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MENSCH: Ensuring Election Integrity Has Never Been More Important

Americans are debating an array of contentious issues. As profound as they are, none of those debates can be truly settled without an election process the people trust.

The bad news is, most Pennsylvanians say they are dissatisfied with the way elections are conducted in the state, according to a May 2022 Franklin and Marshall poll.

The good news is, we’re a step closer to giving the people the power to restore confidence in Pennsylvania’s election process.

The General Assembly passed two proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution addressing elections. If approved again in the 2023-24 legislative session, the questions will be put on the ballot for voters to decide. One of these amendments would require all voters to present a valid form of identification prior to voting. This would apply to voting in person or by mail.

Valid ID would include any government-issued identification. To ensure no voter is prevented from participating in the election process, anyone without a valid ID could receive one at no cost.

Pennsylvania is woefully behind the times when it comes to requiring voter ID. Thirty-five other states require some form of voter ID, and studies show that states where voter ID was implemented have not seen a drop-off in voter participation in any demographic.

When asked, citizens have consistently said they want voter ID. A Franklin and Marshall poll last year found that 74 percent of Pennsylvanians support requiring voters to present identification to vote. A separate proposed amendment would require the General Assembly to provide for audits of elections, including the administration of elections and the results.

The work would be performed by the state Auditor General, who is elected independently by the voters. In years when the Auditor General is on the ballot, the election audit would be conducted by a separate, independent auditor.

Election audits would provide transparent and fact-based analysis of election results, giving voters across the political spectrum assurance that elections are fair and accurate.

In addition to moving these constitutional questions one step closer to voters, the General Assembly passed Act 88 to get private money out of the administration of our elections. The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election.

Even if you’ve never heard of CTCL, you’ve heard of one of its chief financial backers: billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Correspondence between CTCL, the Wolf Administration, and county officials demonstrates that millions of dollars in “Zuckerbucks” were directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.

Common sense tells us that using private funding to pay for the administration of elections is going to undermine confidence in the process, so we banned it. However, counties do face substantial costs related to primary and general elections, and we ensured the state will help them do it right.

The new law creates grants for counties to cover costs such as hiring and training staff, printing ballots, and managing voting machines and tabulation equipment.

In return, counties that accept the money are required to take several critical steps to ensure the integrity of the process. They must clean up voter rolls, including removing deceased voters and report the total number of voters registered prior to an election. They must disclose the number of mail-in votes received within four hours of polls closing and ensure the safekeeping of all ballots. Finally, counties must count ballots on Election Day without interruption.

Our republic began in Pennsylvania, and we’re taking the lead in keeping it healthy and strong. Act 88 and the above constitutional amendments make up one of the most significant election integrity packages enacted in America.

Passions are running high across Pennsylvania and the nation. People need to know we can resolve our differences peacefully through the election process. Such resolution can only occur when the integrity of the process is assured. We can do it, and it’s my hope that soon the voters themselves will play a key role in providing it.

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ROS-LEHTINEN: Why Americans Should Trust the Integrity of Our Elections

As state legislatures here in Florida and across the country reconvene, it’s evident that voters are polarized. Many Americans falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen, and some politicians are seizing upon Americans’ concerns about election security for their own personal gain. It is in our interest and our duty as Americans to put aside the partisan vitriol and understand that we have every reason to trust, and uphold, the integrity of our elections.

Ultimately, Americans should trust the integrity of our elections because they are safe, fair, and secure. More than that, our elections are one of the greatest expressions of our freedom as Americans.

I know firsthand that our elections work because these institutions make up the foundation of my American life. When Cuba was taken over by Fidel Castro and his communist regime, my family fled to America in search of freedom and the rule of law. In 1972, I was sworn in as a citizen in the old bandshell in downtown Miami, and as I took the oath of allegiance, I knew I wanted to be a part of the American dream and participate in the political process. I registered to vote and, as a teacher, enjoyed teaching students of all ages English, civics, and other subjects. I wanted everyone to see what I saw: That the promise of America was, and is, true and attainable, regardless of educational or socio-economic background.

In continuing my public service career in the Florida legislature, I ran for Congress in 1989 and was honored to become the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress. I wanted to help strengthen the traditions that enabled my American journey. In my almost 30 years serving in Congress, I had the privilege of being chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where I worked to defend our national security and our way of life.

As a Member of Congress, I had many opportunities to meet with young activists and dissidents who were doing more than seeking freedom for their countries. They believed in the idea of America. I was constantly amazed by their admiration for the American way—especially for our free, fair, and open elections. Because while it may seem commonplace and ordinary to us, having free elections is a part of what makes America exceptional. It’s something we should never take for granted. These dissidents told me so, firsthand.

And there’s a reason our system is the envy of so many: It works. Our elections in Florida run smoothly and securely, as Governor Ron DeSantis has explained. Just last October, the governor dismissed calls for an audit of our election results because Florida’s standard election integrity safeguards held and the election succeeded “with flying colors.” 

The integrity and uniqueness of American institutions are worth taking a step back and analyzing the claims made by election skeptics. Perhaps the results of the 2020 presidential election were not the result we wanted, but the truth is clear: President Joe Biden won. Even if we disagree with that outcome, it is our privilege and duty as patriotic Americans to accept the outcomes of free and fair elections and celebrate the peaceful transfer of power that is envied by many around the world.

All across the country, American officials are working hard to make sure voting access does not come at the expense of election integrity and that they are well-equipped to handle the challenges we’ll face in 2022 and beyond. It’s not just Florida doing this, either.

Utah, for instance, is controlled by Republicans from the governor’s mansion to both houses of the state legislature. Utah Republicans also created one of the most accessible election processes in the country, adopting a vote-by-mail system that reached 90 percent voter turnout in 2020. As one Republican elections official explained, “Utah really exemplifies the mantra of ‘Easy to Vote, Hard to Cheat’ with our elections.”

That’s part of why my family fled the brutal repression of the Castro regime, and that’s something I heard over and over again from dissidents fighting for freedom in their countries when I was a Member of Congress.

It’s time for Americans to unite and protect the integrity of our election system. We do that by continuing to create access to the polls while maintaining election security—and by respecting the outcomes of our elections.

Our democracy is unique and many around the world long for the freedoms and respect for the rule of law that we may take for granted. We should proudly defend and uphold our open, free, and fair election process.

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