- - Thursday, December 3, 2020

Fair elections require legitimacy and transparency. Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, we need reform in the voting system.

First, every state and jurisdiction must require some form of photo identification for people to vote. Years ago, I signed that requirement in Wisconsin. We even included language that provides state identification cards — with proper documentation — for free at Division of Motor Vehicles offices across the state. Opponents claimed the law would be a barrier to voting, yet Wisconsin continues to have some of the highest voter turnout in the country. To ensure the integrity of the vote, every state should have a law requiring photo ID to vote.

Second, in addition to voter identification, states must pass laws to provide for greater verification of the legitimacy of each voter. This should include things like sending notices to people who have not voted at a specific location in some time and then removing their names from the voting lists if they fail to respond within a reasonable time limit.

Third, ensure that every jurisdiction follows the election laws in each state. The president’s legal team offers legitimate claims about the lack of election officials following every part of the law in states like mine.

It is clear that some voters failed to fill in their addresses on the envelopes for absentee ballots in Wisconsin. State law clearly states that each voter must fill in their address on the envelope for the ballot to be valid. There is evidence that some of the envelopes received at local voting locations did not include addresses filled in by the voter.

State law also requires people requesting absentee ballots to do so in written form. Again, there is evidence that some voters did not request their absentee ballot in the proper form under the law. There are also serious questions about the clerks in Milwaukee and Dane counties telling voters to claim that they were “indefinitely confined” because of coronavirus so they could cast an absentee ballot without providing photo identification. Under state law, “indefinitely confined” is supposed to be for voters in places like nursing homes.

The problem in these scenarios is that there is no practical legal remedy after the ballots have been cast. In Wisconsin, the absentee ballots are taken out of the envelope and placed into the voting machine. Once cast, there is no way to retrieve them. And an order to take a random number of ballots out of the count could disenfranchise people who voted legally in-person on the day of the election.

Looking ahead, election laws must be enforced while voting takes place. States and local governments must put resources into improving the integrity of elections, and that starts with enforcing the laws.

Fourth, states need to affirm same-day voting requirements and limit absentee voting to legitimate cases of people being truly confined to places like nursing homes. Even in these cases, there must be ways to confirm that the individual voters are identified and are able to make independent decisions about voting.

According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of the 166 countries surveyed before the coronavirus pandemic used postal ballots in their national elections. The rest voted on Election Day. Similarly, the report shows that 209 of the 227 countries, for which the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network has data, cast their votes by manually marking ballots.

With this in mind, it makes sense we consider joining the rest of the counties in the world and vote in person with paper ballots. Without a doubt, this would be a major step in restoring integrity in the electoral process.

This should be done by the states, however, and not the federal government. Politicians in Washington, D.C., will be tempted to pass election law reform, but it should be left to the states.

In particular, an inter-state compact is the best way to deal with election reforms. If a series of states passed identical laws, it would put pressure on the other states to do the same thing. The laws can include requiring a photo ID to vote, other identification reforms, stiffer requirements to enforce laws, same-day voting with paper ballots, and strict limits on any other form of voting for people confined to nursing homes or deployed in the military.

One final thought: Election officials at the local, county and state levels should be encouraged to conduct their business in the most transparent fashion possible to ensure confidence in the system of voting in this country. Scenes of windows being covered and entrances being blocked only furthers concerns about the process. If votes are not tabulated by a reasonable hour, stop counting, secure the ballots and wait until the start of business hours on the following day to restart the count.

Integrity and transparency are the keys to ensuring the integrity of the voting process. The states should start working on passing reforms early in 2021, long before the next major election.

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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