Chart from Electoral Integrity Project Executive Summary 2020

“How do we know the election wasn’t rigged?” Democracy, Threats, Strengthening

*Cover image, Figure 4: Electoral Integrity Executive Summary, 2020.

The following was curated and shared by Brigid Harrison, Political Science & Law, and reflects an intellectual journey starting with the question, “how do we know that the election wasn’t rigged,” and wades its way through “what’s next” and “how did we get here?” to “what does it mean to believe in democracy? in republicanism?” to “who are we as Americans?” and “what are the threats to democracy?” Finally, there are resources for those who want to do something – become more civically engaged, volunteer, run for office, join a group or a political party, and so on.”

On the Electoral Integrity and the 2020 elections:

Many people have asked me to evaluate the claims that there was widespread electoral fraud in the recent presidential elections, and good citizens want to know that claims of fraud are false. Perhaps the best resource is the Electoral Integrity Project out of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Since 2012, I have participated in fellow political scientist Pippa Norris’s assessment of electoral integrity in the U.S. election. This year, I was one of 789 political scientists from throughout the country whose experience and observations of the process of elections in the state where they were registered to vote was measured. A minimum of 20 experts on American elections, parties, and state politics were invited to participate from each state and D.C., and Qualtrics was used to administer the survey online between Nov. 6, 2020, and Nov. 12, 2020. The EIP has monitored and evaluated more than 300 presidential and parliamentary elections in 166 nations worldwide, as well as elections in all 50 states, since 2012. For those who are interested in a research-oriented, non-partisan academic assessment of electoral integrity, I urge you to read the report. I have included the Executive Summary at the bottom of this document.

The Joint Statement from Elections and Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council & The Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history… While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too. When you have questions, turn to elections officials as trusted voices as they administer elections.”

The 2020 Election Litigation Tracker, a joint project of Election Law at Ohio State and SCOTUSblog tracks election law cases as they wend their way through the courts, including the cases alleging voter fraud. The site also hosts a great foundation on fundamentals of election law, including the democracy canon, a description of the principles and impact of the Voting Rights Act, and explanations of the Purcell principle (the presumption against last-minute changes to election procedures, and its implication in an election in the time of COVID), and the Anderson-Burdick doctrine, which seeks a balance between the benefits and burdens of voting restrictions.

On What’s Next:

  • Barton Gellman. “America’s Second-Worst Scenario,” in The Atlantic.,  Jan. 16, 2021. “So far, cumulative acts of civic virtue have saved the republic. But the constitutional order is still in danger.”
  • Levine, Peter. We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America. New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 2013. Levine offers a theory of active citizenship, in which he argues that the problems the United States faces can be addressed by individuals engaged in civic activism in their communities. 
  • Meacham, Jon. The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels. New York: Random House, 2018. This uplifting work by the Pulitzer Prize–winning Meacham looks back at troubled times in our nation’s history and reminds us that hope has the power to overcome division and fear. 
  • Schneier, Edward. Putting the People Back in Politics: The Revival of American Democracy. AuthorHouse, 2019. This book  shows why a new politics of interpersonal engagement can help renew our democratic system.

Publications About Electoral Integrity:

  • The Unclassified Version of the Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking during the 2016 Election. This report says Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered” effort to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
  • Clinton, Hillary Rodham. What Happened. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017. In Time magazine’s best book of the year, Clinton describes the unique experience of becoming the first woman nominated to the presidency by a major party in one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. 
  • Comey, James. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. New York: Flatiron Books, 2018. Former FBI director Comey, who learned that he was fired by President Trump by television, shares his thoughts on leadership and an insider’s view on Washington’s inner workings. 
  • Norris, Pippa. Why Electoral Integrity Matters. NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Norris, Pippa. “Do perceptions of electoral malpractice undermine democratic satisfaction? The US in comparative perspective.” International Political Science Review. 40(1): 5-22, 2019.
  • Norris, Pippa, Sarah Cameron and Thomas Wynter, eds Electoral Integrity in America. New York: Oxford,  2019.

Proposed Reforms Seeking to Improve Democracy in the United States:

  • H.R. 1: The For The People Act would dramatically strengthen our democracy by making it easier to vote, ending gerrymandering, fixing our campaign finance system, and more.

Back to Basics:

All of the above sources assume a fundamental principle: that representative democracies matter, that self-government, embodied by the people’s ability to select representatives based on a free, fair, secret, and impartial system of balloting matters. The roots of the intellectual argument in favor of ideals of representative democracy can be found in our foundational documents:

  • The Declaration of Independence It’s nice to review what the colonists were fighting against.
  • The ConstitutionThe embodiment of the structure that creates a republic with checks and balances overlaid upon a federalist structure. I have an annotated Constitution that explains, in modern language, each facet of the Constitution, and asks students critical thinking questions about modern interpretations of the document. If you would like to have access to this, please email me (
  • The Federalist PapersFederalist #10 in which James Madison defends republicanism by grappling with the notion of majority rule versus the rights of the minority is the granddaddy of this series of essays arguing for the ratification of the Constitution, but one of my favorites, particularly appropriate to these times, is Alexander Hamilton’s #9, The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection, which explains how structures of government can protect against tyranny and insurrection.

