Legislation to Achieve Election Integrity … a Policy Statement
WTNJ – Election Integrity is a nonpartisan coalition of citizens. We are concerned about the integrity of the election process, voter rolls, systems, procedures, and administrative structures which work together to conduct and tabulate elections in New Jersey. Our election system should be as simple, transparent, objective as possible while providing equal protection to every qualified voter. We post on this page policy issues, debates, hearings and draft legislation for your attention and engagement. Don’t just read; ENGAGE and ADVOCATE – or others will set the agenda for you. (also see our Resources page)
1. Paper Ballots & Local Tabulation of Votes
We believe there is enough evidence of systemic problems in electronic voting machines and interconnections through the internet. No convictions have occurred, yet, because government contracts with machine and systems vendors prevent access for full forensic audits. We believe we should return to a simple, manual, verifiable paper ballot process to save money and improve public trust.
We also believe the initial counting of votes should be done manually at the voting district level immediately following the close of the polls, and then immediately be publicly posted. A major problem is that the electronic components and connections of “machines” such as tabulators or voting machines cannot be examined by auditors to prove that no manipulation of counts takes place. (Think of the car manufacturer which programmed its auto electronics to “report” satisfactory emissions, but the computer then did entirely different things to make the car perform better. In other words, fraud.) The same can be done with any machine, tabulator, voting machine or other system — and the public cannot audit any of it. Neither can elections officials, given current contract standards.
Conducting an immediate manual count of paper ballots and posting results immediately would make subsequent manipulation of votes very obvious and difficult. It would also provide greater assurance to voters that their vote was counted as they intended. New Jersey’s structure is perfect for this: each voting district, by law, is to represent between 250 and 750 voters. It doesn’t take long to tabulate 750 votes. This change would also eliminate the different rules (and systems) that can be in operation in different counties. It would also save millions of dollars in equipment, and likely produce much faster tabulation of key election results.
2. Citizenship Verification
We believe that every legally qualified person should have the right to vote. The Constitutions of the United States and New Jersey restrict voting eligibility to “Citizens.” The ability to choose your elected representatives is one of the foremost privileges of citizenship. But for many decades, New Jersey and many other states have not verified the Citizenship of persons registering to vote (they ask each registrant to affirm that they’re being honest – it’s not verified). Therefore, we believe each person seeking to vote should be required to demonstrate Citizenship at the polls or in advance of any election, so their voter registration can be updated to document Citizenship – and so that the vote of those who are legally qualified is not diluted by those who are not legally eligible.
3. A Fresh Start
Our state and federal legislatures have made what should be a straight-forward and understandable process overwhelmingly complex and convoluted. Our elections officials are overwhelmed by conflicting, confusing rules that often change. Current federal laws require keeping names on the voter rolls for up to 5 years after evidence exists that a voter has moved. Governors have abused emergency powers to completely change election systems. All of this decays public confidence in the most basic civic activity of the people: their vote. A very strong argument can be made that we should delete the entire voter registration, and start fresh with everyone being required to register again.
4. Voter ID
To protect the value of the vote for every legally qualified voter, we believe it is important to promote and institute a basic program to verify the legal qualification of each voter. The traditional signature verification process is not workable and is widely disregarded. We do not advocate for biometrics. Arguments that voter identification is discriminatory are false, as we require ID to buy cigarettes, airplane tickets, antihistamines, prescription drugs and to drive a car. Those who want an election system that can be abused oppose voter identification.
Legislation pending: A113
5. Absentee & “Mail-in Ballots”
The use of absentee and mail-in ballots should be restricted to Specific Requests by voters, unique to each election, and should not be a widespread or automatic voting method. There are legitimate needs for an ability for military members stationed away from home, the disabled, those on work assignments out of town, etc., to have the ability to “absentee” vote. We believe we should revert to the old system where voters must specifically request and sign for such a mail-in ballot. This should not be widespread or routine for the vast majority of voters. The opportunities for coercion, fraud, misuse and external influence are too great.
6. End Acceptance of Ballots After the Polls Close
Many legislatures, including New Jersey, have changed the rules to allow receipt of ballots days AFTER the close of the polls. To prevent election manipulation from “ballots received after election day,” rules should be changed to count only those ballots received by the close of polls on Election Day (before anyone knows vote counts), with no exceptions. Using post marks instead of receipt as the cutoff opens a wide opportunity for post-election manipulation.
7. End “Early Counting”
Present laws allow mailed-in ballots and ballots deposited in drop-boxes to be counted BEFORE the close of polls on Election Day. These early counts get wide distribution – and by showing trends – can lead to questionable or illegal actions to boost votes for candidates whose count is low. Out of fairness and to avoid ballot manipulation, no results should be counted or reported before ALL votes are cast.
