The flaws in the American electoral process have become more apparent over many years. The contemporary tipping point in public awareness occurred during the 2000 election count, but several major structural weaknesses exacerbated doubts in the 2016 campaign, worsening party divisions and further corroding public trust in the electoral process.
It is impossible to fix a problem without understanding its nature. To gather independent evidence about the quality of elections around the world, the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), an independent project with a research team based at Harvard and Sydney universities, was established in 2012. According to expert estimates developed by the EIP, the 2012 and 2014 elections in the United States were the worst among all Western democracies. Without reform, these problems risk damaging the legitimacy of American elections—further weakening public confidence in the major political parties, Congress, and the US government, depressing voter turnout, and exacerbating the risks of contentious outcomes fought through court appeals and public protests.
Why American Elections Are Flawed (and How to Fix Them) describes several major challenges observed during the 2016 US elections, including deepening party polarization over basic electoral procedures, the serious risks of hacking and altering official records, the consequences of deregulating campaign spending, and the lack of federal standards and professional practices in electoral management. Pippa Norris outlines the core concept and measure of electoral integrity, the key yardstick used by the EIP to evaluate free and fair elections. She compares cross-national and state-level evidence from expert and mass surveys to diagnose problems in American elections. She shows how these challenges could be addressed through several practical steps designed to improve American electoral procedures and practices. If implemented, the reforms recommended by the EIP will advance free and fair elections at home and abroad.