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Election Dissection

Carter Center: Irregularities don't necessarily mean an invalid election

The Carter Center, the international election-observing organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter, posted this reminder that any human enterprise on the scale of the U.S. election is bound to have some suspicious things happen. The key for the public is that lost or mismailed ballots, votes cast by dead people or machine glitches that cause long lines aren't likely to happen on the scale that would make a difference in the end result.

The Carter Center is working to improve U.S. elections for the first time this year. It's known for its efforts on elections in 39 mostly developing countries in South America, Africa and Asia. In 2020, as The Fulcrum noted last week, the organization will be working to improve the U.S. election. It has cited "deep polarization, lack of confidence in elections, obstacles to participation by minority groups and others, persistent racial injustice, and the COVID-19 pandemic," as the reason for its new work in the United States. Earlier this month David Carroll, head of the group's democracy program, said: "We've focused on places where democracy is either poised to take a step forward or in danger of taking a step backward."

In their post on Medium, Larry Garber and Thesalia Merivaki, senior members of the organization's 2020 U.S. Election Expert Study Team, said that international observers and U.S. courts will be sorting through any irregularities as they happen this year. And while voters may be hearing a lot in the news about potential problems, they should keep what they're hearing in perspective. The election won't be considered invalid unless the problems accumulate enough to change the outcome.

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"This is not to say that intentional actions designed to prevent voter participation or to alter the results in one or more polling stations do not warrant post-election review," Garber and Merivaki write. "They do, and where appropriate, they should be prosecuted as felonies. However, such problems do not invalidate an election result unless their impact on votes is larger than the margin of victory."

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