Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears to be doubling down on his claims that there will be voter fraud come election day. And he’s called Republican party leaders who have strongly denied his accusations naïve. Presumably among those who are naïve is his own vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence. Trump offered no evidence to support his accusations, but many say he has already convinced a number of his supporters to question the integrity of the U.S. voting system. Why some say undermining confidence in the U.S. voting system is dangerous—and assessing the actual risks of potential election fraud.
- Tammy Patrick Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center federal compliance officer, Maricopa County Elections Department in Arizona
- Richard Hasen Professor of law and political science, University of California, Irvine; author, "Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections"
- Stacey Abrams House Minority Leader, Georgia General Assembly represents 89th District, Atlanta, Georgia
- Beth Reinhard National politics reporter, The Wall Street Journal.
- Denise Merrill Secretary of State, Connecticut president, National Association of Secretaries of State, NASS
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In an election season that just keeps on giving, Republican nominee Donald Trump has been consistently ramping up charges that voter fraud will be widespread on election day. Leaders in both parties dismiss his claims, but it seems a good number of his supporters do not. Joining me to talk about our voting system and its safeguards, Tammy Patrick of the Bipartisan Policy Center, Beth Reinhard of The Wall Street Journal, and joining us by phone, Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine.
MS. DIANE REHMI do invite you to offer your views. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MS. TAMMY PATRICKHi.
MS. BETH REINHARDGood morning. It's great to be here.
PROF. RICHARD HASENHello.
REHMGood to have you all. Beth Reinhard, before we really delve into this, what does Donald Trump mean when he says the word rigged?
REINHARDI think the meaning has been expanding over the last week, and it also had a different meaning in the primary. You remember he complained quite a bit about the primary system, in which the vote in some states didn't always translate into convention delegates. So he's been using that word rigged for a long time, but he's really stepped it up in the last week, and it's -- it became very noticeable after that videotape surfaced, of course, with him making those lewd remarks and basically starting a mutiny within his own party.
REINHARDAnd as this mutiny is happening, and the polls show him slipping, he has been doubling down on this accusation that the election could be stolen from him. He's blamed the media for rigging it. He's blamed, as you say, crooked Hillary. And he's also, you know, pointed the finger at polling places, which has caused some elected officials and governors to step forward and say nuh-uh, that's not true in my state.
REINHARDAnd then last night he went further and talked about illegal immigrants may have voted for President Obama in 2008, and that's another form of the way the vote has been rigged, that illegal immigrants are being allowed in to vote. So it's a pretty broad, sweeping generalization that really casts aspersions at so many institutions in this country that we value to make sure our elections are, you know, fair and ethical.
REHMAnd Tammy, to you, I know you're the former federal compliance officer for the Maricopa County Elections Department in Arizona. Give us a sense of how these elections in this country are actually conducted.
PATRICKSure, well thank you. It's really an interesting patchwork of jurisdictions across the country. I think it's really critical that people understand that across the nation, we have anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 election jurisdictions and election officials that are conducting the elections based under 50 different state laws. Now there is some overlap in procedures and processes, but many of them are different. A lot of the voting equipment that's being used is different, and so you have tens of thousands of election officials, you have hundreds of thousands of poll workers.
PATRICKSo for something to happen at the polling place on a wide scale, you would have hundreds of thousands of poll workers that would have to collude. And what's interesting is that in many states you have a bipartisan composition that's required under state law, so you have to have, in some states it's defined as Democrat and Republican poll workers, but with the onset and growth of independent voters, many states have had to go in and change it so that the requirements are just that you have a variety of polling place -- poll workers that represent a lot of different political understandings, leanings, affiliations.
PATRICKSo it's being conducted at the polls in -- by our citizens, by our neighbors, and so in order to have something take place, it would have to go completely undetected, and there are so many procedures in place to make sure that that doesn't happen, through audits and testing and that sorts of thing.
REHMAnd joining us now by phone from Connecticut is Denise Merrill. She's president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Thanks for joining us, Denise.
MS. DENISE MERRILLThank you.
REHMExplain the role of the secretaries of state in the election process.
MERRILLWell again, it's a little bit different in each state, but in general, most states, the secretary of state is the chief election officer of the state, usually elected, sometimes appointed by a governor or legislature, and usually one charged with making sure the laws of the state are followed in the election process.
