Election confidence in America is falling, what can be done about it?

May 16, 2024, 9:00 AM | Updated: 6:20 pm

Mike Schmidt votes on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at Cayce United Methodis...

Mike Schmidt votes on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at Cayce United Methodist Church in Cayce, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Andrew Harnik, Associated Press)

(Andrew Harnik, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — American election confidence is a hot topic in the United States. American trust in elections is increasingly questioned at national and local levels. 

But there are some distinctions to make.  And some groups are trying to help Americans feel more secure at the ballot box.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, confidence levels in local elections remain high. However, trust in national elections has declined significantly in recent years. Pew found that 62% of voters expressed election confidence in 2020. That rose to 70% in 2022.

Both years were lower than 2018, which saw 81% of voters expressing trust in elections.

Meanwhile, the World Justice Project saw declining rates of perceived safety for voters. According to their data, the percentage of Americans who felt they could vote freely without harassment fell from 91% in 2016 to 58% in 2021.

Lastly, data from the Bipartisan Policy Center found that 69% of respondents believed their vote would be counted accurately in the 2024 election. Republicans held the lowest confidence in the study, with only half expressing confidence in a fair vote at the national level.

Related: Worries about election integrity taking toll on election workers

The F.A.S.T. model

Josh Daniels, co-founder of Trust Utah Elections is one of the people hoping to change how Utahns view elections. The company is a non-profit “committed to fostering voter confidence,” according to its website, “through advocacy, education, and collaboration.”

He told Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson that his company uses a model dubbed F.A.S.T. to espouse good election principles. 

“I actually think that the fundamental principles of good election administration fall into this F.A.S.T. model,” Daniels told KSL NewsRadio. “Elections should first and foremost be fair. Then they should be accountable. They should be secure. And they should be transparent.”

 “There’s a lot of specific practices that flow from those basic principles that we do well here in Utah,” Daniels said. “Any state that can follow these principles will, I think, have really good elections.”

Read the first few minutes of the transcript below. (This transcript has been edited for brevity.)

Boyd Matheson: Of course, preserving the integrity and the trust in our elections and election cycle and process is vital to the health of our democracy. Especially when we look at all of the challenges, too. We have disinformation, misinformation, mistrust, distrust. From elected officials to institutions and again to the elections themselves and that’s not good for the constitutional republic. We do a lot of things extraordinarily well in this state and we’re going to talk about those for a moment, but we also want to make sure we’re expanding everyone’s view in terms of why you should have confidence. 

Josh Daniels, former Utah County Clerk and auditor, is the co-founder of the new nonprofit Trust Utah Elections. And our good friend Stan Lockhart, founder of the Lockhart group. His team helps clients strategize, plan, implement government engagement. And (he has) a long history of politicking and leading in the state of Utah. Gentlemen welcome to the studio.

Stan Lockhart: Thank you.

Josh Daniels: Great to be with you Boyd.

Matheson: As we look at all of this, and we’ve been talking today about all the challenges at the national level. It’s easy to get caught up in those conversations and headlines. When it comes to elections themselves Utah has been ahead of the game for quite a while now. What is it that Utah’s been doing right that should give us confidence in that?

Daniels: Well first, I think Utah takes elections very seriously. We (benefit from) the fact that we only have 29 counties. If you look in the midwest and back east there are states with 100 counties.

Matheson: 101 in Nebraska.

Daniels: Right. So we’re able to concentrate a lot of effort on high-quality administration of elections. One of the things that is controversial today nationally, but Utah has been a leader in and does it pretty well, is vote by mail. And vote by mail actually sets up a scenario where we’re very attentive in maintaining accurate voter registration lists, which is also important to the process.

Matheson: Yeah, and no question about it. Stan, you were part of a crucial conversation down at Utah Valley University recently talking about trust and integrity of elections. You shared something with me in the hallway that really got me thinking. We always say that when the sea is calm and the breeze is light and the sun’s out every boat has an awesome captain

But when the storm comes in, the wind blows, and then you find out if you have a captain on your ship. You shared an example from someone at the conference who said, “Better watch out, the tide and the waves may come crashing in and are you ready for that?”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Election confidence in America is falling, what can be done about it?