WE NEED A NEW LAW FOR NATIONAL ELECTIONSby MARVIN L. COVAULT, LT GENERAL, US ARMY, RETIRED.November 21, 2020
The integrity of national elections is a key underpinning of our democracy. It is right there with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But based on recent events, tens of millions of Americans have lost faith in the election system. Additionally, every eligible voter must understand that with rights and privileges there are personal responsibilities to earn that right.
If the system cannot be trusted, democracy can fail.
States’ rights is another concept passed down from the brilliance and foresight of the founding fathers. It is a fact that voter regulations and procedures vary from state to state and in some states from county to county. It is also a fact that states have floundered, are inconsistent, and have not earned the right to act independently when it comes to national elections.
The 2020 national election is over and it would be easy to just take a deep breath and leave it behind us. But that is irresponsible because much of what happened in 2020 should never be repeated. Without action to the contrary, we will see it again in 2024. We need a base-line of national norms and standards for elections passed down from the federal level.
What follows is a list of what needs to be fixed and the verbiage for the federal law.
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE 2020 ELECTIONS?COMMENT: Election procedures in 2020 were a knee-jerk reaction to the covid-19 breakout. Tens of millions of mail-in ballots were put into circulation opening multiple opportunities for fraudulent use, the harvesting of ballots, postal ineptitude, differing deadline dates for mail-in delivery, differing deadlines for completion of counting, must they be post-marked, what happens if not signed, what if they are not witnessed, how to verify the validity of signatures and on and on and on. All this nonsense was put into play because of the pandemic when in fact it was much safer to mask up, stand in a social-distanced line and vote in person than to go to the grocery store. To compound the problem, states were making decisions and changing rules on the fly as election day got closer and closer. What is more egregious is that we knew going into the election year that there were problems all across America; some examples:
May, 2020, California determined they had 1.5 million individuals who remained registered even though they no longer were eligible to vote.
Oregon: A survey found that 5% of registered voters admitted that other people marked their mail-in ballots; 2.4% said someone else signed their ballot.
Virginia: An investigation found 592 examples where registrants were simultaneously registered in another state.
New Mexico: The Public Interest Legal Foundation found more than 3,000 individuals registered multiple times; 1,700 registrants who are dead; 1,500 voters aged 100 or above, 64 of whom are over 120 years old.
The Election Assistance Commission found that 28.3 million ballots in federal elections between 2012 and 2018 were lost or disappeared in the mail. Conclusion: These examples of ineptitude and opportunity for fraud are an indication of the depth of the problems across the country. Federal guidance must be used to correct the situation before the 2024 elections.
As a result of mail-in ballots the election counting centers were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of documents to process. Hand-counting the mass of mail-in ballots provided tens of millions of opportunities for miscounting, intentional or otherwise.
THE LAW SHOULD SAY: THE INTENT OF THIS FEDERAL LAW IS THAT THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS WILL PHYSICALLY GO TO A LOCAL POLLING SITE, RECORD THEIR VOTE PRIVATELY ON A PAPER COPY AND PERSONALLY INSERT THE COMPLETED VOTE INTO THE ELECTRONIC COUNTING TERMINAL. THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE VOTING PROCEDURE IS TO REQUEST AN ABSENTEE BALLOT FROM WHERE THEY ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE.
FURTHERMORE, THE INTENT OF THE SPECIFIC VOTING PROCEDURES DESCRIBED BELOW IS TO ENSURE TRANSPARENCY OF THE PRECESS, ACCOUNTABILITY BY ALL ELECTION PERSONNEL, AND VOTER FAITH THAT THE PROCESS IS EROR FREE.
WHEN SHOULD ELECTIONS BE HELD?COMMENTS: Given the importance of a federal election, one would think we should do everything possible to get every eligible voter excited about going to the poles. But, we don’t.
Our Constitution (article 1, section 4) specifically gives Congress the power to regulate the, “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections.”
In 1845 Congress passed a law designating, “The first Tuesday following the first Monday in November” as the time for Federal elections. In 1845 most of the US population was agrarian and it was not uncommon for farmers to have an all-day round trip by horse and wagon to reach a polling place.
Why November? In most of the country the weather can be bad in the winter. Spring planting as well as summer and early fall harvesting were very busy times. By November, the crops were in and the majority of agrarian voters had time on their hands; hence November elections. November is still a good time of year to vote but Tuesday, a work day across the country, makes no sense and actually discourages eligible voters from making special arrangements to be available to vote.
