Amid Long Voting Lines And Claims Of A ‘Rigged System,’ Does My Vote Matter? – PAM FESSLER June 14, 2016 5:00 AM ET


Ohio voters at the polls in Cincinnati for the state's primary on March 15.

Ohio voters at the polls in Cincinnati for the state’s primary on March 15.

John Sommers II/Getty Images

This week, NPR and some member stations will be talking about what the 2016 primary season has revealed about voters’ confidence in the American electoral system.

This year’s primaries have been filled with complaints about the voting process. Voters in Arizona were furious that they had to wait up to five hours to cast ballots. Thousands of New Yorkers had their names mistakenly dropped from voter registration rolls.

Republican candidate Donald Trump called his party’s nominating system “rigged.” Bernie Sanders said the Democrats’ nominating system was “dumb.”

And many state voting laws, like strict new photo ID requirements, faced court challenges by those who said they would block minorities and other voters from participating in the election. Supporters defended the laws as necessary to prevent fraud at the polls.

All this controversy has left many voters uneasy, and raised questions about how confident Americans are that their votes count, and will be counted accurately in November.

Actually, Most Voters Are Pretty Happy

So far at least, voters do seem to have faith that the system works. Most say they’re confident — at least somewhat — that their votes will be counted correctly.

Charles Stewart, a political scientist at MIT, says that’s crucial in a democracy.

“Ultimately the legitimacy of government rests on the belief among the losers that it was a fair fight,” he says.

Stewart has asked voters for years about their experiences at the polls. And he’s found, for the overwhelming majority of voters, things go surprisingly well.

In surveys after the 2012 and 2014 elections, at least 97 percent of voters said their polling places were run “very well.” Most people waited less than 10 minutes to vote. Very few people had problems with voting machines. And 90 percent or more said they were very or somewhat confident that their ballots were counted as cast.

But Stewart says a voter’s view also depends on whom they voted for.

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