The Lawyers Democracy Fund has published a new paper on voter confidence which discusses its recent decline since the 2020 presidential election and ways to combat this decline.
The paper explains:
Reasons for a lack of confidence vary, but experts generally agree that voters tend to distrust the process when they believe that the process is unfair. While some voters may distrust the outcome of an election if their preferred candidate loses, voter distrust is exacerbated if the process is convoluted, opaque, or perceived as unfair. The 2020 presidential election process demonstrated some problems voters had with the system generally. In states like Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, officials used the COVID-19 pandemic to institute changes without the input of state legislators or, in some cases, without clear authority to institute reforms.
Some policy solutions states have implemented to combat the decline in voter confidence include photo ID requirements and voter roll list maintenance procedures.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the proliferation of confusing voting formats like ranked-choice voting have contributed to the decline in voter confidence:
Some reforms proposed by leftist academics, interest groups, and politicians decrease voter participation and confidence by injecting confusion and uncertainty into the electoral process. A current favored reform is ranked-choice voting (RCV), which was first adopted for a few municipal elections around 2004 and eventually statewide in Maine and Alaska by 2020. Multiple studies, including those in some deeply liberal regions, establish that voters neither like nor trust RCV.
RCV is a voting system where voters are forced to qualitatively rank all candidates in order of preference or risk the exhaustion of their ballot. This is compared to a traditional election, where voters need only identify the candidate of their choice. When tabulating votes, election experts determine who received the lowest number of first place votes, eliminate that candidate, redistribute the votes of the losing candidate based on the voter’s preference, and then retabulate. Officials repeat this process until they can determine the winner. The only problem is that the “winner” may not be the candidate receiving the most first place votes, but a plurality of preferential votes in later rounds. RCV, thus, would force a conservative voter to make a qualitative judgment on whether she prefers a progressive candidate over a socialist candidate, or a liberal voter into ranking whether he prefers a conservative candidate over an alt-right candidate.
LDF’s paper concludes that when elections are perceived to be fair, people will vote and have confidence in the electoral process:
For voters, perception is reality. If they perceive elections to be secure, straightforward, and transparent, they will vote. If voters perceive the electoral process as confusing, ripe for manipulation, or susceptible to fraud, they lack the confidence to vote. Electoral processes, such as ranked-choice voting, which are opaque and add to voter confusion result in decreased turnout. On the other hand, election integrity measures such as voter ID and robust list maintenance requirements enjoy broad public support and encourage participation and turnout.
Read LDF’s full paper on voter confidence here.