Election Observation Post-2020

By Rebecca Green

The United States is in the midst of a crisis in confidence in elections, despite the many process protections baked into every stage of election administration. Part of the problem is that few Americans know just how rigorous the protections in place are, and most Americans have no concept of how modern elections are run. Election observation statutes are intended to provide a window for members of the public to learn about and oversee the process and to satisfy themselves that elections are fair and that outcomes are reliable. Yet in 2020, in part due to unforeseen pandemic conditions, election observation fell short. This Essay examines the shortcomings of modern election observation in the United States, looks at reform proposals on the table, and suggests several principles that should inform efforts to address the most worrisome shortfalls.