Election Legal Battles May Be Unavoidable


The New York Times and others are reporting on pre-election and post-election legal battles that could tie up the results of the presidential election for hours, days, or weeks. The NYT reports:

Together, the pre-election legal skirmishes were a potential preview of the clashes that could emerge in as many as a half-dozen swing states over Tuesday’s voting. The closeness of the races in those states has intensified the stakes of voter turnout, smooth operations at polling places, ballot problems and recounts.

Both campaigns have armies of lawyers ready to descend into the unresolved state(s).

But is there a way to avoid the legal mess associated with elections? One solution might be simplifying the voting process. But in many ways, the layers of complexity added to the process in recent years (voter ID checks, early voting, weekend voting) were meant to make it more secure and more accessible.

Another solution to the legal mess would be federally-controlled elections. But these provide a few concerns. First, elections are by nature a local venture, and kicking that responsibility up to the federal level would require tremendous data transfer between localities and the federal election overlords. Additionally, Americans may not trust a complete centralization of the process on which the preservation of their democracy depends. Think about the danger of hanging chads across the entire United States. And finally, local control of elections allows for experimentation. Localities can explore ways that maximize election security and voter accessibility.

Locally controlled elections, with the mandate for local government to experiment with process, makes legal battles unavoidable. Perhaps the upside of an election riddled with litigation is that people care about their vote and the votes of others. The fights against voter fraud and limited voting days for military personnel indicate that the citizenry cares about the institution which makes democracy work.

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