A Texas senator who supported legislation to establish election audits within the Lone Star State said he expects such audits to become as commonplace as voter ID.
When he traveled to Washington in 2006 to testify in support of voter ID before the House Administration Committee, the hearing room filled up “because it was a flashpoint,” state Sen. Paul Bettencourt recalled.
“Now, everybody knows that photo ID does not stop turnout. In fact, there is no case in the United States that I know of where a state that has adopted it has had a problem with turnout,” Bettencourt, a Republican, said Thursday during a panel discussion at The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
“This [election] audit situation is the same thing,” the Texas lawmaker said. “In the future, it’s going to be commonplace and everybody is going to agree with it, but it’s going to take time to get there.”
The Texas Legislature passed in 2021 an election law reform, which included the establishment a forensic audit division in the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections. Some liberal groups, including the Brennan Center for Justice, have contended that audits will discourage voting and “sabotage” elections.
To ensure public confidence, the panelists at the Panel of Experts recommend that all states audit voter registration, voting, and ballot-tabulation processes and procedures. Heritage event said.
The difference between financial audits for a business and an election is that voting is by definition political and thus it would be difficult to build bipartisan trust, said Charles “Cully” Stimson, deputy director of Heritage’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and moderator of the event, titled “It’s Time to Audit: Every State, Every Election.”
“I’m sure there are people watching this saying, ‘Oh, this is a Republican state. These are Republicans who are trying to audit and kick Democrats out,’ or ‘People should be allowed to vote,’” Stimson said, adding:
Similarly, if there was an audit in Chicago of the votes, some Republicans would say, ‘You can’t trust that because this is the fox guarding the henhouse.’ How do we convince both sides they are wrong and move it to the point where businesspeople just view it as this is part of business and increasing the confidence that the vote was done right?
Chad Ennis, director of the forensic audit division in Texas Secretary of State John Scott’s office, noted that today Republicans are more favorable to audits after the 2020 presidential election.
Ennis claimed that Democrats had stolen the election after both the 2000 presidential and 2016 elections.
“What needs to happen is the pendulum needs to swing. Both sides need to go through a round of losses, then I think everyone can come around to it, because it’s something that needs to be done,” Ennis said. “Whether you are left, right or center, you want a fair process.”
The auditor must have professional standards and principles as well as professional staff to ensure confidence from both sides, said Hans von Spakovsky, manager of Heritage’s Election Law Reform Initiative.
If enough states begin to conduct them, election audits could become a business, von Spakovsky said.
“The big problem in this area right now is not a problem in the business area, because audits in the business area have been done for so long and became so standard. There is a huge group of experienced auditors, independent auditors that can be hired by companies and organizations to do their audit,” he said.
Von Spakovsky stated, “Election auditors have no comparable opportunities.”
“But if states start requiring the kind of audits that we are all talking about, that industry is quickly going to establish itself because all of these election officials—experienced people around the country as they start to retire or leave what they are doing—if there is a business opportunity there, they are going to start these auditing firms,” von Spakovsky said.
In the near term, Texas’ Bettencourt said his state’s election audits were different than the one in Arizona done by a private cybersecurity firm in 2021. He said that the reviews are conducted by Texas state officials in the forensic auditor division.
“From a policymaker perspective, we started with the concept that it would be better to have a professional do the audit, in this case, someone from the secretary of state’s forensic audit division,” Bettencourt said, adding:
If you hired a third-party auditing firm to do it, they don’t really understand the regulations. … You’ve got to get the core function of the work by people who have done the work. Otherwise, you don’t get people who can recognize the obvious. If you don’t know what needs to be fixed, or what the measurement is, you can’t do it.
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