Important Ned Foley in Politico:
/already, both nominees have suggested that if they lose, it will be because of wrongdoing on the other side, raising the prospect that they might not accept a loss. In a speech in August, President Donald Trump proclaimed, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” The month before, Democrat Joe Biden declared that by discouraging voters from casting mail-in ballots, Trump will “try to indirectly steal the election.” Hillary Clinton, the previous Democratic nominee, went further, saying, “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually, I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch.”
It’s clear from this kind of provocative rhetoric that both sides need reminding of the lesson of 1884 — and a core tenet of the American electoral system: Not every defect in the voting process renders an election invalid. Now, perhaps more than ever — with all the uncertainty that the pandemic brings to the election this fall — we must draw a bright line between a flawed election and one that has truly failed. A flawed election is not ideal, but its results still should be accepted, unlike in a failed election, which does not represent the choice of the voters.
There are two key points to understand here in the context of the current election. First, disinformation, even by ill-willed foreign adversaries, does not, in itself, invalidate an election. Second, disenfranchisement, as abhorrent as it is, invalidates an election only when it exists on a scale large enough to affect the election’s outcome. What matters isn’t whether the process was perfect, but whether the democratic will of the people was served.
All elections have flaws. And in today’s environment of mistrust, it’s easy for politicians to exploit those flaws to cast doubt on the whole result. When problems inevitably arise this fall — and when the two sides inevitably raise objections — then the loser, the loser’s party and the American people need to be prepared to know whether there truly is cause for some kind of recount or “redo,” or whether to accept the electoral verdict and move on. What should we look for?