Another question is, why only one day? We should spread out the voting timeline and take away most of the excuses for not voting.
THE LAW SHOULD SAY: NATIONAL ELECTIONS WILL TAKE PLACE BEGINNING ON THE FIRST SATURDAY IN NOVEMBER AND RUN FROM 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. DAILY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY AND MONDAY. MONDAY OF THE VOTING WEEKEND WILL BE A NATIONAL ELECTION HOLIDAY WITH ONLY ESSENTIAL FACILITIES OPEN.
EARLY VOTING IN ALL STATES WILL BEGIN ON OCTOBER 20TH.
VOTER REGISTRATION:COMMENT: To attempt to eliminate persons from voting more than once, voting in different states, voting for someone else, voting for a deceased person, voters must be pre-registered before election day.Voter registration is an area where citizens must demonstrate personal responsibility. They can only be registered in one location at a time. Those in the process of moving from one state to another must make arrangement to be registered in one location and, if necessary, request an absentee ballot.
THE LAW SHOULD SAY: VOTERS MUST BE PRE-REGISTERED BEFORE VOTING BEGINS ON OCTOBER 20TH.
WHEN ATTEMPTING TO REGISTER, AN INDIVIDUAL MUST HAVE A VALID STATE IDENTIFICATION. THAT IDENTIFICATION MUST HAVE BEEN OBTAINED IN AN OFFICIAL STATE DEPARTMENT (DIVISION OF MOTOR VEHICLES, FOR EXAMPLE) AND PART OF THE PROCESS WAS PROOF OF A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.
A CITIZEN MAY BE REGISTERED IN ONLY ONE LOCATION. MULTIPLE REGISTRATION IS A FEDERAL OFFENCE AND PUNISHABLE BY A $25,000 FINE FOR EACH OCCURANCE.
BY SEPTEMBER FIRST, BEFORE EACH NATIONAL ELECTION, EVERY STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL MUST CERTIFY THAT THEY HAVE INVESTIGATED THE VOTER REGISTRATION ROLLS AND DETERMINED THAT THE ROLLS HAVE BEEN SCRUPULOUSLY REVIEWED AND ARE ACCURATE TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT POSSIBLE.
VOTER FRAUD IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE. PRIOR TO EVERY NATIONAL ELECTION, THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION WILL PLACE INVESTIGATORS ON ALERT TO BE ABLE TO BEGIN A VOTER FRAUD INVESTIGATION WITHIN HOURS OF BEING NOTIFIED. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN THE STATE CENTRAL VOTER REGISTRATION IS ALERTED TO THE POSSIBILITY THAT SOMEONE HAS VOTED TWICE, THE FBI WILL BE IMMEDIATELY NOTIFIED. EVERY STATE WILL HAVE A CENTRAL REGISTRY OF ALL THEIR REGISTERED VOTERS THAT IS IMMEDIATELY ACCESSIBLE BY LOCAL ELECTION OFFICIALS. ONCE A PERSON HAS VOTED THAT INFORMATION MUST BE AUTOMATICALLY AND IMMEDIATELY ANNOTATED ON THE STATE REGISTRY. IF THAT PERSON IS ATTEMPTING TO VOTE MORE THAN ONCE AN ALERT WILL APPEAR ON THE STATE CENTRALIZED REGISTARY, THE FBI WILL BE IMMEDIATELY NOTIFIED AND OPEN AN INVESTIGATION.
IN-PERSON VOTING SITE ORGANIZATION:COMMENT: Over the past few weeks, post-election, we have seen videos on TV of ballot counting operations in large rooms with dozens of people standing around, desks stacked with unattended ballots and boxes and a look of total chaos.
THE LAW SHOULD SAY:PERSONNEL WORKING THE IN-PERSON VOTING SITES WILL BE ORGANIZED AS FOLLOWS. ALL OF THE WORK WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED BY TEAMS. EACH TEAM WILL CONSIST OF A PERSON AFFILIATED WITH EACH OF THE MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES PLUS AN OBSERVER.
THE EXECUTIVE TEAM WILL OVERSEE ALL OPERATIONS FROM 7 a.m. THROUGH 7 p.m. EACH VOTING DAY AND ENSURE THAT EVERY PROCEDURE PERSCRIBED IN THE LAW IS BEING ADHERED TO. AN EXECUTIVE TEAM MEMBER MUST SECURE THE VOTING FACILITY AFTER THE LAST DEPARTING ELECTION WORKER.
