For all the talk about weaknesses in the electoral systems–about voter fraud or hacking or machine failure, or all of the above–experience with these types of claims or concerns suggests that, as matters of general public debate, they will soon fade. The rhetoric may linger, but little of use, such as practical reforms, is likely to follow.

This does not have to be the way the story ends. Six years ago, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration suggested at least two potentially helpful measures, one very concrete and urgent, and the other pressing but more politically complicated and so harder to execute. These reforms won’t satisfy everyone: they offer only so much to those with the darkest suspicions. But they would make a major difference in preventing a calamitous breakdown in the voting process and an even greater collapse of public confidence.

First, the Commission emerged from its study of various administrative problems to sound an alarm about the state of election equipment and voting technology. It elected to use the words “impending crisis”: It did so in the knowledge that election administrators across the country would not accuse it of exaggerating. What was leading inexorably toward crisis was:

The widespread wearing out of voting machines purchased a decade ago, the lack of any voting machines on the market that meet the current needs of election administrators, a standard-setting process that is broken down, and a certification process for new machines that is costly and time-consuming.

Jurisdictions looking to address the problem did not then, and most do not now, have enough money to do it, or to do it promptly.

The Commission also recommended that post-election audits of voting equipment should be conducted after each election “as part of a comprehensive audit program,” with full disclosure about machine performance in a common data format. The Commission specifically endorsed both risk-limiting audits, intended to validate the election outcome with a sample of votes cast, and performance audits to address the question of whether the voting technology performed as required.

That was then, in 2014. The EAC later came to life with a quorum of commissioners and began to address the stalemate in the standard-setting and certification process. Now, of course, the EAC has collapsed back into partisan discord. What remains unaddressed is the urgent need to dedicate resources to the updating and replacement of voting machinery and technology. It seems peculiar, at best, to speculate about vulnerability to hacking – – as important as it is to protect against it – – while ignoring the imminent crashing of all this machinery and the serious threat it will pose to public confidence in the results of a particular election or more generally in the electoral system. Integrally related to this goal is a national best practice of these risk-limiting and performance audits.

A fair question to be put to the incoming Administration is whether, in light of Mr. Trump’s expressed concerns about rigging and fraud, it will be prepared to work with the Congress, the election administration community, and voting rights organizations around the country on an adequately funded program to replace the worn-out equipment.

Second, the Commission endorsed enhanced professionalism in election administration, which would require doing what can be done to keep politics out of it. As the Commission noted, “the choosing of election officials and administrators through a partisan process” puts them under “competing pressures from partisans and political constituencies, on the one hand, and their obligation to the voting public as a whole, on the other.”

Any number of states and jurisdictions are reluctant to remove election administration from the portfolio of responsibilities assigned to elected officials. However, to increase professionalism, these officials can and should be held accountable for conferring chief administrative responsibility on election administration professionals. The benefits are clear: competent, nonpartisan administration and the improved public confidence that comes with it. Other jurisdictions inclined to consider formally separating politics from administration, by taking politicians out of the chain of administrative command, might receive incentives and encouragement to pursue that path.

It is difficult to imagine a successful achievement of the first objective without at least some more progress toward the second. If major efforts will be made, as they should be, to address the crisis in voting technology, the public will have to be assured that the work will be done professionally, without taint of partisanship. Those who have been most vocal about the risks of election-rigging or voting fraud should have the most reason to support these reforms. Or we can just keep waiting and hope for the best.

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