time. “Should it be an option for those who legitimately need it? Absolutely. And should it be available to anyone based on voter preference? Perhaps. But elections should still be held on election day – and people who are able to vote in person should do so.”
Beyond that, mail-in voting should be upon request only. In other words, only those who specifically ask for an absentee ballot should be sent one. And submission of a valid photo identification should always be part of the application process.
No valid ID, no ballot. Period. And yes, I know this is an issue I was on the wrong side of years ago …
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Second, there ought to be a tightly compressed time frame regarding the availability of these ballots. In other words, mail-in ballots should only be sent to voters within the final two-to-three weeks of an election cycle. Also, strict deadlines regarding the receipt of mail-in applications – and mail-in ballots – should be established and rigorously enforced.
Third, anyone applying for an absentee ballot – or submitting one via mail – should be compelled to sign a form acknowledging that attempting to obtain or submit a ballot on behalf of anyone other than themselves is committing both election fraud and mail fraud.
And finally, severe penalties (including jail time) must be imposed for those who are found guilty of committing the aforementioned fraud.
Again, none of this should be complicated. And none of it should be controversial. As I noted recently in discussing Georgia’s new election law, our objective should be simple: Safeguarding one of our most fundamental freedoms from fraud and abuse.
That starts with securing the ballot …
What do you think? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our always-engaging comments section below …
THE POLL …
Should South Carolina adopt tougher voter identification laws as part of a comprehensive election reform bill?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats – including that retro Atlanta Braves’ lid pictured above (worn upon request).
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