8. Voter Registration
We believe that persons not currently registered but who wish to vote in any election should be required to document their citizenship and register at least 30 days in advance of that election, to allow time for accurate processing and verification of their voter registration data.
“Same day registration” and other forms of last-minute registration significantly increase the potential for fraud, and deny officials time to accurately process registration information.
9. The States and Counties Should Control All Voter Registration Systems and Data – Locally
At present, the State Voter Registration database is maintained, programmed, stored and manipulated off site by a commercial vendor. It is subject – out of view – to all sorts of external influence. We should change the law to require the State to operate and maintain its voter registration database locally, and officials should be assigned, by name, and made legally and criminally liable for any manipulation of the system. We need to hold people accountable. It should be illegal to allow an offsite software company to manage and retain control over voter registration information.
Similarly, no funding should be accepted from outside organizations which can influence the State’s systems.
10. Observation & Transparency
The right-to-vote, and the need for the public to be able to validate that election procedures are properly followed require that registered voters have the right at all times to observe all election procedures – and not be limited to New Jersey’s past restrictive “challenger” procedures. We believe ANY registered voter should have the right to observe (and this should not be restricted to candidate or political party appointees). This absolute right to observe should extend to the right to audit (below).
The right to independent observation should be extended to all aspects of vote-related operational processing (e.g., creation and loading of software/memory stick data into central systems or machines, signature verification, mail-in ballot processing, opening ballot envelopes [both by hand and machine], scanning, transport of ballots, storage of paper ballots and all election records).
Laws should be changed to prohibit any contract which prohibits, prevents or obscures analysis and audit of the schema, firmware, software or data instructions and storage systems, interconnections and external access to elections databases, voting machines, tabulation machines, optical scanners and any and all other equipment or mechanisms used in the collection, storage, maintenance or operation of elections data. But our preference, noted above, is for paper ballots and local manual tabulation at the close of polls.
11. Ability to Audit
Only those contracts, procedures and voting methods which allow observation and full forensic audit should be allowed. Use of electronic voting and tabulation machines should be immediately stopped, in part because government contracts with manufacturers preclude inspection of most of the mechanics, firmware, software, programming, and monitoring of the use of any equipment interconnections (wired, wireless, optical or by any other means). Every activity and computer action related to voter registration, qualification, voter rolls, the conduct of voting, vote tabulation, conveyance of results and all other aspects of voting should have the means, approved by Certified Public Accountants and Auditors, for each action to be audited and verified after the fact. Every procedure and action — including “programming” machines, “software updates” and “software maintenance” — should be subject to public audit. For programming and updates, the intended code should be reviewed BEFORE being uploaded to machines. Every document, transmission and recorded/memory item must be securely retained for audit for at least 22 months following any election, and specific individuals should be assigned, by name, with responsibility to assure this security, and should be subject to personal criminal charges for failure to protect the security of these items.
12. Drop Boxes
We believe drop boxes should be strictly limited to the lobbies of public government buildings, in well lit areas with nearby parking, and allowed only when under 24-hour video and audio surveillance which the public can view in real time. Surveillance equipment should be monitored and recorded, available as open public records upon request, and any interruption of surveillance should result in immediate (within 15 minutes of interruption) closure of the lobby and drop box involved.
13. Duration of “an Election”; Early Voting
The purpose of conducting elections on a single “election day” was and is to reduce opportunities for abuse of the election process. We favor eliminating early or “advance” voting, except for absentee ballots as described above, or in person only at the office of each County Clerk.
14. Ballot Harvesting
“Ballot Harvesting” is a term used to describe various election policies, rules and laws which allow political parties to go door-to-door to the homes of voters, especially AFTER the close of polls, to solicit votes. Often, such policies invite intimidation tactics or manipulation of the elderly and voters who are not well informed. Ballot Harvesting should not be allowed.
15. The Issue of “Phantom Voters”
Various federal laws, court opinions, and state policies currently require that the name of a registered voter remain on the voter rolls for up to 5 years after indications exist that the person has moved. Such rules only exist to invite mischief in voting. Every election official in New Jersey fully knows about these rules; most object to them, but must follow the law. The laws should be changed to allow for immediate removal of a voter’s name from the registration books once a formal verification process provides evidence of a move or death. Notice of the removal should be sent to the last known address. As above, provision should be made so that any legally qualified voter can re-register easily and quickly, at least 30 days in advance of the election, by providing evidence of Citizenship and current residency. This change would significantly reduce the issue of “Phantom Votes” – a vote cast in the name of a “voter” who has not voted recently and likely no longer lives at the listed residence.
We welcome your opinion, using our “Contact Us” form.
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