What if we applied the principles of election integrity we expect from other countries to the United States?

April 8, 2022

The U.S. government spends about $2.4 billion per year supporting democracy around the world. Through this support we aim to encourage adoption and compliance with internationally accepted principles and obligations for democratic elections and governance. These principles and obligations are grounded in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and are included and elaborated on in regional treaties and agreements.

Grounded in this foundation, advocates of democracy have developed detailed approaches to evaluating the fairness and legitimacy of elections, and the quality of democratic governance. How does the 2020 election in the United States compare to the standards we apply in our international democracy assistance?

Effective elections must accurately reflect the free expression of the will of the people; and must be perceived by the voters as fair with an outcome seen as legitimate. Elections fail when they do not result in an outcome generally perceived as fair or legitimate. Failure can be caused by a breakdown in process, or by factors that cause voters to doubt the fairness or legitimacy of the process.