THE ADMISISTRATIVE TEAMS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IN-PROCESSING ALL VOTERS. THE COUNTING TEAMS WILL MANUALLY COUNT ALL IN-PERSON AND ABSENTEE PRESIDENTIAL BALLOTS.
THE ACCOUNTING TEAM WILL VERIFY THE COUNT OF EACH BOX OF COUNTED BALLOTS, SECURE THE COUNTED-BALLOTS STORAGE ROOM AND MAINTAIN THE TOTAL PRESIDENTIAL VOTE COUNT.
AT ALL TIMES THERE WILL BE A CHAIN-OF-CUSTODY FOR EVERY SINGLE BALLOT IN THE HANDS OF ONE OF THESE TEAMS. EVERYONE INVOLVED WITH THE VOTING PROCESS WILL BE REQUIRED TO TAKE AN OATH AND SIGN IT.
THE OATH IS AS FOLLOWS: I (STATED NAME) DO SOLEMLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT I WILL FAITHFULLY FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS IN FEDERSL LAW xxxxxxx. I SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT I HAVE READ THE LAW AND UNDERSTEAND WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ME. I ALSO UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE TO DEPART FROM THE SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS THEREIN AND THAT I AM SUBJECT TO FEDERAL PROSECUTION. I AM WILLINGLY SIGNING THIS OATH, SO HELP ME GOD.
THE PROCEDURES CONTAINED IN THIS LAW WILL BE PROMINENTLY POSTED IN EVERY POLLING LOCATION. IN-PERSON VOTING:THE LAW SHOULD SAY: IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THERE IS A NATION-WIDE ELECTION SYSTEM IN WHICH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE CONFIDENCE. THE SYSTEM MUST BE SET UP TO INHIBIT ALL FRADULENT VOTING ACTIVITIES, ENSURE THE ACCURACY OF THE COUNT AND MAINTAIN A CHAIN-OF-CUSTODY.
IN-PERSON VOTING WILL BE THE PRIMARY METHOD OF VOTING. ABSENTEE BALLOTS WILL BE THE ONLY AUTHORISED BACKUP PROCEDURE. MAIL-IN VOTING IS PROHIBITED. BALLOT COLLECTION (“HARVESTING”) OUTSIDE THE VOTING LOCATION IS PROHIBITED.
IN ORDER TO INSURE THE MOST ACCURATE AND TIME-SENSITIVE PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS, THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES WILL BE FOLLOWED TO THE LETTER IN EVERY VOTING LOCATION.
- UPON ARRIVAL EACH VOTER MUST PRODUCE AN IDENTIFICATION WHICH SHOWS THEIR LOCAL ADDRESS AND WAS OBTAINED WITH A SOCIAL SECURITY CARD AS PROOF OF WHO THEY ARE.
- EACH VOTER WILL RECEIVE A BALLOT CONSISTING OF TWO PIECES OF PAPER. PAGE ONE CONTAINS ONLY THE NAMES OF THE PRESIDENT/VICE PRESIDENT CANDIDATES AND, IF APPROPRIATE, A NATIONAL REFERENDUM ISSUE. THE SECOND PAPER IS FOR ALL STATE AND LOCAL CANDIDATES. THE VOTER WILL BE REQUIRED TO SIGN EACH PIECE OF PAPER STATING THAT THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE THEY ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE, THAT THEY HAVE NOT SIMULTANEOUSLY OBTAINED AN ABSENTEE BALLOT AND THAT THEY UNDERSTAND VOTING MULTIPLE TIMES IS A FEDERAL OFFENCE.
- THE VOTER COMPLETES FILLING OUT THE TWO-PAGE BALLOT AND PRESENTS THE BALLOTS TO THE PERSON OPERATING THE ELECTRONIC TABULATING MACHINE. BOTH PAPER BALLOTS ARE ENTERED INTO THE MACHINE. THE TABULATING MACHINE IS THE PRIMARY METHOD OF COUNTING VOTES FOR THE STATE/LOCAL CANDIDATES. THE PRIMARY COUNTING METHOD FOR THE PRESIDENT/VICE PRESIDENT BALLOT IS HAND COUNTING. THE TABULATING MACHINE BECOMES A BACK-UP COUNT IN THE EVENT OF A CATASTROPHIC LOSS OF PAPER BALLOTS BY FIRE, FLOOD, THEFT, ETC.
