Why does the United States take so long to count votes?

Ballots for the United States midterm elections are counted by a machine, at the Maricopa County Election and Tabulation Center in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 10, 2022 (Reuters)
Ballots for the United States midterm elections are counted by a machine, at the Maricopa County Election and Tabulation Center in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 10, 2022 (Reuters)

At least two topics are almost impossible to understand outside of USAthe weapons and the delay in counting the votes. By the way, we must add the little influence of foreign opinions, that is, how little they are of interest because they come from outside.

This is reflected in the scarce journalistic coverage about how and where it appears USA in comparative surveys of electoral systems at the international level, since this would disseminate that in the rankings made by specialists on reliability and compliance with international standards, the location of USA It is mediocre, in the average, beyond the country and its tradition.

Electoral specialists differ from the great mass of people or the media that throughout the world have the image that it is a good system, perhaps because it is USA. In fact, the projections of the TV of the winners are presented as if they were official results, but even if they are correct, they simply are not. They are that, projections.

USA nor does it have, either at the federal or state level, a electoral justice system specialized in elections or in the rapid resolution of claims or disputes, with which the dispute revolves between courts that often have even contradictory rulings. In fact, it has never had it, nor is there or has been uniformity in the requirements to vote or in the requirements that the different systems must meet, nor in national standards, perhaps because the country has never had ONE electoral system, as it depends constitutionally on of the States, so today there are no less than 51 (the 50 States plus the Federal District, the capital Washington).

What is behind is not the Electoral College that has characterized the USA since its birth, but the reliability and security of the system (or systems), that is, what leads to the fact that in the recent elections of November 8, 2 weeks later, the votes for the mayoralty of The Angels or that in the State of Arizona Complaints are being presented to the courts, judicialization that will not prevent the assumption of the winners, but will maintain the issue of alleged illegitimacy for years.

It is not about well-known denialisms such as that of the “Russian plot” where, faced with the surprise of the election of Trumpin 2016 the unproven but widely disseminated argument was woven that the triumph would have been due to Vladimir Putin, nothing less. It would also be the opposite case of one’s own Trump who insists even today that he did not lose 2020, but that the election would have been stolen from him.

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In neither of these two cases has evidence been presented to support them, but the large number that believes them is notable, as is the irresponsibility of the close media that supports these conspiracy theories. It’s the kind of thing, like late counting of votes, that you don’t expect to happen in this country, but it does happen, and it increasingly hurts the democratic system itself.

In addition to the many differences that exist between the States on early voting by mail, the truth is that the systems, being so many, present irregularities and differences between one and the other, even at the level of municipalities and counties in terms of resources and modernity. of the machines used, which includes differences in the speed of counting, as well as the fact that not all of them count in the same way and at the same times, varying the type of identification that is requested in the face-to-face vote, not requiring in some cases an official ID with a photograph, still accepting the “harvesting” of votes, where someone collects a set of ballots, for example, in a residence for the elderly, and takes them directly to the place of counting.

It is this type of situation, where there have been irregularities, that feeds prosecution in various courts, and conspiracy theories, but for the same reason, that is, because of the characteristics of being extraordinarily varied and decentralized systems, it is almost impossible to even suspect that in the 2016 or 2020 elections there could be results other than those known.

The doubt remains because there are so many people who believe them in USA, which has a very negative effect, given the division and polarization that exists today. That there are 51 systems and not one has a clear and convincing explanation in the constitutional system of USA.

The Constitution of 1787 is based on the fact that the country was an agreement between states, so that idea crosses the 7 articles (yes, it is brief) that compose it, so that when the state predominates, everything that is related to elections is the spring of the legislatures of each state. Figure in the origins of USAin the name of the country and nothing essential has changed in that situation.

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That being said, USA today it needs a review and update of its election management at a triple level, federal (national), state and local. This is how the head of state himself is not directly elected by the voters, but indirectly through voters in an electoral college. On the other hand, the members of Congress are directly elected.

The Constitution establishes that the president must be elected in a single day throughout the country (although there are many votes by mail and early), but elections for positions in Congress can be at different times, every six years in the case of senators and every two for representatives. Furthermore, the regulation of and qualification of the candidates that appear in congressional and local elections, corresponds to the legislation of each state.

The Electoral College has been criticized many times, above all, for the fact that, in practice, the voters of some states turn out to be more important than others, for example, when they correspond to places that change their minds from one election to another, for which reason the efforts and resources are focused on these and not on those with the largest population, but where whoever wins is predictable. The defense of the College argues that it is a mechanism so that even the smallest states can have gravitation and importance. In fact, since any modification requires a constitutional amendment, no reform has ever prospered.

Since 1964, the Electoral College It has 538 delegates who, although they are not obligated, agree to support the winners, but it is not the voters, but they who choose the president and vice president, and in many cases, whoever wins the state gets all their electoral votes. . There is also a factor of population number, since each state has as many delegates as the sum of its representatives and senators to Congress (the total sum is 538). Undoubtedly, the system of delegates obeys its origins in the 18th century, a peasant society, where there was no possibility that the voters knew all the candidates well, but they did know people from their own State.

Whether they are presidential, congressional, or local elections (they also include judges and sheriffs in many places), early and mail-in ballots cast before Election Day are counted when required by state law.

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In the case of the midterm vote (half of the presidential term) that just took place on November 8, there are at least 10 steps to follow. Just as there are territories where it works without problems, the truth is that there is no reason that can explain the delay that occurs in some places, also repeatedly. Nothing explains it, just like it’s so complicated.

The system urgently needs modernization and reform, but how? A constitutional reform is virtually impossible, since the states are not going to give up their powers. Since the possibility of reform is null today in Congress, the path should be the Supreme Court which has done so more than once in history, as, for example, on the issue of racial equality in the 50s.

It would be the fastest, plus it has almost unique powers in the world, since its rulings and decisions are binding on everyone, just as if it were a law. I see the problem in that they do not have the obligation to accept everything that is presented to them, resolving few cases every year, in general, those that have a constitutional root, and that no one else in the country can resolve.

In the presentations of recent years and that I have reviewed for this column, I notice the same problem or defect, the fact that there is no work or preparation similar to what has existed in those situations where the Court has resolved an issue that had no then political exit. In those cases that it intervened, there was a great prior preparation by the interested parties, step by step, while those of the last years have sought to ask it to resolve-for or against-immediately, with which they end up rejected.

If convinced, and without altering the constitutional balances, in its sentence the Supreme Court It could establish common characteristics for all elections and scrutinies, regardless of where they take place or where the vote is cast, which considers the country’s tradition and good international examples, standardizing the requirements, to avoid uncertainty and questions about the act from which legitimacy arises. of the whole system. Also the way to count the votes.

The republic and the democratic system would appreciate it. He would earn the trust.


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