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Nate Persily: How to restore faith in America’s elections

Our recent election focused attention on the mechanics of democracy as never before. An expert in election law sizes things up and suggests ways to regain trust in the institution.

For the first time ever, the majority of voters cast their ballot by mail, rather than at a polling place. | Reuters/Mike Blake

For the first time ever, the majority of voters cast their ballot by mail, rather than at a polling place. | Reuters/Mike Blake

Nate Persily is a professor at Stanford Law School and an expert in election law.

He sees the most recent presidential election as a fundamental change in the way Americans vote. For the first time ever, the majority of voters cast their ballot by mail, rather than at a polling place. It “was an earthquake,” Persily says, speaking metaphorically about the 2020 election’s profound implications for future elections.

But not all agree it was a success. Republicans and Democrats are further apart than ever in their beliefs as to whether the recent presidential election was free and fair. Addressing polarization in beliefs regarding the fairness of the election will be very difficult. Until leaders come together in a bipartisan fashion to affirm the legitimacy of an election winner, reform will not be able to do much to address this underlying problem.

Failing that, we need to bolster the institutional position of all nonpartisan election administrators who are placing the public interest over party, as Persily tells host Russ Altman in this episode of Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everything podcast Listen and subscribe here.

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