Election Inquiries Can Yield Value this Year and Moving Forward | Opinion

The days after an election usually invite speculation about the cycles to follow two or four years down the road. This year, however, that discussion is on hold as we await the final result of the presidential race. Within that window, courts will hear multiple challenges to the procedural validity of vote totals.

Those totals have been sufficiently complete to warrant media projections of a Biden victory, using some of the same standards and timing featured in past elections. But the slim margins in key states, coupled with questions about the basic legality of the vote tally, have left millions of Americans wondering if the result we have been asked to accept is legitimate.

Let's stipulate that those suspicions are exclusive to the side that is staring down the prospect of a loss. Victors rarely file lawsuits or ask for recounts. The Trump campaign is pursuing both, and those actions will take their proper course.

The reactions fall along predictable lines. Trump voters are crossing their fingers for a series of Hail Mary court rulings while the Biden faithful resent the cloud cast over their victory celebrations. But beyond any partisan interest, the vital issue is whether this wave of scrutiny is good for the nation. For multiple reasons, it is.

Trump voters went to bed on election night with visions of a second term within close reach. If victories in Florida and Ohio did not seal the deal, there were leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that ranged from heartening to outright comfortable.

By Wednesday morning, they were all evaporating. A partial explanation lay in the strategy Republicans themselves had pursued, featuring a preference for Election Day in-person voting, a lesser enthusiasm for early voting and outright disdain for the barrage of votes received by mail.

Those mailed ballots were often counted last, so one could expect some degree of Biden spike from a constituency far more likely to avail itself of this vastly expanded option.

But was that option expanded at the expense of the reliability of the counting process?

White House
Rain falls on the White House nine days after the presidential election November 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Election integrity can be a quirky issue. If it's a concern over collusion between Russia and Trump, Democrats don't mind chasing the narrative for years. Today, they are uninterested in allowing Republicans to ask questions for a few weeks.

The challenges hitting the ground in several states will prevail or fail on their legal merit. Even among the Trump faithful, for every voter hoping for a miracle, there is another coming to terms with an expected loss. The path toward overturning the result is plainly narrow, requiring evidence, rulings and orders from judges. Anecdotes ladled out on Twitter and in cable news segments will not be enough.

So will it be worth it?

This battle is about far more than Trump or this election. It is over whether we have sacrificed the very meaning and nature of American elections.

We used to gather as a nation on a common day, informed by a common window of information. The home stretch of a campaign demanded something of candidates, and Election Day demanded something of us.

Now we have turned voting into a sloppy month-long festival with a staggered start and a prolonged, uncertain end. We have sacrificed the civic value of elections on the altar of modern whims of convenience. We have cast aside safeguards that used to grant us critical expectations that voter identity, legality and residency were properly observed.

The challenges of the 2020 result do not carry a strong likelihood of changing the winner. Asking millions of voters to cope with a loss is a part of every election. But right now, many of those millions have fundamental doubts about transparency and the very authenticity of the result. Those doubts are not ill-founded.

Once some sunlight is cast upon the various inquiries under way, we may or may not decide to shorten early voting or reconsider sketchy acceptance of ballots without postmarks after the polls have closed. We may or may not bolster protections for scrutiny of the counting process. But at least we will be able to have that conversation, and we will be better informed for it.

Mark Davis is a talk show host for the Salem Media Group on 660AM The Answer in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Townhall.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.