By Sen. Roger Roth
In what should be sounding off alarm bells in every statehouse in America, polling shows that more and more of our citizens are losing faith in our elections. In 2019, three years after the presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Gallup conducted a poll that showed “Four in 10 Americans (40%) interviewed in 2019 said they are confident in the honesty of elections in the country, while the majority (59%) said they are not.” At the time, the national discourse was focused on outside interference from foreign nations.
Things have only gotten worse. Now, Big Tech’s outsized influence, numerous last-minute lawsuits and rule changes, and the Covid-19 pandemic have once again shaken our confidence that our elections are free and fair.
Now is the time to step back, set partisanship aside, and make thoughtful improvements to how our elections are administered. Here in Wisconsin, one of the things I’ve heard most from my constituents is a need for consistency. Voters in Appleton should be treated identically to voters in Milwaukee, La Crosse, Wausau, and everywhere else. Whether you vote in an urban city library or a rural town hall, the right to vote is the same for all of our citizens and different rules for different places are not only unfair, but also drive suspicion.
One area that begs for uniformity is the process of “curing” ballots that contain errors. Occasionally, voters make simple mistakes while completing their ballots that are in no way related to the election choices they made. The process of resolving these mistakes is called “curing,” and should ideally be standardized across counties so that voters have confidence that their constitutional right to vote is not negated by what amounts to a clerical error.
Wisconsin does not currently have a statewide process but instead allows individual election clerks to decide how much leeway to give voters to correct mistakes, and even this is not required. By implementing a standardized process, we could level the playing field for voters, helping ensure fairness and transparency while strengthening the integrity of our elections.
Across the country, 30 states had a uniform statewide curing process in place for the 2020 election. In the past year, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, Illinois, and New York all adopted consistent processes.
While changes to voting laws make for flashy headlines and often cause partisans to retreat to their respective corners, this issue garners strong support from both parties. A recent poll conducted by the Terrance Group, a national polling firm, on behalf of Secure Democracy, found that 77% of Republicans, 74% of Democrats, and 69% of Independent voters support the passage of a law to codify the ballot curing process in state statute and eliminate subjectivity.
Americans’ doubts about their elections are not new. Majorities of Americans have consistently lacked confidence in the honesty of elections every year since 2012. It’s imperative that we work to restore fairness and trust and the best way to do that is to increase transparency, uniformity, and consistency. We all make honest mistakes. All eligible Wisconsin voters should have the opportunity to correct their ballot in a way that guarantees that everyone’s voice is heard at the ballot box while still protecting the sanctity and security of our voting system.
Senator Roger Roth represents Wisconsin’s 19th Senate District in the heart of the Fox Valley. Senator Roth is a third generation homebuilder and member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, having deployed four times to the Middle East.