The Need for Professional Election Officials
In the U.S., elections are run by an army of hundreds of thousands of volunteers. These are both Republicans and Democrats, and the idea is that the one group watches the other: security by competing interests. But at the top are state-elected or -appointed officials, and many election shenanigans in the past several years have been perpetrated by them.
In yet another New York Times op-ed, Loyola Law School professor Richard Hansen argues for professional, non-partisan election officials:
The United States should join the rest of the world’s advanced democracies and put nonpartisan professionals in charge. We need officials whose ultimate allegiance is to the fairness, integrity and professionalism of the election process, not to helping one party or the other gain political advantage. We don’t need disputes like the current one in Florida being resolved by party hacks.
To improve the chances that states will choose an independent and competent chief elections officer, states should enact laws making that officer a long-term gubernatorial appointee who takes office only upon confirmation by a 75 percent vote of the legislature — a supermajority requirement that would ensure that a candidate has true bipartisan support. Nonpartisanship in election administration is no dream. It is how Canada and Australia run their national elections.
To me, this is easier said than done. Where are these hundreds of thousands of disinterested election officials going to come from? And how do we ensure that they’re disinterested and fair, and not just partisans in disguise? I actually like security by competing interests.
But I do like his idea of a supermajority-confirmed chief elections officer for each state. And at least he’s starting the debate about better election procedures in the U.S.