Op-Ed from Chair Amy B. Chan
Highlighting voter education & civics education as some of our greatest tools in addressing skepticism in elections.
It is a critical time to be the incoming Chair of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) when according to post-election surveys, Americans remain starkly divided in their confidence in elections because of lies about voting fraud. Established by Arizona voters over 20 years ago to restore citizen participation and confidence in Arizona’s political system, it is an understatement to say that we have our work cut out for us in 2021.
One way to address skepticism in Arizona about the security of elections is to educate more everyday people about the process and we need to start early. This is why we have been working on a civics curriculum program for school-age students. A curriculum expert is developing each lesson to meet state standards so that teachers find the lessons useful right away. The aim is to foster foundational knowledge among youth about elections, elected offices and election security.
Equally important is exposing more of the general adult population to the elections process. As the state's only non-partisan provider of voter education no other entity is better suited for this than Clean Elections. Voters already rely on us for the basics, in the 2020 Election cycle alone visits to our website increased by 733 percent. People visiting our website in 2021 will have new tools, including an objective video series about all things elections, including election security. These will be paired with discussion guides so that any person or organization can employ these to spark informative discussion about aspects of elections in their circles.
In addition, those of us who have made elections our career can't take our knowledge for granted, it's our responsibility to broaden the base of people who are just as informed. All eligible voters will benefit from visibility into our state’s decentralized elections; they will conclude, too, there are too many layers of protections for rampant fraud in elections to occur.
Every county recorder and elections director across the state--15 in all—also has a role to play. The more all Arizonans know about how they work independently as a safeguard for the integrity of the whole system the better. Transparency about how voter registration forms are authenticated and the validation of voter signatures on ballots isn't common knowledge. Most people don't know that when voting in person, stand-alone voting machines are used and never connected to the Internet. Nor that electronic ballot tabulation is verified by logic and accuracy testing both before and after each election, as well as hand counts performed in partnership with representatives from both political parties.
Needless to say, doing all of these things will not change the minds or the hearts of some, but repairing the shadow of doubt cast by disinformation on election security means more aggressive outreach to the whole. Informed voters can overcome this new threat to the electoral process when armed with the knowledge of their voting rights, how to participate and how to verify for themselves that their ballot was counted.
Undoubtedly, our elections are fundamental to democracy. And public scrutiny does play an important role too but only if it is based in the facts. Elections work best when every eligible person participates, no matter the party, the more participation the better, but it starts with transparency and sound information. Increase your elections knowledge by visiting www.azcleanelections.gov.