Sometimes it takes an agonizingly bad experience to remind you how great you really have it.
Such is the case with this week’s Iowa caucuses, which dissolved into a stew of delayed results, broken apps and bitter recriminations between the Democrats running for president. The public reaction to the mess was swift and predictable: Our political system is broken, the electoral system is rigged, Iowa shouldn’t host first-in-the-nation caucuses, Democrats are incompetent.
Pick your jaded, simplistic view and someone espoused it.
But the fact is, despite a single messy night, U.S. elections are in a strong place right now. According to reporting from USA Today, “For nearly 20 years, since Florida's hanging chads delayed the 2000 presidential election results for 35 days, federal, state and local officials have invested billions of dollars in voting machines, registration databases, training programs and more. Ironically, the end result has been a return to paper ballots, along with a trend toward early voting that has siphoned some of the stress from Election Day.”
Fears of hacking raised in the 2016 vote means that most states have turned from solely technology-based solutions — touchscreen machines without a paper trail or machines that transmit results online — back to tried-and-true methods (such as optical scan technology, where you fill in bubbles on a piece of paper like a standardized test).
The cynical, weary responses about our elections are actually what our enemies want, experts say. Russians would like nothing more than for American voters to think their ballots don’t count. Nefarious foreign actors delight in apathy and conflict over the foundations of democracy.
But our system works, by and large. A single messy caucus (which is overseen by the party, not state officials, it should be noted) can’t undo the time and energy invested to make sure that all of our votes count.
Or in the words of David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, “"Elections are mostly better run than ever before. The chances that you go to vote and that you have a really positive experience are overwhelmingly high."
One final note: Delays in counting shouldn’t be taken as a sign of weakness. You know who has incredibly quick election tabulation? North Korea. They know who’s going to win.
In the United States, we should be glad when officials take the time to get it right. Slowing down and making sure sure that every vote is included is a sign of strength, not of weakness.
We should be proud of our elections.
Now make sure to vote.