12 years after Bush v. Gore, election controversies still exist in absence of reform
The 2000 election exposed the fragile state of the American voting system, but it's unclear how much has changed since the Bush v. Gore controversy 12 years ago. Law professor Rick Hasen says that without federal reform, Election Day meltdowns will continue to occur.
The United States is one of the only developed nations that entrusts its federal elections to state and local officials.
Most countries appoint nonpartisan officials for the same purpose.
The result, says Rick Hasen, professor of law at University of California in Irvine, is a confusing patchwork of election laws.
"It's a myth to think that we have a single, national election on Election Day," he said. "When it comes to the election of the president, we have 13,000 separate elections."
Hasen says that needs to change. He advocates for a sweeping overhaul of election rules in his new book, "The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown." He explains Congress has the constitutional authority to override state and local election laws, but that it's something lawmakers have so far avoided for political reasons.
"Since 2000, the parties have realized that small changes in election rules can make a difference on the margin of very close elections," Hasen said. "And in our society now, with its hyper partisanship, we have a lot of close elections. The election reforms that have been passed have been passed on party lines."
Hasen says the Republican campaign for stricter voter identification laws in some states is an example of that. On the Democratic side, he points to lawmakers pushing for extended early voting periods. Making it harder to vote favors Republicans; making it easier favors Democrats.
But partisan efforts like those aren't the kinds of large-scale reforms Hasen says the United States desperately needs. He says the likelihood of another meltdown on the scale of Bush v. Gore remains small, but that without changes, the possibility does exist.
"When it does eventually happen we're not prepared," he said. "Things could actually be worse next time than they were back in 2000."
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH Radio Boston.