Lots of people are talking about how likely election chaos in Florida and Ohioâ€”by design; the Republicans in charge of both states (in the case of Ohio, the Secretary of State more than the Governor) have done everything they can to make it as hard as possible for people to vote, in the hope that this will disenfranchise far more would-be Democratic voters than Republican ones.
Nobody is saying that about Virginia. Why not? It has a nonpartisan election board , whose website seems unusually helpful and informative. It does have a Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, but it doesn’t supervise elections: it’s basically a personnel office that vets applications for state commissions.
Why don’t more states follow Virginia’s example? Every state with a partisanâ€”or, to my mind, nonpartisanâ€”election for the election-watchers is an anti-democratic train wreck waiting to happen. Many states, including California, have a long tradition of elected Secretaries of State who have managed elections impartially, ranging from glorified nonentities like March Fong Eu to people who went on to grander things like the current governor, Jerry Brown. But lots of states that thought they had long traditions to this effect rapidly sloughed them off once the new breed of Republican got elected Secretary.
People who propose federal-level uniformity in how we run elections need to read the Constitution, which leaves election administration to the states (and leaves ratification of amendments to the states as well, which are not likely to take kindly to the suggestion that the federal government can supervise elections more reliably than they). But state-by-state campaigns for nonpartisan election boards would face no constitutional problems. Their absence reflects, presumably, the lack of an interested constituency with money behind it. If only Molly Munger had a stronger sense of civic virtue than of her own importance..for now, calling Nicholas Berggruen?