Concerns about election integrity are understandably at the forefront of 2020 election discourse.
But for all the quibbling over whether in-person voting is safe or whether universal mail-in voting is so susceptible to fraud its use will invalidate the election (it won’t), one crucial issue is getting overlooked.
Even before ballots are printed and find themselves before the deliberative eyes of the body politic, there’s a chance that election security might be compromised.
Ballot access for third-party candidates is as much an election security issues as are overblown concerns about voter fraud.
The American political system makes elected representatives, whether in the legislature or the executive, intermediaries of citizens and their interests. Elections, really, are an elevated form of lobbying. By showing up to the voting booth and selecting certain individuals and policies, voters tell government what course they most want it to pursue. To the detriment of the American political system, elections are the foremost method by which citizens express their preferences. At the same time, they express trust that elected representatives will respect their wishes and perspective.
American political culture has decided elections are the least unfair way to adjudicate the inequality that underpins government. Government is charged with managing the area where multiple sets of interests overlap. It must act in order to do this. And it can pursue only one course of action at a time: in short, someone’s viewpoint ultimately becomes the one endorsed by government’s action.
The trustee model of representation — which holds that politicians are elected by citizens who place their trust in their ability to make decisions that respect and advance their constituents’ interests — most closely resembles that of the American political system.
When those politicians fails, it follows that efficacy plummets. Voters have given their representatives autonomy to act and make decisions as they would. Failure to follow-through is a double blow to the system: belief in the utility of democratic institutions is eroded alongside trust in particular politicians.