The United States faces the challenge of preliminary voting results


The United States of America will vote again on November 8th.  The election of Barack Obama’s successor has been marked by an acerbic electoral campaign that has touched even the voting system.  One of the candidates, Republican Donald Trump has adopted a position so far unseen in the country’s history: he has not guaranteed he will accept the results.

Due to Trump’s volatile stance, the expectations for his approval of the vote count are increasing, but there are electoral matters off the spotlight the country should revise and modify; such is the case of the process for making the results official.

In that country, electoral management depends on the counties, so each one has its own laws and there can be important differences between them, both judicial and technical.  For instance, in practice, the results being broadcast on election night are only preliminary, and every state has an average of five more weeks to formalize the count.

There is also early voting, which although takes place weeks before the election is counted a long time after the election proper, depending on norms varying by county or state.

This procedural reality has not affected the country in a significant way, since the basis for its democracy are solid. However, now that one of the contenders for the White House is doubting whether he will accept the results, the ghosts of 2000 are coming back to life.  In that election, the narrow margin between both candidates and the errors in vote identification and counting in the state of Florida generated a scandal that still reverberates among the population. The resolution of that election was delayed for weeks.

Facing the uncertainties in America about the upcoming power transfer, civil organizations, political parties and voters should put the spotlight on the need to review the laws that make it difficult for the election day vote count to have an official nature.

The sense of security given to the electorate by announcing formal results without delay makes the difference in extreme yet not atypical scenarios, such as when there is a narrow vote difference between the candidates, accusations of irregular practices or errors in the manual vote count.

The United States have the challenge of improving their voting certification process on both local and regional levels, in order to prevent preliminary results to tarnish a system that is acknowledged as safe, but which still has a wide margin to improve and become more secure.

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