- THE PRESEDENTAL PAPER BALLOT WILL BE RETRIEVED FROM THE TABULATING MACHINE AND PRESENTED TO THE COUNTING TEAM. THE COUNTING TEAM WILL CONSIST OF TWO PEOPLE OF DIFFERING POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION PLUS A COUNTING MONITOR. THE COUNTING TEAM PROCESS WILL PROCEED AS FOLLOWS:
-NUMBER THE BALLOT IN THE UPPER RIGHT-HAND CORNER. IF, FOR EXAMPLE, THE BALLOT STORAGE BOXES HOLD 500 BALLOTS, THE NUMBERING WILL CONTINUE FROM #1 THROUGH # 500.
-EACH COUNTER AND THE MONITOR WILL INITIAL UNDER THE PAGE NUMBER OF EVER BALLOT AND RECORD THE DATE AND TIME, THEREBY ESTABLISHING CHAIN-OF -CUSTODY DURIGN THE COUNTING PROCESS.
-EACH COUNTER WILL BE ASSOCIATED WITH A PARTICULAR CANDIDATE THROUGHOUT THE COUNTING PROCESS. EACH COUNTER WILL KEEP A TALLY OF THE BALLOTS FOR THEIR CANDIDATE.
-AFTER EACH 100 COUNTED BALLOTS THE COUNTERS AND THE MONITOR WILL CONFIRM THAT THE COMBINED TALLYS ACCOUNT FOR 100, 200, ETC. FOR EXAMPLE, 53 FOR CANDIDATE “A” AND 47 FOR CANDIDATE “B”; 97 FOR CANDIDATE “A” AND 103 FOR CANDIDATE “B”, ETC THROUGH 500. IF THE TALLYS DO NOT TOTAL AN EVEN CENTURY NUMBER, THE BALLOTS WILL BE IMMEDIATELY RECOUNTED. THE COUNTING PROCESS IS SIMPLE AND QUICK; NUMBER THE BALLOT, INITIAL THE BALLOT, RECORD THE DATE AND TIME AND ENTER THE WINNING CANDIDATE ON A COUNTER TEAM TALLY SHEET CAN BE COMPLETED IN 10-15 SECONDS. THEREFORE, ONE COUNTING TEAM CAN PROCESS BALLOTS FROM MANY VOTING BOOTHS AND NEVER JEOPARDIZE THE SECURITY OF THE BALLOTS.
5. UPON COMPLETION OF COUNTING THE BALLOTS TO FILL A STORAGE BOX, THE ACCOUNTING TEAM WILL BE CALLED IN. THEY WILL PERFORM FIVE FUNCTIONS.
ONE: INSTRUCT THE COUNTERS TO SIGN AND RECORD THE DATE AND TIME ON THEIR INDIVIDUAL TALLY SHEETS AND PLACE THEM INSIDE THE STORAGE BOX WITH THE NUMBERED BALLOTS.
TWO: SEAL THE BALLOT BOX WITH PERMANENT ADHESIVE TAPE.
THREE: PLACE A PERMANENT-ADHESIVE BALLOT BOX ACCOUNTING SHEET ON TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE BOX. ALL MEMBERS OF THE COUNTING AND ACCOUNTING TEAMS FOR THAT BOX WILL SIGN THE SHEET INDICATING ALSO THE DATE AND TIME. THE BOX WILL BE NUMBERED AND THE TOTAL VOTES FOR EACH CANDIDATE WILL BE ENTERED ON THAT EXTERIOR BOX ACCOUNTING SHEET.
FOUR: THE BOX NUMBER AND ITS ASSOCIATED VOTES FOR EACH CANDIDATE WILL BE ENTERED ONTO THE ACCOUNTING TEAM’S OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL VOTE TALLY DOCUMENT.
FIVE: THE BOX WILL BE IMMEDIATELY MOVED TO A SECURED STORAGE ROOM AND LOGGED IN WITH ACCOUNTING TEAM SIGNATURES AND DATE AND TIME. THAT ROOM MUST BE OFF LIMITS TO ALL EXCEPT THE EXECUTIVE AND ACCOUNTING TEAM MEMBERS. AT NO TIME CAN A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL FROM ANY TEAM ENTER THE STORAGE ROOM ALONE OR WITH AN INDIVIDUAL OF THE SAME POLITICAL AFFILIATION.
