Petersen and Bresso: Don't Federalize Elections in Response to COVID-19

RNLA Board of Governors member and former FEC Chairman Matthew Petersen and RNLA member and former EAC Chairwoman Gineen Bresso, both currently attorneys with Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky PLLC, wrote in The Hill about how Democrats in Washington are trying to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to federalize election administration and overwrite many state laws, systems, and rules before the election this fall.  They describe how important our decentralized election system is:

As the respective former chairs of the Federal Election Commission and the Election Assistance Commission, we believe the best, most effective steps require tailored assistance that recognizes the unique regional and local ways Americans cast their vote. Advocates of top-down, one-size-fits-all federal solutions miss the simple reality that what works in one place might not in another. We need to help states and localities, each with unique geography, custom and history, do it best their way.

Decentralized election administration in the United States is a feature, not a bug. It encourages innovation. Additionally, the diversity of election practices in our country protect against large-scale election fraud by forcing bad actors to overcome the imposing obstacle of manipulating not one, but multiple different systems. . . .

Any election legislation before November should center not on new federal mandates but on providing resources to states and localities without burdensome strings attached. Let those closest to the challenge manage their voting processes to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers alike. On-the-ground officials charged with the smooth maintenance and operations of our nation’s elections are best positioned to enhance the accessibility, accuracy and security of the November election amid the spread of COVID-19.

They also outlined how increased absentee voting may be needed this fall, but mail voting is not a panacea due to its inherent problems:

Expanding voting by mail is also one option states are exploring. While this is a viable alternative that allows citizens to vote while maintaining social distance, it does have shortcomings — a higher likelihood of uncounted ballots (due to deficiencies like missing signatures) and increased opportunities for voter fraud. It is also expensive, requiring jurisdictions to print more ballots, provide postage-paid envelopes, and purchase additional ballot-reading scanners — all while their revenues plummet due to the pandemic-caused economic slowdown. So while it might be part of the solution, mail-in balloting is no cure-all.

Even in a time of crisis, our decentralized election system is indeed "a feature, not a bug."  It allows states to tailor their efforts to protecting the voters and their votes to the situation in their particular area.