Nonpartisan Election Officials

To guarantee the integrity of the voting process, partisan officials should not make decisions about election administration.  Nonpartisan observers should have full access to the electoral process.

In almost every state, the secretary of state or an appointed election official administers elections. Even though these officials are responsible for executing state and federal electoral policy and setting election procedures, there are few standards to which election officials must adhere. Most election officials are law-abiding and execute laws to the best of their ability. Yet, without standards or requirements in place there is no guarantee all election administrators will act in this manner, as recent elections have demonstrated. 

Secretaries of state serving as state campaign chairs create the appearance of a conflict of interest, even if none exists. In the past two election cycles, the secretaries of state in two battleground states came under intense scrutiny because of their connection with presidential campaigns. Secretaries of State Katherine Harris and J. Kenneth Blackwell served as state chairs for Bush-Cheney in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Although no one formally accused these individuals of wrongdoing, the perception of impropriety is enough to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process.

Policy Recommendations:

  • Election officials cannot serve as state chairs of campaigns or candidates and clear restrictions should be in place regulating all involvement of election officials in political campaigns.
  • Election officials must set electoral policies well in advance of an election.
  • To avoid even the question of partisanship, election policies and procedures should be set by a committee of officials who are non-partisan and/or represent a wide-range of political beliefs.