IF, FOR SOME PRECISE REASON, A BOX MUST BE REMOVED FROM SECURE STORAGE, IT MUST BE DONE SO BY AN EXECUTIVE TEAM AND THEY MUST MAINTAIN CHAIN-OF-CUSTODY UNTIL THEY LOG THE BOX BACK INTO SECURE STORAGE.
ABSENTEE VOTING:COMMENT: Currently every state has different rules and timelines for absentee voting; procedures need to be standardized.THE LAW SHOULD SAY: ABSENTEE VOTERS MUST FILL OUT AND MAIL THE FEDERAL MANDATED STANDARD VOTER REGISTRATION AND ABSENTEE BALLOT REQUEST TO THE VOTER REGISTRATION OFFICE WHERE THEY ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE. THAT REQUEST WILL REQUIRE THE VOTER TO SPECIFY THE REASON THEY CANNOT BE ON HAND TO VOTE LOCALLY, SUCH AS:
-BEING UNABLE TO GET TO THE POLLING PLACE DUE TO ILLNESS, INJURY, OR DISABILITY.
-BEING ON BUSINESS TRAVEL OR VACATION OUTSIDE OF THE COUNTY OR CITY OF RESIDENCE ON ELECTION DAYS.
-BEING A STUDENT AT AN OUT-OF-STATE COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY.
-MILITARY PERSONNEL STATIONED OUT OF STATE OR OVERSEAS.
THE VOTER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAILING THE ABSENTEE BALLOT REQUEST NOT LATER THAN SEPTEMBER 15TH. VOTER REGISTRATION OFFICES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MAILING THE RETURN ABSENTEE BALLOT NOT LATER THAN OCTOBER 5TH. ABSENTEE VOTERS MUST MAIL IN THEIR COMPLETED BALLOT NOT LATER THAN OCTOBER 20TH OR HAND-CARRY THE BALLOT TO THEIR LOCAL ELECTION OFFICE NOT LATER THAN OCTOBER 20TH. COUNTING TEAMS MAY BEGIN COUNTING ABSENTEE BALLOTS UPON RECEIPT FROM THE VOTER USING THE SAME PROCEDURES DESCRIBED ABOVE FOR IN-PERSON VOTING. RELEASING VOTING RESULTS:COMMENT: The time-honored practice of having the media name the winners and losers throughout post-election night is insane. When polls close on the east coast and the media begins competing to see who can be first to name a winner, voter living in the western half of the continental US and especially Hawaii can become completely disincentivized to vote at all.
The combined effects of early in-person voting, counting absentee ballots as they arrive, and the fact that a counting team can process a presidential ballot in just a few seconds, provides assurances that overall State results should be available a short time after polls close across the country. No voting information can be released anywhere in the US before the polls close in Hawaii. We need the completely eliminate the all-night media guessing game.
THE LAW SHOULD SAY: AS POLLS CLOSE ACROSS A STATE, ACCOUNTING TEAMS WILL FAX A DATE/TIME SIGNED DOCUMENT WITH TOTAL PRESIDENTAL VOTE RESULTS TO THE STATE ELECTION HEADQUARTERS. THE VOTE TOTALS FROM THE FAX COPY WILL BE VERIFIED VIA A PERSONAL PHONE CALL FROM THE LOCAL EXECUTIVE TEAM LEADER TO THE STATE HEADQUARTERS EXECUTIVE TEAM.
ELECTION RESULTS WILL BE RELEASED SIMULTANEOUSLY ACROSS THE NATION BEGINNING AT 10 a.m. EASTERN STANDARD TIME THE DAY FOLLOWING ELECTION CLOSE. ANY RELEASE OF VOTING RESULTS BY ANYONE AT ANY TIME BEFORE THIS IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE AND WILL BE IMMEDIATELY INVESTIGATED BY THE FBI. RECOUNT PROCEDURES:COMMENT: Currently States determine what constitutes the necessity for a too-close-to-call recount. We need one standard national formula. The first step in a close race for president, would be to gain insight by comparing the electronic generated data with the hand-count data. If there is a significant discrepancy in the totals, launch an investigation.
THE LAW SHOULD SAY: RACES THAT END WITH COMPETING CANDIDATES’ VOTE COUNT WITHIN ONE HALF OF ONE PERCENT OF EACH OTHER WILL BE RECOUNTED. COMMENT: In the 2016 election approximately 100 million registered voters failed to cast a ballot. In the 2020 election tens of millions of voters lost confidence in the fidelity of the election system. The fate of our democracy depends on fixing the system.
If, those of you reading this agree with this proposed law, please send it to your Senators and Representatives.