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2020 has not been a great year for US elections.
Seriously, look at this drone footage from The New York Times of socially distanced people waiting to vote in Atlanta on Tuesday. This right here is absolutely not the way it’s supposed to work.
But long lines for the Georgia primary are far from the first storm cloud this year.
Failure in Iowa – First, the Iowa caucuses were basically invalidated (faulty technology). That was way back in February, which feels like a decade ago but wasn’t.
Pandemic voting – Then, courts and GOP lawmakers essentially forced an in-person primary in Wisconsin just as Covid-19 was taking hold in April, forcing people to vote in-person at the height of the frenzy. Most other states delayed theirs.
Long lines – While some states have handled the pandemic pivot fine, others have floundered. Voters in Washington, DC, crammed into a fraction of the normal polling places, waited hours to cast primary ballots early in June, and some were forced to stay out past a curfew in place in the early days of racial justice protests.
Meltdown in Georgia – The above problems converged in Georgia’s primary when a new election system glitched for some polling places and long lines formed because, as a result of coronavirus, fewer polling places were opened. The banner headline of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday was “complete meltdown.”
CNN’s Abby Phillip writes:
As Congress has stalled on additional funding and support to states trying to prepare for November 3, the warning signs are piling up and time is running out. Now, a top federal election official is calling for lawmakers to act quickly to provide additional funding to states.
“The election officials I talk to are aware of the challenges, but I also know and I can see the real resource challenges, recruitment challenges and voter education challenges, and all those things cost money,” said Ben Hovland, chairman of the US Election Commission.
Less than five months until the general election – None of this bodes well for November, especially when President Donald Trump has already laid the groundwork to question the results by saying – without proof and contra the facts – that mail-in voting, which many states are pushing in the time of coronavirus, is ripe for fraud.
If Trump loses, it’s not hard to imagine he’ll say the election was stolen even though it almost surely won’t have been.
Who gets to vote? – There are continued complaints, usually among Democrats, that voter ID laws and voter access requirements are a form of voter suppression.
And there are continued accusations, usually among Republicans, that there’s a possibility of fraud. Conservative groups have gone to court to force voter roll purges in swing states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Add to that the fact that long lines often seem to occur in US cities, which often have more minorities and black Americans – Atlanta and Washington, DC, in just the last two weeks.
The bottom line is that Democrats, generally, are trying to make it easier for people to vote and Republicans, generally, are trying to make it more difficult.
But the great fear is that everyone loses faith in the results.
Election Day is November 3. It can’t, by law, be moved except by Congress.
What should we do? Here’s a detailed list of 14 changes that could be made in the legal, media, politics and technology worlds, according to the Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Legitimacy, a panel of political scientists and policy experts created after the Covid-19 outbreak.
The first recommendation is for states to modify and improve their systems for providing and counting absentee and mail-in ballots.
Their sixth recommendation includes that media organizations should transmit to the public that, with the rise in the number of mail-in and absentee ballots, the 2020 election may be “too close to call” for days after November 3.
That’s going to be interesting.