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Election Integrity Is an Important Product of the Rule of Law

April 12, 2021
Jennifer T. Panning, Chair of Northwood Board of Trustees, and President of Artisan Tile Inc.

Jennifer T. Panning, Chair of Northwood Board of Trustees, and President of Artisan Tile Inc.

Rule of law is a fundamental component of The Northwood Idea. Society cannot exist without it. It is the wall between freedom and anarchy.

Elections are a part of American life where the rule of law is especially important. Many brave men and women have fought for our freedom, including the privilege and duty to vote for our leaders, and we owe it to them to conduct our elections with high standards of integrity. Democracy is the greatest form of governance ever devised, a system by which free people choose their leaders and hold them accountable. In other words, a government of, by, and for the people. We might not always be happy with how our democracy functions, but it beats any and all alternatives.

Democracy only fulfills its potential when elections are free and fair. If the true will of the citizenry is not reflected in election results, people will lose faith in their government, and government will not be accountable to the people. If that happens, everyone loses.

So, everyone should be able to agree on two basic goals of election law: we want all legal voters to have easy access to voting, but we should make it more difficult for bad actors to cheat.

In fact, our democracy can be hamstrung by nothing more than the widespread belief that elections are not free and fair, even if convincing evidence of wrongdoing cannot be produced. In a system where cheating is possible, the possibility of cheating creates problems of its own.

That’s why it is so important that we take strong, decisive action to ensure the integrity of our election process. Anything short of that risks undermining the democracy that has been so integral to American greatness.

In October 2020, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton released his latest book, “A Republic Under Assault,” raising serious allegations of widespread campaigns to change electoral laws in ways that make voter fraud more likely. Less than a month later, the 2020 General Election became one of the most contentious in history, with significant segments of society stubbornly unconvinced that the official results accurately reflected the true will of the people. Again, this is a bad outcome for everyone.

Now, across the country, state legislatures are moving to enhance confidence in our elections through a variety of legal provisions. In most cases, these are common-sense reforms that will raise the level of public confidence in election outcomes. That is something we should all support.

As a life-long resident of Michigan, I am especially interested in seeing progress in the Great Lakes State. Our election laws were fundamentally changed in 2018 when voters passed Proposal 3, amending the state Constitution to enshrine some questionable activities. Here is the ballot wording of the Constitutional amendment proposal:

A proposal to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and post-election audits to the Michigan Constitution.

Many of Proposal 3’s provisions were positive, and others sounded fine at first glance, but have made it too easy for people to commit voter fraud. It is no surprise that, two short years later, Michigan was among the states whose election results were questioned.

That is why we must repeal Proposal 3 and re-establish the rule of law that ensures fair elections.

Specifically, new election laws should:

  • Close registration for all primary elections 120 days before the date of any party’s primary election.

  • Prohibit the mailing of absentee ballot applications to anyone who has not specifically requested an application.

  • Require photo ID for anyone wishing to vote. This should be law in Michigan as well as all other states. You need a photo ID for almost everything else in life. It’s not unreasonable to ask for a photo ID to obtain your ballot.

In some places, opponents of election law reform have alleged that its true motivation is to make voting more difficult for specific groups of people. They refer to it as voter suppression, comparing it to tactics from the Jim Crow era, when White people in the U.S. South used their political and economic power to prevent Black people from voting. It was a despicable thing, a shameful chapter in our history, and all of America is better off because it is in the past. Now, we need to focus on the future.

To be clear, I believe every citizen who has the legal right to vote should be allowed to do so. But using the specter of voter suppression to swing the doors to the voting booth wide open is overkill. There are better ways to encourage voter participation than to allow mail-in voting without cause, or day-of-election registration, or the mailing of unsolicited absentee voter applications to everyone.

It is not too much to ask that citizens take personal responsibility to plan ahead, prove their right to vote, and follow rules designed to prevent voter fraud. If that makes it too inconvenient for some people to vote, then that’s on them. If the impact of common-sense voting rules falls disproportionately on selected slices of the population, then those people should find ways to overcome the challenges that do not jeopardize the integrity of the entire system.

I truly do want everyone to vote, only if it is legal for them to do so, and only once.

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