Other works analyze, interpret and chronicle those ideals:

  • De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America- this outsider’s observer of the importance of equality, also explores his observations of the American character, how liberty manifests itself in a democracy.
  • McCollough, David – John Adams; 1776; Spirit of America: Who We Are and What We Stand For. Simon and Schuster. These works explore fundamental values in American democracy through these various prisms.

Contemporary Works on the Foundational Values and the US Constitution:

  • Beeman, Richard. The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution. New York: Penguin Books, 2010. This book has a fully annotated Declaration of Independence, a fully annotated U.S. Constitution, selections from The Federalist Papers, chapters presenting the history of the making and the initial enactment of the Constitution, and brief overviews of several landmark Supreme Court decisions.
  • Hall, David (1988) “The Constitution and Race: A Critical Perspective,” NYLS Journal of Human Rights: Vol. 5 : Iss. 2 , Article 2. Available at: The proceedings of a conference concerning with the U.S. Constitution and its ideals, in light of the difficult legacy and consequences of slavery, segregation, discrimination, and racial oppression.
  • Roberts, Cokie. Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. New York: Perennial Press, 2004. An examination of the Revolution and its aftermath, focusing on how women contributed to the war effort and to wider discussions about how the new government should be structured and what goals it should advance.
  • Sabato, Larry. A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country. New York: Walker Publishing, 2007. An exploration by political scientist Larry Sabato into why a constitutional convention is needed. The book includes proposals for 23 amendments—many of which citizens support, according to a poll commissioned by the author—that Sabato argues will perfect the Constitution. His real goal in writing the book was to kindle a national conversation on what he perceives as the deficiencies in U.S. representative democracy.
  • Tribe, Laurence, and Joshua Matz. Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution. New York: Picador, 2014. The authors show how the Supreme Court has (re)interpreted the Constitution, specifically civil liberties and rights, since Chief Justice Roberts joined the Court in 2005.
  • Wittes, Benjamin, and Pietro S. Nivola. What Would Madison Do? The Father of the Constitution Meets Modern American Politics. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2015. The collection of papers in this book addresses two questions. First, how well is the system of government constructed by Madison and his colleagues working? Second, would Madison be pleased or dissatisfied with contemporary policy processes and policies?

Online Resources:

  • Constitutional Center’s Interactive Constitution: This site presents constitutional experts who discuss their differing perspectives on the Constitution’s history and the (re)interpretations of constitutional language.
  • FindLaw: This site offers links to news regarding current cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as well as access to decisions of all federal and state appellate courts.
  • Library of Congress Memory Project:  This comprehensive website provides links to 100 milestone documents, compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, that chronicle U.S. history, from Lee’s Resolution calling for independence in 1776 through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Democracy, Democratic Theory, and Threats to Democracy:

  • Albright, Madeleine, Fascism: A Warning. Harper Collins, 2018.The former Secretary of State traces the rise of fascism in Europe and parallels it to United States today. 
  • Appiah, K. Anthony and Amy Gutmann.  Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Highly accessible assessment of the historical concepts of race as contextualized within various cultures.
  • Applebaum, Anne. 2020. Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. New York: Doubleday. 
  • Bishop, Bill. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart.  Mariner Books, 2009. Bishop argues that Americans’ “sorting themselves” into increasingly homogeneous groups results in the rise in intolerance.
  • Callen, Zachary, and Philip Rocco, eds. American Political Development and the Trump Presidency. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020. 
  • Deneen, Patrick J. 2019, Why Liberalism Failed, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Dudziak, Mary L. “Telling Stories about Race and Democracy.” In Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, 47-78. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. 
  • Ginsburg, Tom and Aziz Z. Huq. 2020. How To Save a Constitutional Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  • Hanchard, Michael G. “Society and Polity, Difference and Inequality.” In The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy, 65-111. Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2018. 
  • Kimball, Roger, ed.. 2020. Who Rules? Sovereignty, Nationalism, and the Fate of Freedom in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Encounter Books. 
  • Levitsky, Steven and Daniel Ziblatt. 2018, How Democracies Die, New York: Broadway Books. 
  • Lewis, Sinclair  It Can’t Happen Here. New York: Penguin, 1935. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.
  • Losurdo, Domenico 2014. Liberalism: A Counter-History. Brooklyn: Verso. 
  • Rancière, 2006. Hatred of Democracy. Brooklyn: Verso. Translated by Steve Corcoran. 
  • Mouffe, Chantal. Agonistics: Thinking the World  Politically. Vero: 2013.
  • Przeworski, Adam. 2019. Crises of Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Riley, Padraig. Slavery and the Democratic Conscience: Political Life in Jeffersonian America. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.
  • Runciman, David. 2018. How Democracy Ends, New York: Basic Books. 
  • Snyder, Timothy. 20198 The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, New York: Tim Duggan Books. 
  • Wilkins, David B. “Introduction: The Context of Race.” In Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race, by Appiah K. Anthony and Gutmann Amy, 3-29. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996. 
  • Writers of the Atlantic, 2020. The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
  • Yuval Levin. 2020. A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream. New York: Basic Books.

To access the full version of Dr. Harrison’s reading and resource list on general and specific topics related to democracy and the 2020 election, including the Executive Summary from the Electoral Integrity Project (2020) titled ELECTORAL INTEGRITY IN THE 2020 U.S.ELECTIONS, please download Readings and Resources on democracy, threats to democracy, and strengthening democracy (PDF). 

Updated 7.24.21