Will 2020’s vote result in extra federal oversight in US elections? | US Elections 2020 Information
The dust settles in the US presidential election held like no other in history amid an unprecedented health crisis and misinformation campaign.
The 2020 competition once again put one of the most decentralized electoral systems in the world in the spotlight and once again called for more uniformity in elections across the country.
In the US, national elections – those for President and Congress – are conducted by local and regional officials, usually according to state-established policies and procedures.
As the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) noted, these systems evolved “organically” in the context of each state, “and even within states there are significant differences in the way electoral administration is administered”.
In a way, the 2020 elections have highlighted the importance of having authority spread across the country as President Donald Trump campaigns for the results.
“One of the reasons for that [Trump’s] Bluster couldn’t have had a major impact on the way the elections were conducted because it’s so decentralized and because you have these independent actors at the local level, ”said Lawrence Norden, director of electoral reform at the Brennan Center for Justice Al Jazeera.
Throughout the election season, a wave of new and diverse policies, largely driven by increased postal voting in the face of the pandemic, worked in lockstep with Trump’s unfounded allegations of fraud to create confusion among voters, Norden said, underscoring the need to better normalize how elections are be performed.
“There are a number of things about this election that demonstrate the need for common minimum standards,” he said. “They had states and localities trying to cope with the massive challenge of holding elections during a pandemic. They had different rules that have changed in different states and courts to approve or reject those changes. “
“Not having uniform standards creates confusion for both voters and the people who administer the elections,” he said.
In particular, inconsistent guidelines on when postal ballot papers were to arrive and when electoral officials could begin counting those votes resulted in a so-called “red mirage” that showed the president took the lead in the hours after the election was over, just so this dissolved in the following days.
Weeks after the contest, early confusion has remained at the root of Trump’s repeated and baseless claims that the election was “rigged” or “stolen”. Polls show that these claims continue to resonate with his party even after the electoral college voted for President-elect Joe Biden on December 14th.
Culture and politics
Voting procedures remain political issues in the USA. This, along with an aversion to the federal government’s involvement in electoral administration, has made standardized national procedures a hard sell in the past.
In many ways, the current system, which according to the Government Accountability Office consists of around 10,500 unique voting systems, has been built into US culture from the start.
It “really is a reflection of the story of how the United States came together in the 18th century when it was a collection of colonies and states that agreed to have some kind of weak central government to coordinate their activities,” said Barry Burden, director of the electoral research center at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
Still, according to Norden, there are some areas where federal reform could be supported by both parties in the coming months, including mandating or at least setting stricter guidelines for voting machines that leave a paper trail, uniform testing of electoral equipment and that Establishing uniform standards for mail-in voting.
Norden noted that this last point was viewed as a “geographic issue” rather than “openly political until this year” when Republicans took up the practice, apparently to discourage democratic turnout in key states.
‘Wake up call’
Despite some landmark laws – including the creation of a unified election day in 1845; the 1965 Suffrage Act, which seeks to ban overtly discriminatory voting practices; and the creation of the habitually deadlocked Federal Election Commission (FEC) in 1975 to regulate campaign finance – movements to normalize state policy by the federal government have remained relatively weak.
The 2020 US election saw a record high number of early voters and mail-in votes, resulting in the highest turnout in US history [File: Gerry Broome/AP Photo]The toughest attempts came after the presidential elections in 2000, which served as the most important “wake-up call” for the pitfalls of inconsistent electoral systems. Lonna Atkeson, director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy in the University of New Mexico, said Al Jazeera.
In this competition, outdated voting machines in Florida led to a protracted dispute over a lead of 537 votes.
“Before Florida, we didn’t really study how different electoral administrations were across the country,” Atkeson said. “Before 2000, everyone thought the electoral system was going pretty well.”
Following the dispute, Congress passed the most comprehensive federal electoral administration law in history, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
The law established the Electoral Assistance Commission, which uses congressional funds for individual states that are contingent on compliance with minimum standards for electoral administration, which mainly focus on electoral equipment.
However, the EAC has no enforcement powers. It cannot write rules, it cannot develop regulations, ”said Burden. “No violations or the like are reported. Political proposals for Congress are not even developed. “
“That makes it a more innocuous agency,” he said.
“Elections as a resource that must be protected”
In an article published Nov. 4th, Lee Drutman, senior fellow of the progressive New America Think Tank, and Charlotte Hill, board member of FairVote, explained how Congress could create a standard-setting, and most important, Federal Elections Agency the power to enforce these standards.
“We can think of this as similar to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but with democracy and elections as the resource that needs to be protected,” the duo wrote.
“The federal electoral authority would similarly investigate, monitor, and enforce electoral laws made possible by strict Congressional laws,” they wrote, noting that creating such an agency would almost certainly require Democrats to take control of the Senate the two runoffs will decide races in Georgia in January.
Proponents of voting rights also support the so-called For the People Act, which the Democratically controlled House of Representatives passed in the last legislative period but languished in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The legislation aims to standardize the registration of voting rights and early voting, but it also contains politically burdened provisions, including the uniform restoration of voting rights for those with previous convictions for criminal offenses and the restoration of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act previously by the Supreme Court were gutted.
Conservatives have also outlined possible federal action with Heritage Foundation president Kay James, arguing in a Nov. 14 article that Congress and state governments should enact more uniform laws to identify votes that critics of the repression say of voters equal. The Republican US representative Dan Crenshaw has also spoken out on Twitter for a uniform law to identify voters and for restrictions on postal votes across the country.
While there has been a gradual “creep towards more uniform experience across states and more federal coordination” for decades, Burden added that short-term, sweeping changes are unlikely given the highly polarized US policy.
“It is most likely a continued gradual march towards increasing federal participation and control,” said Burden. “I think this will likely continue, but it probably won’t accelerate.”