This is the 21st century, right? The United States is one of the most technologically advanced nations on earth. So why is it taking some states days or even potentially weeks to certify their election results? Shouldn’t that be a problem reserved for the 18th or 19th century, when horses and masted ships were the most common method of transportation?
But no, in 2020 it’s increasingly likely that one of the most powerful leadership roles on earth will remain unresolved and contested for the time being. As an American, I find that immensely frustrating. Not only does this delay damage our reputation abroad, but it will also heighten feelings of election interference across the country.
It’s true that the final, official election results usually remain unclear until later in the process, but news organizations generally have enough information to make the call about who will be the next President of the United States late Tuesday night or in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
However, due to the pandemic, more people decided to do a mail-in ballot instead of actually going to the polls. This has caused an extreme amount of problems as in-person voting is, supposedly, much easier to process than mail-in. But still, counting votes cannot be that hard?
Well, if a New York Times article is accurate, a lot of this lack of information and insight has to do with when a state can begin processing ballots. In Florida and Colorado, counting ballots can begin before an election—however, election officials in the state of Pennsylvania can only start counting mail-in ballots at 4 p.m. the day after the election, which for a battleground state is a rather terrible idea.
This would usually not be an issue if the vast majority of Americans voted on the day of, but unfortunately, states failed to make the appropriate accommodations for the expected increase in mail-in and early ballot voting.
Those that did, like Pennsylvania, established a temporary extension that would allow officials to count ballots mailed in for three days after the election. The challenge for those questioning whether ballots, including those missing a postmark, were mailed before the Election Day cut-off, is an almost impossible task. Perhaps that would have worked for a state like Wyoming that leans Republican and has the nation’s smallest population, but that doesn’t work for a battleground state like Pennsylvania.
Instead of answers and a clear path forward, the nation is in a state of limbo. Some races are so close that only a couple of thousand votes could make all the difference.
Not only does it go to show that the polls for this election, which had Joe Biden winning handily, were wrong, but that this may be one of the closest election results in the history of the country. It again highlights the divided state of America, and increases the likelihood of protests, violence and instability going forward.
If someone thought voting for Biden would be a reprieve from what the media and some have considered the chaotic years of Donald Trump, they were wrong.
It’s not only that states cannot properly count the ballots, but it’s media organizations either calling a state early or making the nation twiddle their thumbs while awaiting a result.
Fox News made waves when its Decision Desk announced that former Vice President Joe Biden had won Arizona, without counting all the votes, but has yet to call North Carolina. One of the Decision Desk statisticians said that their call was “100% accurate” and there was no way forward for the president, a shocking conclusion given that the results would be determined by individual human action. Since the broadcast, the results have narrowed significantly. Currently, the vote difference is less than 70,000 with only 86% having been counted.
Donald Trump could potentially flip the state, which would result in the Decision Desk looking somewhat foolish.
Either way, this whole election process has been frustrating, though somewhat understandable given the new challenges this year. When the Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can make fun of the United States election process and democracy in a tweet, it’s clear that we’ve lost at least some of our standing in the world.
So, for 2024, can we please have a better and more accurate process in place for the election?
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