Election Officials’ Dread About This Year’s U.S. Election 

U.S. “election officials are living with a palpable sense of dread . . . about how our vast, diverse system of voting will function [this year] amid a pandemic.” This is the judgment of informed observers of that system: Kevin Johnson, the Executive Director of Election Reformers Network, and Yuval Levin, Director of Social, Cultural and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. [1]

This dread arises from the obvious coming significant increases in “voting by mail and absentee balloting . . . in states unaccustomed to handling these processes at scale. It may be impossible to call many races, including the presidential contest, on election night. And daunting logistical challenges may well raise questions about the legitimacy of the outcome.”

Johnson and Levin say “there are two kinds of steps that responsible leaders could take now to at least contain the danger without falling into partisan combat.”

First, “simply to speak to the problem in public. Elected officials and candidates — as well as journalists, commentators, scholars and others — should talk frankly about the challenges of running an election during a public health crisis, prepare the public for the possibility that we will not have results on election night, and that this does not mean that the results will be tainted when we do get them. Election officials must be given the time they need to count every vote.”

Second, “Congress can take a simple step to provide those officials with that time, particularly when it comes to the presidential election. Election Day, Nov. 3, should not be changed. But electing our president involves a series of steps following that day, which take place on a schedule established by law, not by the Constitution, and which Congress can adjust for this year’s special circumstances.”

“The first significant date on that schedule marks the end of the “safe harbor” period established by federal law, during which states are assured their reported presidential election results will not be challenged in Congress. This year that deadline is Dec. 8. Six days later, on Dec. 14, the 538 members of the electoral college meet in their state capitals to vote. Those votes are not officially tallied by Congress until three weeks after that, on Jan. 6, and the inauguration follows on Jan. 20.”

“The specific calendar should be established by Congress, but [Johnson and Levin suggest,] it might be reasonable to have the electors meet on Jan. 2, after a safe-harbor deadline on New Year’s Eve. Even if the results remained unclear until well into December, state officials would have much more breathing room as transition preparations for both would-be presidents could commence.”

Otherwise, Johnson and Levin say, “it would be a disaster if the outcome of the presidential election turned on an incomplete recount in a state struggling with unprecedented public health and administrative challenges under a deadline.”

Conclusion

These recommendations should be followed by all American citizens and organizations, including the Congress.

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[1]  Johnson & Levin, There are two easy steps to avoiding chaos in this election. We haven’t taken them yet, Wash. Post (July 10, 2020). See also these posts and comments from dwkcommentaries.com: Pandemic Journal (# 10): Wisconsin Primary Election (April 10, 2020); Comment: More Criticism of Republican Strategy of Limiting Voting (April 12, 2020; Comment: More Comments on Wisconsin Election (April 13, 2020); Comment: Surprising Results in Wisconsin Election (April 14, 2020); Comment: George F. Will’s Opinion on Voting By Mail (VBM) (April 15, 2020); Comment: Emerging Battles Over Changing State Election Laws (April 15, 2020); Comment: New York Times Editorial on Wisconsin Election (April 20, 2020; Comment: Thousands of Wisconsin Absentee Ballots Counted After Election Day (May 3, 2020); Pandemic Journal (# 18): Colorado’s Successful Voting by Mail (May 9, 2020); Will Upcoming U.S. Presidential Election Be Legitimate (July 5, 2020); Comment: Update on Litigation Regarding 2020 Election (July 8, 2020); Comment: Trump’s Rants Against Voting by Mail May Hurt Voters for Trump (July 8, 2020); Electoral College Electors Do Not Have Discretion To Vote Contrary to Their State’s Voters (July 6, 2020); Other Opinions About the U.S. Electoral College (July 10, 2020).

 

Other Thoughts About Gratitude

E. J. Dionne Jr.
E. J. Dionne Jr.

On Thanksgiving Day, E. J. Dionne Jr., the Washington Post columnist, added his thoughts about the discipline of gratitude.

“Thanksgiving is about gratitude,” he says, “which is a disposition, a virtue and a way of thinking all at once.” Indeed, it “is a form of discipline. Often those with hard lives and little wealth express enormous gratitude for what they do have, sometimes simply for life itself. Perhaps those with the least best understand Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: ‘Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.’”

When Dionne congratulated Yuval Levin, the conservative editor, writer and political theorist, for his great success by his age of 38, Levin responded “that ‘luck and chance go a long way,’” and that “Ecclesiastes 9:11 should be stamped on luxury cars and Harvard degrees.” That passage in the New International Version of the Bible states:

  • “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”

“Gratitude,” said Dionne, “requires the swift, the strong, the wise, the wealthy, the brilliant and the learned (or those whom the world recognizes as such) to beware of their temptation to arrogance.”

“No matter how hard we might have toiled or how much we might have struggled, the bounty we enjoy is inescapably linked to unearned blessings. We need to remember what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said “’Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we are saved by love.’”

Dionne’s thoughts echo those of Arthur C. Brooks that were summarized in a prior post [1] as well as those about my own gratitude.[2]

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[1] Another Perspective on Gratitude (Nov. 23, 2015)

[2] Gratitude I (March 15, 2012); Gratitude II (April 11, 2012); Gratitude III (April 13, 2012); Gratitude Revisited (June 13, 2015).