Deficiencies in the Presidential Election Process

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Concerns about the conduct of US elections have grown over the years, exposing shortcomings that have the potential to undermine fundamental democratic principles. There is a great deal of evidence of flaws in the oversight of campaign expenditure. Outdated voting machines have also been identified as a barrier to a successful election. Aside from being vulnerable to cyber-attacks, these systems often fail, posing a further impediment to the smooth operation of democratic processes. Any voting laws are also too stringent. Their potential to influence logistical barriers such as time and accessibility of voting centres which are critical determinants of the success of the voting process is also highlighted. The paper also expounds on the primary obligation of electoral agencies to see to it that they do not hold elections erroneously. In this regard, several examples of the positive aspects of ensuring credible polls are outlined as well as the repercussions of flawed polls. Lastly, in the end, a brief account of the main points is provided.

Keywords: US elections, electoral integrity, credibility

Flaws in the Presidential Election Process

Elections are a crucial element of democracy. Elections ensure that while formulating public policies and decisions, the will of the people is evinced (McKay, 2017). Elections allow citizens to choose leaders of their choice and consequently, gives the individuals who are selected to hold public office the right to govern those who elected them. Also, with the people’s fundamental right for making their own decisions, elections allow for representative democracies where chosen leaders make decisions which represent the will of the electorate. It, therefore, will enable people to have a say in how their government works and further allows them to vote out of office leaders who make decisions that are not within their set of beliefs and their best interests. Elections are therefore the basis for people’s liberties (McKay, 2017). Functioning electoral systems conducting regular, free and fair elections, thus, are critical for advancing democratization and encouraging political liberalization (Norris, Frank, & i Coma, 2013). However, many obstacles hinder the realization of this democratic process. The process of gathering and counting people’s votes in presidential elections is cramped with flaws which deny the citizen of their civil liberties, undermines democracy and consequently, invalidates the legitimacy of the government. These obstacles range from human errors during the electoral process, structural shortcomings in devices utilized in the election process, intimidation of voters, intentional manipulation of election results, inadequate access to the voting process, unfair election laws among others (Norris, 2017). This report expounds on some common flaws observed during presidential elections with supporting evidence from existing literature. Further, the report elucidates on the relevance on the topic with some examples of potential implications of flawed polls being outlined.

Existing Research

Literature continually documents fundamental flaws that are observed from time to time in the US presidential elections. One of the major flaws is the deregulation of campaign finances (Norris, 2017). The ability for various wealthy individuals and corporations to influence elections through colossal spending has for instance been expanded by a series of decisions by the US Supreme Court such as in the McCutcheon v. FEC (2014) case (Norris, 2017). The ability to exert influence on elections undermines the integrity of the electoral process. Deregulation of campaign finances also leads to scenarios where wealthy groups with underhand interests fund individual candidates. Funding in itself is not wrong, for, in any case, campaigns are an expensive affair hence the need for donations. It, for instance, takes at least one billion dollars in contribution to run for the POTUS (Thurber & Nelson, 2013). However, enormous funding by special interest groups translates to a situation whereby the candidate, if elected is expected to protect those interests, which are sometimes equivocal. Also, it is almost sure that the candidate will be disproportionately beholden to the corporations or groups who donated more. Consequently, this raises on the accountability of leaders after they are elected.

There have also been reports about states using outdated voting equipment as well as cases of voting machine problems. Reports by the Brennan Center, for instance, showed that as of 2015, more than 40 states were still using machines that were way beyond their projected lifespans (Norris, 2017). Aging voting machines hinder the smooth flow of the electoral process. As an example, in the 2016 elections, broken ballot scanners were faulted for delays in the voting process (Norris, 2017). Memory cards which were improperly coded were also blamed for the breakdown of machines in some counties. Other factors such as poor calibration and ageing are also documented for causing “vote flipping” which inadvertently resulted in the wrong candidate selection for voters leading to alleged assumptions of rigging for particular candidates. Norris (2017) also reports of delayed modernization of registration lists which caused hitches in the process of voter identification. In the report, the author details about voters whose legitimacy was challenged at the polling centres emanating from the hurdle of delayed modernization of registration lists (Norris, 2017).

Moreover, Norris (2017) notes that voting restrictions in some states bar voters from exercising their democratic voting rights. In many states, a car registration or an official government document is required for one to be permitted to vote. The problem with this is that minority groups, senior citizens and low-income voters may be reasonably impended from securing proof of citizenship from government offices are disenfranchised which is inequitable. In some states, for example, the photo identification requirement has been attributed with low voter turnouts which effectively reduces the number of people exercising their democratic right of voting (Norris, 2017). Besides, the attempts by some states to reduce the number of polling centres and the hours allocated for the poll only serves to lengthen queues, and as a result, more voters give up on voting as they usually have to take time off their work. Critically appraised, the system of elections, the Electoral College System, also poses some flaws in the presidential election. The fact that a candidate can be elected even though they lost the popular vote makes it a bit dubious. It has been the case several times as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1: Flaws in the Electoral College. (2017). Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2017].

It, for instance, was the case in 2000 when George Bush became the POTUS even though he had lost the popular vote (Norris et al., 2013). Critics argue that it thwarts the will of the majority seeing to it that the voters do not choose the presidents themselves, but instead, the electors do.


For electoral processes to be considered objective, they are supposed to meet specific criteria. For instance, every eligible voter should be granted the opportunity to participate in the voting process. Every one vote should bear equal weight. Also, elections should be conducted by an independent body which should ensure that integrity and transparency of the electoral procedures are upheld. However, despite the US being the oldest democracy worldwide, routinely, presidential elections are marred by flaws. The old software and aged equipment, for example, are vulnerable to cyber-attacks as Norris (2017) notes. It means that minor breaches in the security of the voting machines could result in manipulated results with the reduced credibility of the elections (Norris, 2014). Consequently, in addition to the likelihood of eliciting chaos, doubts would also be triggered about the legitimacy of the ultimate winner. The consequences herein can be tragic and far-reaching.

Free and fair elections and the preservation of human rights are two closely intertwined ideas. When elections are free and fair, citizens enjoy a wide range of other fundamental rights. For instance, the freedom of expression is deeply entrenched in democracies that uphold objective elections (McKay, 2017). In such nations, citizens express their opinions freely regarding their preferred candidates, parties or even policies. Besides, by choosing leaders of their choice, citizens ensure that the nation is not governed through autocratic political systems but rather, through the will of the people (Norris, 2014). In representative governments, principles dictate that not everyone is involved directly in the governance of the country. Credible polls, however, ensure that voters assume their share of power in the political domain and efficiently participate in the running of the nation.

More reasons for ensuring that presidential elections are not flawed is the element of responsible leadership that emanates from free and fair elections. When elections are held in a manner that follows the stipulated regulations to the letter, Norris (2014) writes that generally, even other sectors in the country are henceforth encouraged to embrace principles that emphasize on accountability and the rule of law. There is also a perception of legitimacy of a state where its president was voted in through credible means (Thurber & Nelson, 2013). It is usually crucial in enhancing international relations with other nations that uphold democracy and the rule of law. Besides, it is of worth noting that in most cases, during elections, there is a tendency to use the polls as a retrospective check on the next president. The assumption in this case, however, is that citizens elect their leaders objectively based on their past record while in office rather than through trivial considerations of race, religions, gender etc. In this regard, leaders are therefore obliged to work for the best interests of the people that they serve. In the US for instance, in a survey conducted by Thurber & Nelson (2013), they noted that most voters place their emphasis on the economy when deciding on the choice of their leaders. Citizens can in this way influence their leaders positively. Leaders, in this way, strive to work for the electorate especially if they desire to be reelected in the future.

The issue of election integrity stretches beyond the fundamental democratic rights of citizens. It incorporates attitudes and perceptions of the public towards their political establishments. Research shows that biased presidential elections undermine the trust and confidence that the public accords to its institutions and electoral processes (Norris, 2014). Where there are real or perceived flaws in elections, usually, there is a resultant decrease in civic engagement as well as depressed voter turnouts (Norris, 2017). Fragile states may result from the agitation for revolutionary change. In that regard, contentious contests have often led to divided societies in the past with the potential to fuel violence and social instability. It is therefore paramount that the fragile gains in democratization are not undermined through distorted elections.

In a nutshell, some significant setbacks have been observed over time in the quest for credible polls in the setting of presidential elections in the US. One of the flaws noted was deregulation of campaign spending and some of its potential implications. Also, the problem of outdated voting machines which pose the challenge of possible vulnerability to external manipulation is rife in several states as evidenced by national surveys. Another flaw noted is the overly strict voting restrictions in some states which can disenfranchise voters and deny them their democratic right of voting. Generally speaking, the importance of having unflawed elections cannot be overemphasized. The institution of electoral reforms that would ensure credible polls is thus a critical milestone into upholding democratic ideals.


McKay, D. (2017). American politics and society. John Wiley & Sons.

Norris, P. (2014). Why electoral integrity matters. Cambridge University Press.

Norris, P. (2017). Why American elections are flawed (and how to fix them). Cornell University Press.

Norris, P., Frank, R. W., & i Coma, F. M. (2013). Assessing the quality of elections. Journal of Democracy, 24(4), 124-135.

Thurber, J. A., & Nelson, C. J. (2013). Campaigns and elections American style. Hachette UK.

November 17, 2022

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