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On Election Day, NCSL Looks Back at Expert Q&As From ‘The Canvass’

By State Legislatures Magazine Staff | Nov. 3, 2020 | State Legislatures Magazine

Nearly 100 million Americans had already cast ballots when the polls opened this morning. And while, yes, the presidential and congressional results are top of mind for many, on Election Day, NCSL is the go-to place for news and analysis about what’s happening in state elections.

Starting later this afternoon, when polls begin to close, check the NCSL Blog frequently for real-time news on legislative and ballot measure results, and look to the NCSL State Elections 2020 webpage to see partisan control, analysis and more.

But for now, as you wait for the numbers to roll in, we’ve compiled some expert elections insights from recent issues of “The Canvass,” the monthly newsletter brought to you by NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting team. So grab another cup of coffee and settle in: It’s sure to be a long and wild night.

Iowa Senator Roby Smith (R)

What are you most proud of in terms of elections in Iowa?

It’s easy to vote, but hard to cheat. We have clear voter ID laws for in-person voting and absentee voting, so people have faith in the integrity and security of our elections.

We’re also the first in the nation to caucus, so we get to see lots of candidates. People will ask, Who are you going to vote for in the caucus? And the joke we like to use is, “I don’t know—I have to meet all the candidates three times each before I decide.” We do a good service for the country by vetting candidates early.

Washington, D.C., Councilmember Charles Allen (D)

What’s something that your peers in the states might not know about how elections are run in D.C.?

I wish everyone knew that, for election purposes, D.C. is a state. We administer our elections in the exact same way as a state elections authority would—from presidential races all the way down to local neighborhood elections.

And that’s important to know because D.C. should be a state. We have more people in D.C. than Wyoming or Vermont, and we’re creeping up on North Dakota and Alaska. But we have no federal representation, and we feel strongly that should change.

Georgia Representative Shaw Blackmon (R) 

Georgia has gotten a lot of press, good and bad, for replacing its voting equipment. Now that it’s done, do you have advice for other states who must make that expensive but important choice?

Don’t change in the middle of a pandemic! There’s a learning curve, and my suggestion is to train and retrain and retrain. The more training and modeling practice runs that can be done, the better.

The new equipment was provided for in last year’s budget when we passed HB 316. We had an intense debate about whether to go with ballot-marking devices or hand-marked paper ballots. There was enough of a consensus that we use ballot-marking devices, so we budgeted for it and the secretary of state had a selection process and found a vendor for us.

Maine Senator Louis Luchini (D)

What aspect of Maine’s elections are you most proud of?

I think the biggest thing that I’m proud of, that a lot of us are proud of, is that Maine annually ranks among the top states for voter turnout. In presidential election years, our turnout is often over 70%. I’m proud that Mainers are civically engaged and turn out for elections. That’s a testament to our election laws and the great partnership between the secretary of state and the city clerks.

Montana Senator Dee Brown (R)

Voting for Native Americans has been a big topic, especially in the West. Could you talk about how Montana has addressed that issue?

Voting by mail is a real problem on reservations across the nation—multiple families may be sharing a home, many do not have P.O. boxes or traditional mailing addresses. That creates a problem when it comes to voting. Our secretary of state has set up remote voting locations on reservations throughout Montana, and it has really helped the native populations. They can cast a ballot much closer to where they live, and they don’t need to travel miles and miles to have their voices heard.

Maryland Delegate Nick Mosby (D)

What are you most proud of in terms of Maryland’s elections?

I think Maryland has been ahead of the curve on initiatives to stop voter suppression, as well as expanding the accessibility of voting and opening up voting to otherwise forgotten populations.

In Maryland, we work to ensure the sanctity of voting and that access to voting is done in a way so all folks feel comfortable.

For example, in our state, felons can vote if they’ve finished parole or probation. I sponsored a bill this session—which unfortunately couldn’t make it out of the Senate due to our sudden adjournment—that would allow incarcerated people to vote and provide tools to help them do so.

I’ve also worked with the disability community to ensure the usability of our ballot-marking devices, that voters with disabilities are provided with matching ballots and that our voting technology works for them.

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