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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 1
The US general election on Nov. 3 is the most widely anticipated in decades, and likely to rank among the most controversial.
President Donald Trump has refused to say he will accept the results, and his allies in the Republican party are pushing measures to limit access to voting, from fake ballot boxes to limited polling sites to alleged sabotage of the US Postal Service. Disinformation campaigns launched at home and abroad have questioned the reliability of US election methods, in itself another tactic for disrupting a plebiscite. And, of course, there’s the added wrinkle of a deadly, highly contagious virus that has everyone fretting about outbreaks stemming from mass action of any kind.
If you’re eligible to vote in the US and you want to do your part to make sense of the madness, the first thing to do is: Vote. Election chaos is ultimately about confusing and dismaying the public’s political power. Don’t give in. Let your voice be heard.
The second thing to do is remember the world has been here before. When democracy stops being polite and starts getting real, it’s not the end of the world—remember why the power is with the people in the first place.
Let’s tick all the boxes.
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 2
“I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. Get rid of the ballots and…we’ll have a very peaceful. There won’t be a transfer. Frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”
—US president Donald Trump, Sept. 23, 2020
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 3
First, the bad news: The US missed the deadline for a lot of common-sense things experts say should be done to protect elections—clear government warnings about foreign meddlers, additional funding and measures for secure voting, or maintaining paper ballot records. That’s partially due to complacency, and partially because president Donald Trump thinks it works in his favor. “It is inherently difficult to remedy election disruptions after the fact,” one expert analysis of election violence noted.
Still, besides making sure you have a voting plan, you can prepare yourself for the madness. Remember your best practices for all media: Consider context, the source of the information, and take a deep breath. You’re likely to see claims of fraud, intimidation, or more perniciously, claims that election day has been extended. Can you verify these claims with credible journalists and government officials?
Your most important virtue is patience. There’s no requirement to know the election winner on Nov. 3, even if the cable networks think it so. A “red mirage,” the false appearance on election day that Trump has won because Democrats may be more likely to vote absentee or by mail, will really just be a mirage.
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 4
79,646: The number of votes in three US states that could have changed the results of the 2016 general election—less than one-tenth of 1% of participating voters
21: Number of US states targeted by Russian operatives during the 2016 election
1: Number of votes on the Supreme Court that could have changed the results of the 2000 election by not stopping vote counting in Florida
>40: Number of election-related lawsuits the Republican party is participating in, two months before the vote
27.9%: Share of eligible Estonians who voted online in 2019; 63.7% of eligible voters participated
55.7%: Share of eligible Americans who voted in the 2016 election
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 5
Election madness had a different flavor in the early days of the US: Electioneering involved lots of free booze, like the 144 gallons of rum, punch, hard cider, and beer a young George Washington used to woo voters in his second run for local office. (He believed his first attempt failed because he didn’t dole out enough of the good stuff.)
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 6
1876: The most bitterly contested American election to date ends in a back-room deal declaring Republican Rutherford B. Hayes president, halting Reconstruction and ushering in nearly a century of white supremacist rule in the South.
1927: A contest in Liberia is called “the most rigged election in history” after the incumbent reports receiving votes equivalent to 15 times the national population.
1965: The US enacts the Voting Rights Act, finally taking action to prevent racists from denying Black Americans and other minority groups the right to vote.
1988: In Mexico, the Institutional Revolutionary Party government claims the national vote-counting computer crashed in an effort to cover up a massive election-rigging effort.
2000: In the case of Bush v. Gore, the US Supreme Court halts ongoing recounts in Florida, declaring George W. Bush president.
2007: Estonia holds the first national general election with internet voting.
2016: Donald Trump becomes the fourth US president to win the electoral college while losing the popular vote.
2019: Trump becomes the third US president to be impeached after asking the Ukrainian government to release damaging information about a political rival ahead of the election.
2020: The Iowa Democratic party’s attempt to run its presidential nominating caucus on a custom app goes terribly wrong.
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 7
Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years, returning to power again and again in elections widely seen as fraudulent. This year, he may finally have overstepped. After barring many opponents from participating, the strongman received an unbelievable 80% of the vote, and Belarussians took to the streets in protest. Lukashenko has turned to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who duly dispatched Russian soldiers in a show of support—but now analysts are asking if choosing Lukashenko over the public will sour Belarussia’s traditionally close relationship with Russia and push the country to closer ties with the EU.
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 8
The intersection between the US popular vote and its expression through the electoral college is a key factor in American election chaos, since a tight race in a populous state could swing the entire result, as we saw in 2000.
A disputed result in a linchpin state for the electoral college could be caused by arguments over counting procedures, disputes over voter suppression and intimidation, or really any pretext for a legal challenge. Unlike in 2016, when it was clear in the waning days of the election that multiple states were too close to call, this year’s polling data suggests a more commanding lead for Democratic candidate Joe Biden—if his voters turn out.
Trump and other Republicans have suggested the rush to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is in part an effort to ensure a full panel of justices to weigh in on election controversies. Some fear that Republican state legislatures could act independently to overrule the will of the voters by appointing Trump electors whatever the election results. Democrats, for their part, say they have learned the lessons of 2000 and won’t be sitting on the sidelines during the next Brooks Brothers riot.
The real worst-case scenario would be Trump refusing to leave office amidst a constitutional crisis. This may be an unfounded fear, but much of the American election process depends on respecting norms, and no one counts on Trump to do that. In this scenario, the integrity of the US election will be preserved or not by a mobilized populace demonstrating and striking for their democratic rights like activists battling authoritarian leaders around the world.
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 10
The right and/or privilege of voting has been a contested matter since the founding of the US, and American history is perhaps best told as a tale of expanding democratic franchise—one outlined in this short documentary produced by Vox.
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Quartz Obsession — Post-election chaos — Card 12
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