This is a guest blog by one of our team members Lucy Twinkle
“It’s the best we can do for an ‘election integrity’ bill during this session,” is the current mantra of SC Statehouse legislators.
But is it?
The SCGOP thinks so: “This strong bill would require all county election commissions to operate the same way, ensuring votes in Lancaster County are handled the same way as votes in Beaufort County, and prohibit drop boxes, expand the methods of required post-election audits…” Sounds good, but the SCGOP fails to mention the more far-reaching, even draconian, portions of the bill.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this bill is to CENTRALIZE AND INCREASE THE POWERS of the State Election Commission, whose members are appointed by the Governor, without holding the Commission accountable for its performance. This effort is occurring at a time, following the 2020 contentious election, when many experts are advocating DECENTRALIZING election powers, preferring to push control to the counties and precinct-level, closer to the people who vote. Plus, there is evidence that the SEC is not doing its job now, especially with respect to not cleaning up our dirty, bloated voter rolls. Current statute requires the SEC “to maintain a complete master file of all qualified electors by county and by precincts,” but there seems to be no mechanism for enforcement.
Do you remember the Credit Default Swaps that nearly tanked the economy during the 2008 financial meltdown, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression?
These “swaps” were forms of derivatives created by financial institutions to shelter bundles of subprime mortgages underneath the wrapping of triple-A-rated securities. What appeared to be a hot investment was really rotten at the core. Glorious on the outside, poop on the inside.
Think of H. 3444 as a REVERSE Credit Default Swap. Gold on the inside, poop on the outside.
THE GOLD: the bill outlaws ballot boxes. It also prohibits any county board of elections from accepting or using private funds to conduct elections. This would keep Mark Zuckerberg from pumping his money into SC elections.
- Eliminates Municipal Election Commissions and devolves all responsibilities to County Election Boards
- Expands the powers of the SEC to oversee county boards of elections: it enables the SEC to create standardized processes with which that all county boards must comply
- Extends compliance requirements of SEC: under the current statute, the SEC and county board of elections must work together to ensure that elections adhere to state and federal laws. This bill expands compliance to require the county election boards to comply with SEC policies, procedures or standardized processes, not just federal or state laws.
- Requires that the SEC Executive Director “report all suspected violations of the state’s election laws” to the SC Attorney General and appropriate law enforcement agencies
- Demands that the SEC and Attorney General notify the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House within 24 hours of any complaint that “challenges the validity of an election law, an election policy, or the manner in which an election is conducted”
- Provides that the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate have an UNCONDITIONAL RIGHT to intervene in a state court proceeding that challenges the validity of an election law or even, the way an election was conducted.
- Gives the Speaker of the House and Senate President the right to intervene in a FEDERAL court proceeding involving election law or the way an election was conducted and gives them standing; that they may file an amicus brief or provide evidence, even if they are a party to the suit
- Requires that the SEC Executive Director shall establish methods of audits of election results, and it further defines different types of audits as “risk limiting audits, hand-count audits, and mandates through 3rd party vendors that specialize in election auditing, and ballot reconciliation, or any other method deemed appropriate by the Executive Director.” These audits must be conducted before an election can be certified by the Board of Canvassers.
(This provision is troubling. Risk-limiting audits are worthless. It’s like me telling you that I have $100 in my wallet, consisting of five twenty-dollar bills. You count and say, “yes, you have 5 twenties.” But, what I haven’t told you and what you haven’t determined, is that 2 of those twenties are counterfeit because you haven’t examined the actual bills. The same would be true for hand-counted audits. These audits can’t identify fraudulent ballots, just that the number of ballots equals the number of votes.
Plus, if we continue to have ES&S machines, you will need to find auditors that specialize in cyber audits, not election audits. This whole provision is intended to forestall forensic audits.)
Finally, there are some provisions to clarify voter registration requirements and what constitutes a “domicile.”
MOTIVATION: What is the motivation for this bill? Is it to create uniformity of our election processes across the state to ensure safer elections? Or is the intention political, potentially opening the door for partisan intrusion into our SC elections? BTW, who wrote this legislation? It was introduced by House Speaker Jay Lucas.
BOTTOM-LINE: H. 3444 appears to be a partisan power grab. And the effect of such legislation will be to concentrate the power of the state ruling party in SC elections. (And, it is not the only bill of its kind. Similar bills are being introduced in state legislatures across the country. This seems to be part of a coordinated national effort to change state election laws.)
H. 3444 opens the door to interference by the national parties – the RNC or the DNC, through 1) the consolidated power of the SEC; — controlling standardized election processes state-wide and determining the types of (meaningless) audits to be performed after elections; 2) the reduction of county election board self-determination through SEC oversight; 3) the elimination of the power of local precincts and municipal election boards, and 3) the ability of the Senate President and House Speaker (at the moment both Republican) to wield their influence and use their power to intervene in court cases involving elections. (Remember, the SEC members, and Chairman, are appointed by the Governor.)
This bill is a recipe for disaster.
WARNING TO THOSE WHO WROTE THIS BILL: It will come back to bite you. If you lose power in the state, you will have given the keys to your opponents.
So, in closing, is it really the best you can do in this session? Actually, passing this bill will make things worse in the state regarding election laws. Citizens of the state want fair and transparent elections, not controlled ones.
JUST. SAY. NO.