Democrats in Congress are particularly concerned about the possibility of Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. election. They believe that Russia is attempting to undercut the public’s confidence in the upcoming election. However, the U.S. political establishment, including the Supreme Court, hasn’t required any help in destroying the public’s faith in the election process.
Democrats in Congress have focused attention on Russia due to its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election that, if it even existed, likely had very little effect. Aware of the U.S. record in interfering in elections and overthrowing leaders, people around the world clearly see hypocrisy in the U.S. reaction to the possibility of Russian interference. For more on this shameful U.S. history, see William Blum’s powerful book “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II.” For whatever reason, both the Democratic and Republican parties have ignored real and far more impactful interference in U.S. elections and politics by Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps more important than foreign intervention is the power of big money in politics. The U.S. Supreme Court limited the ability to control the widely recognized effect of corporate money and money from wealthy individuals on U.S. elections and politics. Big money from political action committees (PACs) and super PACs have tremendous impact on election outcomes and on legislation that is enacted.
Other important issues related to the protection of elections are when we vote, who votes, where and how they vote and who counts the votes. The date of the election of federal public officials is set by law as the first Tuesday after Nov. 1. Although some states make Election Day a holiday and others require workers receive some time off to vote, most workers still work on Election Day. Making Election Day a federal holiday or voting on the first weekend in November would certainly make voting less difficult for many.
States control most of the other issues related to voting and they have very different policies. For example, state’s policies for dealing with people in prison, on parole or probation vary tremendously. The Sentencing Project produced a report in 2016 that showed more than 6 million potential voters were disenfranchised, including 4 million who had long ago completed their sentences. Given the composition of the prison populations, this denial of the right to vote hits minorities and the poor the hardest.
State and local authorities determine the location of voting stations and whether or not earlier voting is used. By reducing the number of voting stations and thus creating long lines in an area, officials can reduce the number of people voting. Elimination of early voting also has the effect of reducing the turnout in certain areas. Using mail-in ballots, as in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, provides an alternative way of voting that may increase turnout.
Perhaps of most importance is who and how the votes are counted. As of 2018, 14 states had some locales that were using machines that provided no paper trail of the vote. There would be no way to determine if the votes had been improperly tabulated. In addition, most of the voting machines are provided by private vendors and there is little-to-no public oversight of the computer code being used.
Is it any surprise the public does not have confidence in our elections?