Nov 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democracy's machinery worked

Mail-in ballots are counted in the city clerk’s office in Lansing, Mich., on election night.
Mail-in ballots are counted in the city clerk’s office in Lansing, Mich., on election night. Photograph by Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

"The machinery of American democracy is working," Emily Bazelon writes in Sunday's issue of The New York Times Magazine, noting "America's pandemic election was a remarkable, unlikely feat."

The big picture: A committee composed of officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and its election partners earlier this week refuted President Trump's persistent claims of widespread voter fraud and irregularities, calling the election "the most secure in American history."

"And yet at the same time, the administration of elections — as well as the right to vote — is fragile and facing renewed threat."

  • Trump has still refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden and is pursuing lawsuits in a number of states with baseless claims of voter fraud.
  • On Friday the president said that "time will tell" who won the 2020 election in his first public remarks since it became clear he’d lost the election to Joe Biden.

The state of play: "About 60 million people put their ballots in a mailbox or a drop box, doubling previous totals and contributing to what is likely to be the highest turnout rate since 1990, according to estimates by the U.S. Elections Project," Bazelon reports in the conclusion of "Democracy by Mail," a three-part series following the absentee-ballot process from printing to mailing to counting.

  • This year's turnout rate of the voting-eligible population eclipsed elections in most Americans' lifetimes.
  • Bazelon notes: "[F]or the most part, mail-in balloting — and balloting at the polls, too — went smoothly."

What's next: "This year’s election could well be a turning point for voting by mail in America," Bazelon writes. "If election officials can begin processing ballots early, ... they have time to get in touch with voters to address mistakes on ballots and also complete the count on or close to Election Day."

  • "[S]mall steps, technocratic rather than visionary, ... can help increase participation and trust. Congress could set national standards and fund states to implement them."

Go deeper: "The election security nightmare that wasn't," by Zach Dorfman.

Go deeper