U.S. voters who are skeptical of voting outcomes in an election should make a point of volunteering as poll workers to get firsthand experience about their locality’s election process, an election administration expert has suggested.
David Becker, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, made the statement on June 21 at an event about building confidence in election outcomes that was organized by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a public policy think tank based in Washington.
“The best solution to understand how elections work and the fact that every ballot is tied to a registration record—in every case—and the fact that ballots are serial numbered, and that you can track a ballot back … You have to be a voter on the record, on the voter registration list, to get a ballot, and then a ballot can only be counted once in every tabulation device. And that to understand that, the best thing that every single person can do, please volunteer to be a poll worker,” Becker said.
“People who are poll workers understand this. They see this intuitively. They get to know this.”
The five AEI panelists agreed that confidence in the integrity of election outcomes has been falling for some time, but became much more widespread after the 2016 election, when Democrats doubted the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s win, and in the 2020 election, where some Republicans still don’t believe President Joe Biden was the legitimate winner.
AEI’s panel included Becker and Dan Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life and resident scholar in polling and public opinion at AEI. Cox suggested voters educate themselves on their locality’s election laws.
“But I think because our election laws are, you know, varied and fairly complex, there’s a lot of just lack of knowledge among the public about whatever the rules are. Who can vote? Who can’t vote? When you can vote,” Cox said. “So, I think the lack of knowledge about voting rules is really a significant impediment to voting.”
Cox mentioned a 2018 study conducted by a non-profit called the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), which aims to conduct independent research in relation to religion, culture, and public policy.
The study found that U.S. voters are extremely unsure about their state’s election laws, and when asked about a variety of real and fictional election laws, the majority weren’t sure which were true.
They were asked questions such as, can they vote “if they have not registered to vote before Election Day? If they are late in paying their taxes? If they are not a U.S. citizen? If they do not have a permanent address? If they have been convicted of a felony?”
In each scenario, a significant number of people indicated they were “not sure” if their state allows residents to vote under those conditions. As an example, a majority—60 percent—of those surveyed were uncertain about whether residents of their state can vote if they don’t have a permanent address.
John Fortier, an election scholar at AEI, noted that if states want to boost confidence in election results, they need to make sure elections have a high level of transparency going forward and directly address election integrity issues.
According to a December 2020 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey, only 24 percent of Republicans surveyed said they trusted the results of the 2020 presidential elections, compared to 95 percent of Democrats.
“[Republicans and Democrats] have a difference of opinion on how to vote on the right and left, and some of this feeds into that. And dragging down conspiracy theories because we say that there really isn’t a lot of fraud is true in one sense, but it’s also, I think, dismissive of some of the concerns that the parties are divided on, and probably isn’t going to help us in the long run,” said Fortier.