This editorial was first published in The Dallas Morning News. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
Our elections must be secure. And just as important as the integrity of our ballot boxes is voter trust in that integrity.
In an age of political division, this is something we agree on across political lines here in Texas. We know that’s true because the Texas Lyceum’s annual poll, just released, showed that 84% of respondents said it is important to ensure ineligible voters are prevented from voting, and 92% said it’s important to ensure that all eligible voters are permitted to vote.
We would like to see both of those numbers at 100%, but this is an imperfect world, and we accept these powerful majorities as a statement that Texans understand the importance of the ballot box.
A troubling element did emerge from the poll. Just 62% of respondents say they are confident that the voting system in Texas is secure from hacking and other technological threats. Here again, Texans get it right. Few of us are naive enough now to think that electronic ballots are not vulnerable.
How respondents think we should go about ensuring secure elections and eligible-voter participation can reveal partisan division, but there are a few potential changes that got strong support from both sides.
According to the Lyceum, Republicans and Democrats expressed greater than 70% support for four of the ideas presented in the poll:
Requiring electronic voting machines to print a paper backup of the ballot (82% of Republicans, 84% of Democrats).
Automatically removing inaccurate and duplicate registrations from voter lists (86% of Republicans, 77% of Democrats).
Requiring all voters to show a government-issued photo identification to vote (90% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats).
Automatically updating voter registrations when people move (76% of Republicans, 84% of Democrats).
We, too, support these changes. In particular, requiring printed backup of electronic voting machines could prove critical in a technology emergency, and would go a long way toward boosting voter confidence that as they walk away from the voting machines, their votes have been cast and properly counted.
Further, automatically cleaning out bad registration information, and keeping people registered to vote when they move, are small changes that could have a big impact. Bad registrations could be used by bad actors for illegal votes, and a technological fix could prevent a lot of harm. Keeping people registered as they move would be a lovely convenience, as anyone knows who has moved and updated the address with every credit card, bank, utility and holiday card sender, but failed to send in a voter registration change in time for an election. This also addresses the principle of ensuring all eligible voters can vote.
Voter ID has been an issue politicians have used to divide people, but as the poll suggests, it’s less controversial among regular folks. Nearly everything in life requires an ID, from renting a home to cashing a paycheck to getting medical care. While we are sympathetic to those eligible voters who struggle to handle paperwork, we think an ID helps not only secure an election, but also creates a feeling of security among voters.