The Miracle and Tragedy of the 2020 U.S. Election


Publish Date:
April 1, 2021
Publication Title:
Journal of Democracy
Journal Article Volume 32 Issue 2 Page(s) 159 - 178
  • Nathaniel Persily & Charles Stewart III, The Miracle and Tragedy of the 2020 U.S. Election, 32 Journal of Democracy 159 (2021).


The 2020 election was both a miracle and a tragedy. In the midst of a pandemic posing unprecedented challenges, local and state administrators pulled off a safe, secure, and professional election. This article discusses metrics of success in the adaptations that took place—record-high turnout, widespread voter satisfaction, a doubling of mail voting without a concomitant increase in problems often associated with absentee ballots, and the recruitment of hundreds of thousands of new poll workers. However, a competing narrative of a “stolen election” led to a historically deep chasm between partisans in their trust of the election process and outcome.