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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

The walls close in on Trump

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

Georgia election official to Trump: Condemn “potential acts of violence”

Gabriel Sterling. Photo: Jessica McGowan via Getty

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting implementation manager, called on President Trump and the state's Republican senators to denounce threats against election workers in a press conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: State election workers have been the recipients of death threats after conspiracy theorists shared false videos about the election results on social media. Trump and his allies continue to claim widespread election fraud took place in the state.

3 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”