Electoral administration at the 2016 US Presidential election

Electoral administration at the 2016 US Presidential election

In advance of the polls, Donald Trump claimed that the US Presidential election would be rigged.  We probably won’t hear those claims again from the 45th American President.

But after an election which put America’s electoral machinery in such a critical limelight it will still need sober and critical post-election evaluation because there were signs, once again, of leaks in the system.

The Trump team went on the offensive looking for incidents of electoral fraud and misconduct.   An elections protection team was established asking for incidents to be reported with a lawsuit was filed in Navada on the conduct of Friday’s early voting.  Meanwhile, civil rights groups organised themselves to prevent legitimate voters from being denied their right to vote – concerned about voter confusion and intimidation from Trump supporters

Providing an immediate judgement on how the electoral machinery fared is not possible.  In a forthcoming book, Alistair Clark and I argue that survey of electoral officials and poll workers should be outlined conducted to debunk myths and partisan spin.

An analysis of social media from the day can be used to identify the type (if not the frequency) of the problems that occurred.  A quick analysis suggests that there was much right about the electoral process.  The will of much the American electorate to cast their vote was palpable in many places.  Long queues formed outside polling stations as they opened on Tuesday morning.  There were everyday stories that illustrated the desire to vote.  One women was so keen to vote that she did so on the way to give birth.   For another couple, voting was their first post-honeymoon date.

Problems in polling stations were also apparent, however.  Although long queues are often a sign of democratic engagement, they can also be a sign of insufficient polling places, staff and resources.  However enthusiastic about the electoral process they are, long queues do deter voters from voting.

The protests that met Donald Trump at his own polling station (including both boobs and boos) gathered much coverage online but there were further problems with faulty voter machines and polling station shootings.

The problems at the 2000 contest were followed by a full inquiry into how problems could be avoided.  Barack Obama launched another inquiry following the last presidential contest. Given that problems persist and Trump put the integrity of electoral administration at the center of the campaign, another bipartisan review may be needed to take stock and seek to restore confidence again.

An earlier version of this piece was published on The Conversation.

Photo credit: Noel Rock

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