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What do early voting and vote-by-mail controversies mean for democracy in the US? Show more Show less
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Record numbers of Americans have cast their vote early before election day on 3rd November in person and by mail. Long queues outside polling stations and fears of voter fraud are the subject of great controversy. What do these controversies tell us about the state of democracy in the US?

Having more early and postal votes weakens US democracy Show more Show less

Elections should take place on a single day, and wider use of early and postal votes introduces unnecessary and undesirable room for error in elections. Voting in person on election day leads to the most democratically legitimate outcome.
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It is important to have a one-day election and have results announced on election night

Elections should be conducted in a short space of time but early and postal voting means that the election is taking place over a number of weeks. The expected delays in counting and announcement of the results is also a problem - we should know who the next president will be on election night.
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The Argument

An increase in the number of early and postal votes cast creates greater scope for counting errors and fraud in voting. It also means that the election will drag on for longer than necessary. The more votes cast in-person on election day, the more accurate the count will be and the better the results will provide a snapshot of American opinion. Widely expanding mail-in vote means that voting could continue for “months or for years” according to Trump, as you will never know when the election is over. With some states accepting mail-in ballots for weeks after election day, it is unknown when the winner will be declared. Trump said that mail-in voting will “make our country the laughing stock of the world” for the delays it will cause.[1] It is also important to have a result to announce on election night, otherwise the nation will be left in a limbo where people will not know what their future will look like. In order to avoid the chaos and uncertainty that this will produce, all votes should be counted on election day so the outcome is achieved clearly and quickly. The democratic process is only legitimate and proper when it takes place over a short period of time and is not vulnerable to delay and uncertainty - the system is supposed to decide the next president in one day.

Counter arguments

It is only a convention that the results are announced on election night. Legally, the election of the next president also involves Electoral College meetings which do not take place immediately after the popular vote.[2] The official results are always released up to weeks after polling day - the outcome was only clear in 2016 due to the way states decided their Electoral College votes. This stance is taken by leading Republicans, including Donald Trump, and is politically motivated. Democrats are expected to do better from mail-in votes, whereas Republican voters prefer to vote in person.[3] The Republicans are trying to deter early and postal voters so that they have a better chance of winning the presidency. Trump also requested a mail-in vote for the Florida Republican primary election - this is clearly a political issue, not one of principle.[1]

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53795876
  2. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/18/politics/electoral-college-timeline-2020-election/index.html
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/elections/early-voting-numbers-so-far/
This page was last edited on Friday, 23 Oct 2020 at 10:34 UTC