On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, a group of international election experts who observed the Nov. 8 election have suggested overhauling the United States’ “particularly unique” Electoral College system, which gave Trump the presidency.
The changes, the group from the Organization of American States said, should be made to keep candidates from focusing just on battleground states.
The group also raised concerns about the rise in polarizing and divisive rhetoric in U.S. campaigning and criticized Trump for making threats to restrict journalists’ access and for threatening legal action against them for expressing their views.
The group’s report noted the claims of Russian interference in the election, but made no assessment of their accuracy or impact on the outcome.
The report was similar in tone to those that U.S. observers make on elections in foreign nations and was noteworthy primarily because it was the first time OAS experts had monitored a U.S. election – something that resonated deeply in Latin America, where the United States has long advocated OAS monitoring for other nations.
The report was largely positive. It found that Trump was fairly elected, that there were few irregularities in balloting and that sporadic technical malfunctions were corrected rapidly.
The experts said they’d seen no evidence of an effort to rig the results and that there was no sign that the alleged Russian intervention had affected “vote tallying.”
The team suggested, however, that the number of voting machines needs to be increased in some areas where lines were long.
Its most sweeping proposal involved the Electoral College and suggested that American lawmakers consider changing it. “The aim of these proposals would be to ensure that presidential candidates campaign equally in all states and do not focus only on swing states, where political preferences are not as clearly defined,” the report said.
The head of the mission, Laura Chinchilla, former president of Costa Rica, praised the strength of U.S. institutions.
“It is based on its strong institutions, freedom of expression and press, balance of power, the rule of law and the principles on which the country was founded,” she said.
The team’s 41 experts and observers from 18 countries were present in 12 states – California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin – as well as the District of Columbia.
The report noted that some states do not allow or lack specific legal provisions for allowing international observers and called for those states to make the necessary legal arrangements for receiving them.