Friday, November 6, 2020

What Comes After Election 2020? Three Things to Know in the Coming Days

By Dean Michael Waterstone

Last night, Loyola Law School held a panel on “Election 2020: What Comes Next?” I was joined by incredible colleagues, Professor Jessica Levinson and Professor Justin Levitt, both national experts in the election law and the law of democracy. Our combined goal was to ease some of the anxiety created by this year’s election circumstances through education and awareness, specifically helping everyone understand what can unfold in the coming days.

Three important takeaways:

  • This election is likely to be decided by the voters, not the courts – regardless of political preference, many are comparing this or having flashbacks to 2000 and Bush v. Gore. That situation was different - it involved determinations of hundreds of votes. Nothing presented thus far gets anything close to that. There will be litigation, but none is likely to be close enough or present an opportunity for courts to decide the election. And not all lawsuits can or will be effective. In a phrase which merits trademarking, Professor Levitt explained that sometimes lawsuits can be “nothing more than tweets with filing fees”.
  • The administration of elections is messy and not well understood – even national elections are not administered in a national way. Elections are administered by state and local authorities, and ultimately are run by volunteers. This is a crucial, yet unheralded part of American Democracy. (and I am so proud of over 100 members of our community who served as polling place workers this election). Although some paint this as a cause of concern, and we should fund election administration more, it is also a source of strength. There is not central system to penetrate or hack, and our community willingly takes on the responsibility of counting all of our votes. 
  • Our country is bitterly divided – and this manifests itself in everything, including how we view our election system. This is troubling for many reasons, as one of the things that undermines and makes our system work is that it is viewed as legitimate. Both panelists spoke to a renewed need for civics engagement at all levels. One of the reasons people focus, perhaps overmuch, on the presidential election is we expect our leader to do all of the hard work for us. We have to do more even more than vote – we have to work in our own communities to create whatever change we want to see. 
At a time when people are looking for answers to questions about the election process and what comes next, this was an enlightening and entertaining conversation with two true experts in the field. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did; please listen to the full version here.

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