A Political Scientist’s Guide to Following the Election

A lot of items we under no circumstances believed would take place more than the previous 4 a long time have took place. On September 23, when President Trump publicly refused to dedicate to a peaceful changeover of electricity following the election, when all over again, a lot of in the country had been shocked. It was a troubling enough statement that the subsequent working day, the U.S. Senate unanimously handed a resolution affirming that “there ought to be no disruptions by the president or any particular person in electricity to overturn the will of the people today of the United States.” 

As a political scientist, I far too am anxious that the exclusive situations of this election could outcome in enough uncertainty, confusion and lawful opportunism to land us in a constitutional disaster. My investigate with the Union of Involved Scientists has documented the danger to voter participation that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, the need to have for (and failure of) our federal federal government to implement unexpected emergency voting legal rights protections for this election, the way voting constraints are correlated with terrible general public overall health results, and how the outcomes of the election could be subverted by means of the bias designed into our electoral devices. In the worst-scenario circumstance, the U.S. could adhere to a world wide pattern of democratic backsliding, or autocratization. Heads of federal government in Belarus and Hungary, for example, have a short while ago subverted free of charge and good elections in those nations around the world.

But for all of its flaws, the U.S. electoral system is comparatively transparent, which would make the probability that we come across ourselves in a constitutional disaster fairly low.

1st items 1st: the subsequent presidential phrase begins January twenty, 2021, and the only reputable way to choose who receives sworn in that working day for a 4-12 months phrase is by means of an election. Each and every ballot—whether cast on Election Working day, in-particular person through an early voting interval, or by mail or fall box—has the exact benefit, and the election is last when the votes get counted. There is no lawful or constitutional need for the count to be completed on election night time. Mail-in voting is risk-free and protected, currently in common use by a lot of states, and doesn’t give possibly social gathering a political gain. And considering the fact that the vote is the 1 and only device we have to choose our political leaders, it is essential for every person who can to vote, no matter if that’s by mail or in-particular person. It’s not up to candidates or politicians, it is up to all of us. Those people are the points, and you ought to be instantly skeptical of any arguments that really don’t admit them.

But it is worth inquiring how the system could go completely wrong.

Traditionally accurate forecasting types such as FiveThirtyEight counsel that President Trump has about a twenty five percent of winning the Electoral College outright, and that previous Vice President Joe Biden has about a 3 in 4 possibility of winning. Within just those projections, there is a slight, possibly one percent chance that the election is so shut, as in 2000, that we simply cannot be sure of who really gets additional votes in 1 or additional pivotal states. Then there is a bigger chance—maybe five percent—that a shut outcome signifies 1 applicant or one more is the obvious winner, but then litigation, diversions and other partisan maneuvers, like use of conspiracy theories about voter fraud, are deployed to halt ballot counting or if not manipulate the Electoral College end result.

Even in that condition, the president lacks the electricity to “get rid of the ballots” as he suggested—at the very least not with out a terrific offer of cooperation from state election officers and legislatures, judges, leaders in his possess social gathering and, most importantly, voters by themselves. In that not likely event, I totally assume voters across the state to be referred to as to action, to rise up in peaceful civic demonstration, and to strike down with righteous fury any endeavor to steal this election.

To reiterate: we need to have to vote, be prepared to need that all votes be counted, and pay out shut interest to the election as it unfolds. Here’s what I’m paying interest to just before, on and following Election Evening.

Many thanks to the function Michael McDonald, we have the 2020 Common Election Early Vote Data, exactly where I’ll be monitoring 3 sets of essential facts in pivotal states: the number of mail ballots that have been requested, the number returned and the number that have been turned down. States have distinctive dates for sending and processing ballots, but this is the go-to web page for observing how votes are staying processed, and in a lot of circumstances you can see how a lot of votes in your county have been requested, how a lot of people today are getting gain of early voting, and how a lot of are staying turned down. As of this crafting, more than half a million votes have currently been cast in the 2020 election.

I’ll also be trying to keep observe of lawsuits at the Election Litigation Tracker, a joint project of Election Law at Ohio Point out and SCOTUSBlog. Pending circumstances in the pivotal states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania are reviewed below, as effectively as new litigation when it emerges following Election Working day. These and other resources are obtainable for voters to check election outcomes, establish difficulties in states as they arise, and improve the transparency of the electoral system for all.

At UCS, we are employing these and other resources to give historical and comparative assessment of a established of pivotal counties, examining election outcomes by evaluating results with 2016, identifying exactly where there are possible to be delays in processing ballots, and checking troubling trends, such as racial disparities in ballot rejection. Lots of voters are new to vote-by-mail this 12 months, and we assume greater error costs, but we will be ready to establish outliers and irregularities in spoiled or turned down ballots as they arise. Similarly, we can foresee exactly where the vote count for candidates is possible to modify considerably following election night time. Staying prepared with these figures will aid voters and advocates check potential terrible actors from getting gain of uncertainty to cast doubt on the end result.

Lastly, I’ll be watching the media, election officers, and voter reactions to the outcomes. The media need to have to be informed of the situations of this election and resist the temptation to call victory early. Audiences need to have to be prepared to be individual it is essential that we know the winners for sure, not that we are the 1st to “know” who gained. Neighborhood election officers are likely to need to have to function more difficult at maintaining transparency, updating outcomes as frequently as feasible though offering an accurate picture of the system. In individual, officers should prioritize making contact with voters with ballot difficulties, offering just about every prospect to have votes counted, and updating that information and facts. Voters far too should be inform and aggressive in defending the sanctity of their votes, earning absolutely sure their registration and get in touch with information and facts is up to date, that they vote safely and securely, and that they check the status of their ballots.

This is likely to be a challenging election. But we have the equipment, the technologies, and the ideal to ensure that every person has an equal prospect to cast a vote and have it counted. Previously mentioned all else, we have the political will to see this system by means of. Afterward, I hope that we choose a second to rejoice the continued functioning of democracy, just before having to function on reforming and retrofitting our electoral process so that we under no circumstances come across ourselves in this predicament all over again.