Whoever wins, the system has worked

Early Returns

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Still counting the votes. But here's the good news: In the midst of a pandemic, harsh partisan polarization, the biggest turnout in more than a century (in percentage terms) or ever (in raw numbers), and persistent hostility from the president, the U.S. has pulled off what certainly appears to be a well-run, free and fair election. 

Kudos to all the state and local officials who appear to have done an excellent job, and to the thousands of men and women who served as poll workers and who counted (or are still counting) the votes. More than 48 hours after the polls closed, I don't think I've heard a single serious complaint about election administration against either Democratic or Republican elected officials. Yes, I'm aware of the evidence-free accusations from President Donald Trump and his allies, but those are actually signs that things have been well-run: If Trump had evidence of real problems or misconduct, he'd be parading it in front of the cameras — and, more important, in front of judges. That hasn't happened.

(Yes, I've seen stories of supposed fraud, mostly from the president's supporters. All of them were thoroughly debunked by the time I came across them, generally by someone spending a minute or so checking the facts. I'm sure sooner or later someone will dig up a problem or two. It's a big nation. But even the glitches and innocent mistakes that happen in every election seem to be less evident than usual this time.) 

Did this election signal problems that should be fixed going forward? Sure. But aside from spending more to improve the overall system (which I favor), these are largely questions about tradeoffs. I'm not a fan of the slow vote tallies, but I do like the idea of making it easy to vote, and allowing ballots postmarked on Election Day necessarily means a slower count. That's before we start talking about overseas military ballots, which everyone thinks should be given plenty of leeway. I saw some grumbling about how the election would've been called quickly if it wasn't for the Electoral College, which forced everyone to wait for votes to be processed in a handful of close states. True! This time. But we've had cycles where the total vote was very close while the Electoral College was not, and if that was the case this time, we'd be waiting for returns from far more states that are still busy counting. There are good arguments for changing the system, but the count this time isn't really one of them.

I also want to give credit to the folks on TV. I've been saying for two full years that they need to do a better job of explaining the slow count, and that was before the virus pushed a record number of voters to switch to absentee ballots. But from what I can tell, they've done an excellent job this time. Kudos to them, and also to Rick Hasen and his team of scholars and practitioners who have pushed a new set of best practices. Well done by all.

1. Henry Farrell at the Monkey Cage on Trump and democracy.

2. Daniel Nichanian and Anna Simonton on how criminal-justice reform did in the elections.

3. Adav Noti explains why the scheme to have state legislatures throw out the election returns and appoint a new set of electors is unconstitutional and illegal.

4. Marc Ambinder on one way toward a healthier U.S. politics.

5. Ed Kilgore on the upcoming George Senate runoffs.

6. And Philip Klein looks at — yes — the 2024 Republican nomination contest. Like it or not, it's already underway.  

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