Smokey Shott

Some of you probably remember the hotly contested and controversial 2000 presidential election that was highlighted by arguments about vote fraud; voter suppression; hanging, dimpled and pregnant chads; changes in who led in vote totals throughout election night; and legal challenges that delayed the decision for over a month.

Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, called a halt to the craziness, leaving Republican George W. Bush, with his 537-vote margin, the winner of Florida’s 25 Electoral Votes, and the victory over Democrat Al Gore.

In 2002, Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to address the wide range of issues brought to its attention by state and local officials and others throughout the country.

Two years later, it was evident that HAVA had not resolved the arguments over state laws requiring voters to provide photo identification that were generating backlash amid claims of disenfranchisement, new concerns about new voting technology that led to fears of counting errors, and worries about growing numbers of absentee and mail ballots that raised concerns about the possibility of fraud.

“In response to these concerns, former President Jimmy Carter [a Democrat] and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, [a Republican] agreed to co-chair a bipartisan commission, housed at Washington D.C.’s American University, to examine these and other outstanding election reform issues. The final report, titled ‘Building Confidence in U.S. Elections,’ stressed the important role of elections in the nation’s democracy,” according to the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

The report made 87 recommendations, including:

• A national system to connect state and local voter registration lists

• Voter identification based on a universally available REAL ID card

• Policies to improve voter access for all communities, as well as innovations like vote centers and voter information lookup sites

• Stronger efforts to combat fraud, especially in absentee voting

• Auditable paper backups for all voting technology

Of the recommendations, the Daily Signal commented: “They called on states to increase voter ID requirements; to be leery of mail-in voting; to halt ballot harvesting; to maintain voter lists, in part to ensure dead people are promptly removed from them; to allow election observers to monitor ballot counting; and to make sure voting machines are working properly. They also wanted the media to refrain from calling elections too early and from touting exit polls.”

“Had Congress and state governments adopted many of the panel’s recommendations, the 2020 post-election mess between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden might have been avoided,” said Carter-Baker Commission member Kay C. James, now the president of The Heritage Foundation, in the Daily Signal report.

“So many of the problems we’re now hearing about in the aftermath of the 2020 election could have been avoided had states heeded the advice of the Commission on Federal Election Reform,” James continued. “Simple protections against fraud, like voter ID and updated voter registration lists, make perfect sense if we truly believe that every vote must count. Election officials should take another look at the commission’s recommendations and make sure they’re doing everything possible to protect the integrity of our elections,” she said.

Organizations concerned with election security have suggested many ideas for secure voting, which include:

• Voter rolls must be updated and accurate prior to every election.

• Photo IDs will be required, and assistance must be provided to those with difficulties getting IDs made.

• Voting will be in person on Election Day, except when voters will be away on Election Day, or are physically unable to vote in person. In these cases, ballots will be requested and furnished to registered voters, will be signed and verified by signature matching and returned to the designated location.

• Election Days should be named as holidays, or voting should be accommodated by employers.

• There will be no ballot harvesting.

• Votes are to be made on paper ballots; may be counted by machines that are not online; must be verified by hand-counting done with transparency.

• Post-election audits will be conducted that can verify that outcomes are correct.

The National Election Defense Coalition makes the case for using paper ballots: “Hand Counted Paper Ballots are considered the “Gold Standard” of democratic elections. Only paper ballots provide physical proof of the voter’s intent. Paper ballots can be safely recounted in case of a contested result. Counting paper ballots in public provides 100 percent oversight and transparency. Unlike computer voting systems paper ballots can’t break down or malfunction; are not programmed secretly by unaccountable private corporations; and cannot be hacked or rigged.”

We are reminded that every registered citizen has the right to vote, and therefore it should be made convenient and easy. Yes, voting is a right. But it is also extremely important in our country.

And because of its tremendous importance, convenience in voting must yield to procedures that provide the highest level of security we can achieve. Some inconvenience is a small price to pay for being able to trust that the election process and procedures are as secure as possible, and that every legitimate vote is properly counted.

Our states must secure their elections.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist. Contact him at

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