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Restoring Trust in U.S. Elections

Big Picture

The key to any successful relationship is trust, and it is demonstrated in various ways. This includes respecting the rules of the relationship, and taking accountability when one breaks those rules. This means being open and transparent about what is going on internally, so it could lead to better, more effective solutions externally. To maintain trust between two parties, there has to be a strong essence of reliability and confidence; otherwise, it could lead to the steady decline of an unhealthy relationship, like the one that American citizens have with U.S. elections. Distrust in the electoral process could have disastrous effects on the current state of democracy, and America has a responsibility to reform the electoral process to uphold values of accessibility, transparency and fairness to gain and preserve the citizens’ trust. 


Operative Definitions

  1. Partisan: Showing too much support for one person, group, or idea, especially without considering it carefully.

  2. Nonpartisan: Free from party affiliation, bias, or designation.

  3. Plurality Voting: An electoral process whereby a candidate who gets the most votes in the election wins.

  4. Majority Voting: An electoral system in which the winner of an election is the candidate who received more than half of the votes cast.


Important Facts and Statistics

  1. 20% of the public says it's very confident about the system. This is a significant drop from 37% in an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in the days after the insurrection in 2021.

  2. 30% of Democrats say they are very confident in the U.S. election systems overall. 

  3. Only 1 in 5 Independents consider themselves "very confident" in the nation's elections.

  4. Even fewer Republicans (13%) are very confident, with a considerable majority (59%) having little faith in the system, responding that they either are "not so confident" or "not confident at all."


Three-Point Plan

(1) Providing proper training for poll workers.

This would be a very simple, but effective step towards a solution. Ensuring that all poll workers are thoroughly trained increases the chance for voters to have a positive experience on election day, and they are also more likely to trust ballot counts knowing the extensive training that poll workers would have.


(2) Remove “politics” from elections. 

Politics, in this context, refers to the partisan groups who are essentially controlling the administration of elections that exist today. Guy-Uriel Charles, a Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, discusses in an MIT panel that it is in the nation’s best interest to give this control to “professionals, independent individuals, nonpartisan experts,” ensuring that the fundamental rules of elections are maintained and trust with the citizens is upheld.


(3) Implement more effective electoral systems. 

Edward Foley, the Director of the Election Law Center at Ohio State University Moritz School of Law, comments at the same MIT panel that his one wish is for “Congress to pass a statute that would require the winners of congressional elections to actually get a majority of votes, not merely a plurality.” Under majority vote systems, election results will more likely represent the kind of candidate that citizens actually want. There are various ways to accomplish this:

  • Top-Two Voting: A top-two primary is a type of primary election where all candidates are listed on the same ballot. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliations. Consequently, it is possible for two candidates belonging to the same political party to win in a top-two primary and face off in the general election.

  • Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV): An RCV is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated and the next-preference choice is indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

  • Approval Voting: Approval voting is an electoral system in which voters may vote for any number of candidates they choose. The candidate receiving the most votes wins. Approval voting may be used in single-winner and multi-winner systems.


Why This Initiative is Important

One of the fundamental aspects of a healthy democracy is the people’s right to vote. Not only does that include making sure voting is accessible to everyone, but it also means that citizens have to trust that the electoral process will deliver election results that accurately represent the communities’ values. After the most recent presidential election and the events that transpired after, it is clear that this basic trust has massively declined. If the U.S. wants to have a healthy, functioning democracy, there has to be continuous efforts from the government to develop and implement solutions to change the way that elections operate.


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Bush, Sarah and Lauren Prather. “How to Restore Trust in U.S. Election Results.” Greater Good, 13 Jan. 2023, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_restore_trust_in_us_election_results

Canon, David, et al. “Restoring Trust in the Voting Process.” Restoring Trust in the Voting Process, 18 Nov. 2021, dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/138153

Chatelain, Ryan. “Poll: 6 in 10 Americans Trust Election Integrity.” Spectrum News NY1, 4 Nov. 2022, www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2022/11/04/poll--6-in-10-americans-trust-election-integrity

Economic Co-operation and Development, Organization for. Trust in Government - OECD, 2021, www.oecd.org/governance/trust-in-government/

Shepherd, Brittany. “Americans’ Faith in Election Integrity Drops: POLL.” ABC News, 6 Jan. 2022, abcnews.go.com/Politics/americans-faith-election-integrity-drops-poll/story?id=82069876

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