Monday, October 26, 2020

We've Been Through Long Elections Before and Can Do It Again

 As the November 3, 2020 Presidential election approaches, anxiety has grown over the possibility of lengthy processes for the counting of votes and determination of a winner.  The unprecedented amount of mail-in voting may complicate the counting process in many states, although efforts are underway to reduce potential logjams.  These are logistical problems that likely can be resolved with a little extra time.  There's no legal requirement that all votes be counted on Election Day, nor is there a legal requirement that only votes cast on Election Day be counted.  America has been through long elections before and can get through this one.

Elections used to take weeks.  Before 1848, Presidential elections were conducted over a 34-day period with each state specifying a particular date of its choice for voting.  Citizens had to wait quite a while for final results.  The telegraph came into use starting in 1844, and Congress became concerned that the rapid transmission of results from early voting states could affect the results in states with later election dates.  So the first Tuesday of November was established by federal law as the date for Presidential elections beginning in 1848.  Even then, there wasn't and still isn't any requirement for all votes to be counted on Election Day, or that only votes counted on Election Day matter.    

The modern era hasn't been exempt from lengthy election processes.  The 2000 contest between Al Gore and George W.  Bush wasn't resolved until Dec. 12, 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush.  Even though the five-week period of uncertainty from that election exacerbated social and political divisions that had been vociferously aired during the campaign, America didn't fall apart.  

We'll have to be patient with the tabulation of votes this year.  But Americans in the past have been patient--sometimes very patient--while the democratic process played out.  It's at moments like this that true Americans tightly embrace democratic principles.  There are news stories reporting that Trump may not respect the outcome of the election if he loses.  Some of his far right followers are reportedly preparing for violence on his behalf.  We should stick faithfully to our democratic principles.  Nothing really bad has happened when we did so in the past.  Nothing really bad will happen now if we stay true to democracy. 

No comments: