On Thursday, September 8, 2022, the Ethics Center held a briefing with Senior Scholar in Government Ethics, John Pelissero, about the impact of ethical issues on voting rights. Pelissero touched on the administration and security of our elections, particularly after the 2020 national election.
“Our political process is born out of the ethical ideal of creating an informed electorate.” – Hana Callaghan, 2016
Quoting the late Hana Callaghan, former director of government ethics for the Ethics Center, Pelissero began his presentation highlighting the importance of ethics in our political process where the public should decide on matters of the country. Voters need to be educated and informed to become ethical voters.
Highlights from Pelissero’s presentation included the following topics:
2020 National Election
Pelissero covered the facts of the 2020 national election, explaining how the constant promotion of the debunked theories of massive voter fraud is concerning. Experts have demonstrated that this was the most secure and validated election in U.S. history. Congress adopted meaningful voting rights and election security proposals following the 2020 election such as the For the People Act and Freedom to Vote Act to protect voting rights.
Voting rights are being suppressed in individual states because of the lack of adoption of new federal legislation. Many states have passed suppressing/restricting voting laws that limit voter registration or reduce the time to request or deliver a mail ballot. Pelissero informs, "In 2021, there were 425 voter suppression and restriction bills introduced in 49 states. Nineteen states actually adopted bills that were signed into law by governors that would have restricted participation in elections and restricted voting rights."
Many states have adopted a subversion/interference law that interferes with the local election authority to carry out their roles and has added a partisan component to the oversight of our election.
Pelissero also examined voting rights issues using the Ethic Center’s Framework for Ethical Decision Making and paid particular attention to how these issues measure up when examined through ethical lenses.
The Rights Lens – There can be no more essential right in a democracy than the right to vote. Promoting voter registration and early voting supports the rights lens.
The Fairness and Justice Lens – Individuals should be treated the same unless they differ in ways that are relevant to the situation involved. Provisional ballots support the fairness and justice lens.
The Virtue Lens – Truth is essential for trust – facts matter. The acts of protecting professional election authorities and election security are supported when considered through the virtue lens.
The Common Good Lens – Mutual concern for the shared interests of all members of a community, and the right to vote promotes the common good in a democracy. All mail voting supports the common good lens.
Pelissero noted, "There’s nothing to be lost by expanding and ensuring that we can have the widest participation of those eighteen years of age and older, which is currently provided by the Constitution, to participate in our elections."
The government ethics briefing on voting rights session was recorded, and the video and Pelissero’s slide presentation are available on our website. Visit our government ethics focus area for additional information about ethical issues pertaining to elections, policy, voting, and other government-related topics.