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Bipartisan Policy Center Calls on State Legislatures to Reform Election Observers and Challengers Rules Before 2022 Midterms

Washington, DC – Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project released its first report of 2022: Policy to Advance Good Faith Election Observation. The report provides lawmakers with policy best practices for election observers and challengers in anticipation of the contentious primary and midterm elections in the months ahead. BPC’s Task Force on Elections, which is comprised of 24 Republican, Democrat, and nonpartisan election officials from 15 states, has endorsed the report’s nine recommendations.

Misinformation about the rights and responsibilities of election observers created ripe ground for conflict during the 2020 election. Observers who believed erroneously that they were being shut out of the process organized protests nationwide and election officials fielded lawsuits from voters and the Trump campaign. Confusion about observers and challengers contributed to distrust in the results of the election and an unprecedented wave of violent threats targeting election officials.

“Election observation was largely ignored by the American public until it became a battleground in 2020,” said Matthew Weil, director of BPC’s Elections Project. “Vague rules around observing voting and ballot counting are one of the greatest risks for causing misinformation, distrust, and violence this year. State legislatures must put in place transparent rules now to avoid a repeat of 2020.”

When effectively supported and implemented, the role of observers and challengers in democratic elections is essential for transparency and trust. Policy to Advance Good Faith Election Observation outlines how state legislatures can ensure that voters monitor the election process while election officials maintain the security of voters’ identities and ballots. Some of the report’s recommendations include:

  • States should specify which election activities observers are allowed to see and tailor rules for observation based on each activity.
  • States should clarify how many observers each party or authorized entity is allowed to have present at each part of the election process.
  • States should set detailed rules for what parts of the election process may be challenged and train challengers accordingly.
  • Voters should be given the opportunity to respond to challenges made against them and, if resolved, cast a regular ballot.

Read the report.

Matthew Weil and members of BPC’s Task Force on Elections are available for comment. Please contact Senior Manager of Media Relations Kyle Fischer.