Why American Elections Are Flawed (And How to Fix Them)
The flaws in the American electoral process have become increasingly apparent in recent years. The contemporary tipping point in public awareness occurred during the 2000 election count, and concern deepened due to several major problems observed in the 2016 campaign, worsening party polarization, and corroding public trust in the legitimacy of the outcome.To gather evidence about the quality of elections around the world, in 2012 the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) was established as an independent research project based at Harvard and Sydney universities. The results show that experts rated American elections as the worst among all Western democracies. Without reform, these problems risk damaging the legitimacy of American elections—further weakening public confidence in political parties, Congress, and the U.S. government, depressing voter turnout, and exacerbating the risks of mass protests.Why American Elections Are Flawed describes several major challenges observed during the 2016 U.S. elections arising from deepening party polarization over basic voting procedures, the serious risks of hacking and weak cyber-security, the consequences of deregulating campaign spending, and lack of professional and impartial electoral management. Pippa Norris outlines the core concept and measure of electoral integrity, the key yardstick used to evaluate free and fair elections. Evidence from expert and mass surveys demonstrate the extent of problems in American elections. She shows how these challenges could be addressed through several practical steps designed to improve electoral procedures and practices. If implemented, the reforms will advance free and fair elections, and liberal democracy, at home and abroad.
Pippa Norris is the Paul McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard University, Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and founding Director of the Electoral Integrity Project. She is the author of Why Electoral Integrity Matters and Why Elections Fail.