Building Trust in Elections

Project Overview

For more than a year, the R Street Institute and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University have partnered to travel around the country to bring together more than 100 election officials, election administrators, business leaders, advocates, scholars and others working to help bolster and defend American elections.

In November 2023, the two organizations hosted a multi-day convening, culminating in a public-facing roll-out of conservative principles for building trust in elections. The half-day public event featured remarks from sitting elected officials in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Utah, as well as public opinion experts, private sector leaders and scholars.

The partnership builds on the work of R Street’s Governance team and their focus on electoral reform research and public policy.

Conservative Principles for Building Trust in Elections

Highlighting the election-security practices used commonly across the country increases voter trust in the process. These include:

  • Testing every voting machine to ensure integrity;
  • Conducting audits of ballots after every election to verify accuracy; and
  • Storing paper ballots in locked facilities to confirm security
  • Do:
    • Affirm the common rules and practices in place across the U.S. to protect the security, integrity, and accessibility of our elections.
    • Be transparent about minor and inconsequential errors in the electoral system vs. intentional, widespread voter fraud.
  • Don’t:
    • Raise doubts about elections in other states or jurisdictions without substantial evidence.

Transparency and public education about the voting and vote-counting processes helps to build citizens’ confidence in elections.

  • Do:
  • Increase public outreach and transparency activities by state and local election officials.
  • Educate and deploy other trusted local leaders, such as police officers, veterans, senior citizens, local business owners, and faith leaders.
  • Americans should feel confident that our elections are conducted with integrity, accuracy, and security. Even so, our elections benefit from a process of “continuous improvement.”
  • The following list of policies and practices are already in place in many states, but the entire country would benefit from each state adopting them.
  • Preprocessing of absentee ballots. Pre-processing of absentee ballots before Election Day can turn around faster results and avoid the frustration of slow results in tight elections. Pre-processing ballots also gives voters more time to address procedural issues with their ballots—also known as “ballot curing”—ensuring that all lawful votes are counted.
  • Ballot tracking. States can also provide voters with confidence that their absentee ballots will be counted through the use of online tracking tools. While most states already provide this service, a statewide tracking tool in the remaining states could help reduce confusion and improve confidence among voters.
  • Voter ID. Americans want to know that all lawful votes—and only lawful votes—are counted. Voter ID policies instill confidence among voters without reducing turnout. States should look to incorporate voter ID requirements for in-person and absentee ballots, along with low- or no-cost state ID options, to bolster confidence in elections.
  • Pre-certification audits. While many Americans may believe an election is over once races are called by the media, the truth is that the election process continues until the results are certified. To improve public confidence that ballots were counted accurately, states should look to conduct audits of the results before those results are certified.
  • Paper ballots. Paper ballots are vital to building trust in elections, which is why states have increasingly adopted them in recent years. Creating a paper trail for every vote cast in America ensures that robust audits are available across the country and helps promote trust in elections.

Videos: A Conservative Agenda for Democracy (Nov. 2023)

Opening Remarks, Gov. Spencer Cox (R-Utah), Panel 1: State of Election Trust


Conservative Principles to Build Trust in Elections


The 2024 Elections: What’s Needed from Conservatives



If you would like to learn more about the project, please contact Matt Germer.