1. Ensure Ballot Integrity

A Plan to Renew the Promise of American Life, Plank 1

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Plank 1. Ensure ballot integrity.

Specific Recommendations

1.1. To safeguard the sanctity of the ballot: 1) ensure that registration and voting are as secure and fraud-proof as possible, 2) require state and local government officials to keep their voter lists current and cleaned up on a continuous basis and penalize those who fail to do so, 3) encourage states to join an interstate compact for sharing voter-registration information on a real-time basis, 4) permit only citizens of the United States to vote, 5) require a valid form of identification for in-person voting, 6) prohibit election-day registration unless it is as fraud-proof as pre-election registration, 7) require that all absentee and online ballots be notarized or verified in a truly reliable way, 8) prohibit unsolicited vote-by-mail schemes, and 9) prohibit and punish ballot-harvesting and the fraudulent production and bundling of mail-in and absentee ballots.

1.2. To maximize voters’ confidence in election results, require that paper ballots be made available to voters in all cases and make machine and online vote-counting at least as secure as online banking. To prevent ballot-stuffing, canvass and count all early and absentee votes prior to the start of election day voting. Canvass and count ballots in the presence of independent observers. Permit voters to photograph or retain a copy of their completed ballots for future reference.

1.3. To ensure a reasonable simultaneity of voting, require all votes to be counted by the end of voting on election day, with no exceptions. Do not for any reason count any votes received after the close of election day voting. Restrict early-voting periods to no more than, say, the ten calendar days immediately prior to election day, with a mandatory pause of, say, three days prior to election day, to ensure that all early votes are counted before the start of election day voting. To reduce gaming and coercion, do not allow ballots to be ‘corrected’ once validly cast.

1.4. To encourage voters to do their duty voluntarily, publish the fact of whether a voter has voted in a given election, after the polls have closed, without revealing how he or she voted.

1.5. To restore voter sovereignty and the benefits of healthy political-party competition: 1) abolish all non-partisan voting schemes (such as so-called jungle primaries and top-X-number-of-candidates elections), 2) allow only declared party members (as defined by the party, not the government) to vote on internal party matters, 3) safeguard the right of political parties to make their own rules for choosing nominees, including by holding conventions or caucuses instead of primary elections, and 4) protect the right of political parties to hold closed primaries (primaries open only to declared party members). To make it easier for voters to send specific policy signals to the two major parties, make it reasonably easy for serious minor parties to secure a place on the ballot. In doing these things, always strictly enforce the civil rights of all citizens.

1.6. To ensure that voters choose their representatives and not the reverse, take all reasonable steps to minimize the evils of legislative gerrymandering. For example, have truly independent nonpartisan commissions draw legislative district lines after each census, guided by one simple rule, ‘keep districts compact, simple, and roughly equal in number of voters,’ modified only by a subsidiary rule, to ‘follow existing community lines, where possible, regardless of partisan and demographic considerations.’ To ensure that redistricting commissions are truly independent, select their members by lot. Do not stack them for partisan or demographic ‘balance.’ Do not under any circumstances allow judges to draw district lines.

1.7. To keep federal representatives and senators dependent on their constituents, reject proportional representation schemes. Stick with single-member geographic districts.

1.8. To encourage wiser deliberation in lawmaking, avoid plebiscites and end such ‘direct democracy’ reforms as initiative, referendum, and recall. Instead, leave all merely legislative, policy, and personnel questions to the people’s elected representatives. To ensure a salutary stability in the law, require that state constitutional changes receive the assent of a supermajority of voters in a regularly scheduled general election (or alternatively a simple majority in more than one successive election).

1.9. To prevent a few populous states from dominating presidential elections, preserve the Electoral College and reject such misguided schemes as the so-called National Popular Vote Compact.

1.10. To bring the House of Representatives closer to the people, adopt the so-called Wyoming Rule: no congressional district may be more populous than the least-populous state. (Implementing this rule today would bring the total number of House seats to around 575.)

1.11. To make senators and representatives more productive, compensate them on a per diem rather than a salaried basis, paying them only for days actually worked, and permit them to vote remotely at, say, half-pay from a district office or their state’s capitol building.

1.12. To diminish political corruption, abandon the hopeless goal of ‘getting money out of politics’ and instead dramatically shrink the size and scope of government, especially the federal government, and restore strict constitutional limits on government power — the only reforms that can even hope to actually reduce corruption and the influence of money-in-politics. Repeal all existing campaign-finance laws, except those prohibiting contributions by foreigners, and leave it primarily to states to regulate the conduct of election campaigns according to common sense, as the Founders intended.


This first plank may strike the reader as boring. It is certainly a bit unfocused. It’s a catchall — admittedly not the most rousing way to open something as portentous as ‘a plan to save America.’ But I placed it first for a reason. Without ballot integrity, the rest of the plan is probably hopeless. We need to restore popular sovereignty, and that requires knowing the people’s will.

I also placed it first for a motivational reason. Enforcing strict ballot integrity encourages active citizenship, democratic participation. It gives citizens the confidence that their vote counts, that their political views and preferences matter.

The reader may notice this plank focuses on federal elections, and yet most of its recommendations are addressed to state governments. Why is that? Because under the federal constitution, States and Congress have a concurrent power to prescribe the times, places, and manner of holding federal elections and who may vote in them, subject to certain constitutional limits, but it is state governments who have the primary role, since they actually conduct the elections. So, out of necessity, I direct most of my recommendations to them.

I will probably win no fans with this statement, but I think we absolutely need to strengthen political parties. I know, who likes political parties? But we should like them. Political parties are a good thing — that is, when they’re allowed to be what they are, which is voluntary, private associations of citizens who band together to influence public policy for the better. Our system can’t really function without such associations. But to do their job, they must be self-governing. They must be privately run and, importantly, independent of the government. Hence the need to abolish ‘open’ primary elections and especially abominations like jungle primaries.

I’ll probably also win no fans with this final opinion, but I think efforts to ‘get money out of politics’ are doomed to fail, as long as we try to do it with things like campaign finance laws and public funding of election campaigns. These ‘remedies’ have not worked and will never work. In some ways, they do more harm than good — tending to favor wealthy candidates, for example. I believe such ‘remedies’ fail because they target the symptoms rather than the disease. Our institutions are corrupt. But they are not corrupt because special interests bankroll politicians. Rather, they are corrupt because special interests jostle and scrum to capture the government’s (currently) unlimited power — and bankrolling politicians is a means to that end. So, the only way to eliminate (or more realistically, to reduce) political corruption is to limit the power of the government, tightly. Which is what this plan, overall, tries to do.

Constitutional Amendments

This plank does not require any constitutional amendments.


Strengthens confidence in our public institutions.

Ensures the people rule the ‘rulers’ and not the reverse.

Ensure voters choose their representatives and not the reverse.

Gives voters real choices.

Revised: April 27, 2024.

First published: June 21, 2013.

Author: Dean Clancy.

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One Reply to “1. Ensure Ballot Integrity”

  1. I would also like to see a mandatory jail sentence of five years for anyone convicted of voting illegally. The presiding judge should have no power to reduce or eliminate the sentence. If the fraudulent voter is here illegally he or she should be immediately deported upon completion of the full sentence. Again, the judge should not be allowed any discretion in reducing the sentence.

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