Quite a lot of issues we by no means thought would occur during the last 4 years have occurred. On September 23, when President Trump publicly refused to decide to a peaceable transition of energy after the election, as soon as once more, many within the nation have been shocked. It was a troubling sufficient assertion that the subsequent day, the U.S. Senate unanimously handed a decision affirming that “there ought to be no disruptions by the president or any individual in energy to overturn the desire of the folks of the USA.” 

As a political scientist, I too am fearful that the distinctive circumstances of this election may end in sufficient uncertainty, confusion and authorized opportunism to land us in a constitutional disaster. My analysis with the Union of Involved Scientists has documented the risk to voter participation that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, the necessity for (and failure of) our federal authorities to implement emergency voting rights protections for this election, the best way voting restrictions are correlated with bad public health outcomes, and the way the outcomes of the election might be subverted by means of the bias constructed into our electoral techniques. Within the worst-case situation, the U.S. may comply with a worldwide sample of democratic backsliding, or autocratization. Heads of presidency in Belarus and Hungary, for instance, have lately subverted free and honest elections in these international locations.

However for all of its flaws, the U.S. electoral course of is comparatively clear, which makes the probability that we discover ourselves in a constitutional disaster fairly low.

First issues first: the subsequent presidential time period begins January 20, 2021, and the one reputable approach to decide on who will get sworn in that day for a four-year time period is thru an election. Each poll—whether or not forged on Election Day, in-person throughout an early voting interval, or by mail or drop field—has the identical worth, and the election is last when the votes get counted. There’s no authorized or constitutional requirement for the rely to be completed on election night time. Mail-in voting is safe and secure, already in widespread use by many states, and doesn’t give both occasion a political advantage. And for the reason that vote is the one and solely software we’ve got to decide on our political leaders, it’s essential for everybody who can to vote, whether or not that’s by mail or in-person. It’s less than candidates or politicians, it’s as much as all of us. These are the information, and you need to be instantly skeptical of any arguments that don’t acknowledge them.

But it surely’s price asking how the method may go incorrect.

Traditionally correct forecasting fashions reminiscent of FiveThirtyEight counsel that President Trump has a couple of 25 p.c of profitable the Electoral School outright, and that former Vice President Joe Biden has a couple of three in 4 likelihood of profitable. Inside these projections, there’s a slight, possibly 1 p.c chance that the election is so shut, as in 2000, that we will’t make certain of who truly receives extra votes in a number of pivotal states. Then there’s a bigger likelihood—possibly 5 p.c—{that a} shut consequence signifies one candidate or one other is the clear winner, however then litigation, diversions and different partisan maneuvers, together with use of conspiracy theories about voter fraud, are deployed to cease poll counting or in any other case manipulate the Electoral School final result.

Even in that state of affairs, the president lacks the ability to “do away with the ballots” as he suggested—at the least not with out an excessive amount of cooperation from state election officers and legislatures, judges, leaders in his personal occasion and, most significantly, voters themselves. In that unlikely occasion, I absolutely anticipate voters throughout the nation to be known as to motion, to stand up in peaceable civic demonstration, and to strike down with righteous fury any try to steal this election.

To reiterate: we have to vote, be ready to demand that every one votes be counted, and pay shut consideration to the election because it unfolds. Right here’s what I’m being attentive to earlier than, on and after Election Evening.

Because of the work Michael McDonald, we’ve got the 2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics, the place I’ll be monitoring three units of essential knowledge in pivotal states: the variety of mail ballots which have been requested, the quantity returned and the quantity which have been rejected. States have completely different dates for sending and processing ballots, however that is the go-to web site for seeing how votes are being processed, and in lots of instances you may see what number of votes in your county have been requested, how many individuals are profiting from early voting, and what number of are being rejected. As of this writing, over half one million votes have already been forged within the 2020 election.

I’ll even be protecting observe of lawsuits on the Election Litigation Tracker, a joint undertaking of Election Law at Ohio State and SCOTUSBlog. Pending instances within the pivotal states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania are reviewed right here, in addition to new litigation when it emerges after Election Day. These and different assets can be found for voters to watch election outcomes, establish challenges in states as they emerge, and enhance the transparency of the electoral course of for all.

At UCS, we’re utilizing these and different assets to supply historic and comparative evaluation of a set of pivotal counties, assessing election outcomes by evaluating outcomes with 2016, figuring out the place there are prone to be delays in processing ballots, and monitoring troubling tendencies, reminiscent of racial disparities in poll rejection. Many citizens are new to vote-by-mail this yr, and we anticipate larger error charges, however we can establish outliers and irregularities in spoiled or rejected ballots as they emerge. Equally, we will anticipate the place the vote rely for candidates is prone to change significantly after election night time. Being ready with these statistics will assist voters and advocates verify potential unhealthy actors from profiting from uncertainty to forged doubt on the result.

Lastly, I’ll be watching the media, election officers, and voter reactions to the outcomes. The media want to pay attention to the circumstances of this election and resist the temptation to name victory early. Audiences should be ready to be affected person; it will be important that we all know the winners for sure, not that we’re the primary to “know” who gained. Native election officers are going to want to work tougher at sustaining transparency, updating outcomes as usually as potential whereas offering an correct image of the method. Particularly, officers should prioritize contacting voters with poll issues, offering each alternative to have votes counted, and updating that info. Voters too should be alert and aggressive in defending the sanctity of their votes, ensuring their registration and call info is updated, that they vote safely and securely, and that they monitor the standing of their ballots.

That is going to be a troublesome election. However we’ve got the instruments, the expertise, and the suitable to make sure that everybody has an equal alternative to forged a vote and have it counted. Above all else, we’ve got the political will to see this course of by means of. Afterward, I hope that we take a second to have a good time the continued functioning of democracy, earlier than attending to work on reforming and retrofitting our electoral system in order that we by no means discover ourselves on this predicament once more.

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