2020 Race Could Test “Nation’s Creaky Electoral Machinery”

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Barton Gellman says that just because the vote count is drawn out and if the count changes over time, that doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate.

Normally when America’s elections draw to a close, there’s a smooth transition from one leader to the next –even back in 2000 during the Bush Gore recount.

The act of concession is one of the things that allows our political system and democracy to function–and it’s something that separates our nation from many others where the transfer of our power doesn’t come so easily. Detroit Today’s Stephen Henderson examines what could happen if that presumption of good behavior went out the window.

Listen: The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman on why he thinks this election could break America.


Barton Gellman is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a staff writer for The Atlantic and the author of “Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State.”

His piece titled, “The Election That Could Break America” appears in the November issue of The Atlantic. Gellman has taken a comprehensive look at what he calls our “nation’s creaky electoral machinery.” 

In discussing our country’s history presumptive good behavior regarding a presidential candidate eventually conceding, Gellman says this year, “the question is whether the president has the capability to prevent a consensus from forming about whether he won or lost [the election], to prevent a decisive outcome, because the Constitution does not say the loser must concede.”

As far as what Americans can do before, on and after Election Day, Gellman says “Americans need to be patient about counting all the votes in this election,” adding that it’s up to Americans to accept that a drawn-out election process is normal and expected this year.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID-19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET’s mission. Please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.