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Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ensured the military would play "no role" in post-election disputes.

The top 6 reasons why democracy's guardrails held after the election

The certification of election results on Monday in Arizona and Wisconsin, the last of the six states where President Trump challenged his defeat, is a bittersweet victory for advocates of rule by the people. The nation's brush with autocracy was troublingly close, and the damage to public confidence in elections could be lasting.

Still, it's worth acknowledging the guardrails that have held fast against the nation's severe democracy stress test, and against Trump's specious and ongoing fraud allegations. There's no guarantee these railings would hold against a more sophisticated adversary, and the need to shore up voting rights and election administration remains urgent.

But the fundamentals of American democracy appear to have prevailed, thanks to key institutions that upheld the law and relied on the facts. These are the six most important:

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Record voter turnout included a doubling in the number of mail-in ballots, including this stack being counted in a school gym in Sun Prairie, Wis.

Plenty of warnings in the turnout numbers, even though voting surged

To quote the great 1970s power ballad: Two out of three ain't bad.

That Meat Loaf gold record provides a good summation for the record-breaking turnout in the presidential election: It looks like almost exactly two out of every three eligible Americans voted.

That's an estimated 159.4 million adult citizens, 20.5 million more than the previous high four years ago. And it's the strongest turnout rate since 1900 — when, by the way, women still did not have the franchise and most Black citizens and other people of color were effectively blocked from the ballot box.

Why the "ain't bad" summary, then? Because the total nonetheless means nearly 80 million people who had the right to vote decided not to. Because this year does not change how the United States still ranks near the bottom of the world's developed democracies when it comes to election participation. And because while the youth vote increased significantly, half of the population younger than 30 still did not go to the polls for a presidential election highly consequential to their future.

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Independents favored Joe Biden by 13 points nationally and in many battleground states he carried narrowly

Independents vital to Biden win, boon to a good-governance cause

Americans not aligned with either major party favored Joe Biden for president by 13 percentage points, exit polls show.

It's the biggest margin among independents in more than three decades. That's welcome evidence to those who perceive American democracy's problems as largely rooted in the major-party duopoly, and who say the system will work better if independents are awarded more political influence.

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What's next for U.S. democracy after the president's stress test?

In another assessment of the 2020 vote so far, Election Dissection sat down with Laura Williamson, who works on voting rights and democracy at Demos. We spoke about President Trump's election night remarks as a stress test for the United States. Williamson had plenty to say about the state of the elections and some things that need fixing after the votes are finally counted.

What was your reaction to the president?

The president's remarks and actions are a test of our ability to show up, as a people, to mass mobilize and resist his authoritarian calls to end the counting. The basis of our democracy is that we pick our leaders. It's not the president or the courts that choose. So it's a test of our ability as a people to resist what is so clearly an anti-democratic attack.

And Americans are rising to the test. We're seeing masses of people calling for every vote to be counted. They're showing up and exercising their political power. We flexed our political power one way, by voting before or on Election Day. Now we're exercising it again in a different way — showing up in the streets and demanding every eligible vote is counted.

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