accountability-laws-rules-thumbLAWS, RULES: Public officials and private contractors are expected to follow laws and rules. Government officials, especially elected officials, typically must pledge to uphold laws. The purpose of this pledge is to assert that no government official is above the law, and to provide a minimum standard with which to hold them accountable. In addition  to laws, a number of less well known administrative rules, regulations, and guidelines apply to elections. Both laws and rules should be published, publicly available, apply equally, and with an expectation of enforcement when violated.

In the U.S., elections are governed by an overlapping set of laws. States have jurisdiction over elections, but for federal races, federal election law applies too. Even local elections must follow federally mandated civil rights protections.

You can usually find federal and state laws online, but the same is not true for administrative rules, which can be hard to obtain. Rules and guidelines can be found in a supplemental set of administrative rules for elections in each state, as well as operations manuals, contractual agreements with private vendors, professional standards, past administrative decisions, and even user manuals and technical bulletins for election equipment.

Laws and rules require more than state power to make them work. Authorities must have structural power to enforce election laws; will to enforce; independence and autonomy, and adequate funding to investigate and litigate. Besides enforcement agencies, an independent judiciary, competent media, and active and engaged citizens play important roles.


2016-11-21 – About Audits – Provides general information about audits in the context of public integrity and public oversight; mentions that a compliance audit, which assesses whether laws and rules are being followed, is one type of audit.

2013-06-24 (WY) Reporter arrested for voting as felon after reporting voting machine inaccuracies – a Wyoming law prohibits non-violent felons from voting even after serving their term and even if the infraction happened in another state. Shortly after a radio news reporter, who had served time 20 years earlier in another state, reported voting machine problems this law was used to suspend him and threaten him with 5 years in prison.

2013-06-13 – Political Corruption – explores several intersections between corruption and the use of laws and rules. For example, complex rules make it easier to hide corrupt practices. Corruption isn’t limited to breaking laws and rules, because corrupt officials can alter laws and rules. Describes the underlying features that define corruption, both in the context of elections and the broader context of public integrity.

2008-09-25 (AL) – State tries to charge $28,000 for voter list – a state election official creates her own interpretation of] the law, obstructing access to a record that is crucial to election integrity

2008/01/07 – New Hampshire election credibility – Video: reveals that Ballot Law Commission, which must approve voting software changes, failed to meet so updates designed to protect against tampering were not implemented.

11/04/2006 – Texas: Williamson County: ES&S voting machines miscount – Laws and rules prohibit substitution of voting software with changed versions unless examined and certified. Williamson County installed an uncertified “patch” just before an election, circumventing approval requirements.



Accountability: ELECTION RECORDS

Accountability: Election Records: ALTERED

Accountability: Election records: INACCURATE

Accountability: Election Records: POLL TAPES