The U.S. election ecosystem is large and decentralized. Elections in the United States are administered by more than 8,000 local officials implementing federal and state laws, and Americans have a lot of options for how they register and how they vote.
Isolated issues are expected in any large election, but they reflect only a small portion of the tens of thousands of total voting locations.
Election officials are prepared for administrative challenges.
Administrative challenges like technological glitches and ballot printing errors are not new. That’s why election officials test their technology repeatedly before voting begins, prepare backup plans in the event something goes wrong, and audit the election to verify the count is accurate after the fact.
It’s important to remember that single incidents faced by a small number of election jurisdictions make up only a small portion of the thousands of jurisdictions around the country.
Any operation this large can be expected to run into a handful of problems. However, election officials have been hard at work in the runup to the election preparing for any problems that might arise. Specific incidents are typically identified quickly and resolved, and they do not indicate a widespread problem with the election ecosystem.
Isolated incidents don’t mean it is unsafe to vote.
You should view reports of violence or disruption at any one individual polling place in context. The U.S. voting process is decentralized, which means that local and state officials are responsible for their own polling places. A problem in one state is not likely to affect another state’s polling places.
There were at least 178,000 individual polling places on Election Day and at least 8,500 early in-person voting sites across the United States during the 2016 presidential election.
While media reports and social media posts tend to highlight the most extreme issues that arise during voting, voters must remain vigilant and should not assume similar problems everywhere. If you have questions about your Election Day polling place, reach out to your local election official.
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