REHMTell me how concerned your members have been about the recent Trump statements.
MERRILLVery concerned really not about the allegations so much because the allegations are unsubstantiated, basically, but across the board, Republican and Democrats, I believe we all feel that our election system -- we've been running elections in this country a long time. There are many checks and balances. We work with federal agencies, we work with state agencies, all of us have a variety of testing that goes on of all equipment.
MERRILLAnd, you know, we've been sort of batting at this, it's almost like a whack-a-mole thing. First it was all about Russians hacking in and cybersecurity. Now it seems to have shifted to a sort of domestic idea, that somehow poll workers would be involved in some massive fraud, as Tammy said. So I think my members are extremely concerned about this, mostly because I think we're concerned about the confidence of Americans in their election process.
MERRILLYou know, this is about the peaceful transfer of power, effectively, and we have, for hundreds of years in this country, you know, had a pretty good faith in the process, and we've been doing it a long time, as I said.
REHMSo Tammy, you would agree?
PATRICKI would agree, and it's something that we've all been very concerned about. Actually just this morning, though, there was a report by Charles Stewart from MIT that's published out on the Cal Tech/MIT website, and Professor Stewart and Professor Gronke from Reed College did a survey of the confidence in elections back in 2012, and it mirrors a report that came out just recently.
PATRICKSo he compared the two to see, has there been any sort of impact on the confidence of both Democrats and Republicans, and it's very interesting to see that in fact it's having the opposite effect. So the responses from the Republican respondents have said that their confidence that their vote will count and that nationally the vote will be counted accurately is a little bit improved from 2012 in all actuality.
PATRICKBut what was really interesting is that the Democrats almost doubled in their belief that it would be tabulated properly and that -- the confidence in the actual outcome. Now there's always that sort of issue when you do surveys of -- for the individuals who feel that they are going to win. They are, of course, incredibly confident in the outcome, and those who believe that they may not succeed tend to question the outcome of the election.
PATRICKIt's just this is unprecedented in having it questioned before the election has even really transpired. We have people voting early, but so many voters are still yet to cast their ballot.
REHMYou know, I wonder, Beth, if we have any idea how large a population or a segment of the population is really going along and questioning the reality of the safeguards we have in place to make sure that each and every vote counts.
REINHARDWell, if you talk to folks at Trump rallies, I think it's actually quite a popular view. They take Donald Trump at his word, and they are worried about a rigged election, and they're signing up to be poll watchers. The Trump campaign is recruiting poll watchers. Now as the electeds and former elected on the show with us today can tell you, there are rules for behavior at polling places, where you can stand, training that has to occur. So it'll be interesting to see how the campaign navigates that.
REHMSo how do poll watchers work, Denise Merrill?
MERRILLWell, it is, as Tammy says, different in each state. In our state, for example, it's very strictly regulated. There are lots of rules about how close you can stand, you have to register in advance, that we do have partisan poll watchers every year, but there are -- they are strictly regulated. They are not allowed to go into the polls, and they certainly are not allowed to harass people as they come in to vote, and that is a big concern.
MERRILLWe do have a lot of authority to call in help if we need it, and as I said, every state has an FBI contact for their state who can be on call to see if there are any problems anywhere. But again, it's very decentralized, so it's difficult to generalize about a state as large as Florida, for example. The elections are really conducted at the county level, and one county in Florida is the same size as the entire state of Connecticut. So -- but in general there are -- it's strictly regulated in almost all states.
REHMDenise Merrill, she's president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. I hope you can stay on with us. We're going to take just a short break. When we come back, we'll turn to Rick Hasen at the University of California Irvine to talk about voter fraud and documented cases.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about Donald Trump's charges that the election coming up is going to be rigged, that there will be voter fraud, that people who shouldn't be allowed to vote will vote. Rick Hasen, I know you've studied this. What documented cases do we have in this country about voter fraud?
HASENWell, I think we have to take it and break it into smaller pieces. It depends on what kind of voter fraud you're talking about. Overall, voter fraud is a small problem. But depending on the type of fraud you're talking about, there are different ranges. So, for example, Donald Trump, when he has spoken at his rallies, has talked about people voting five or ten or fifteen times, multiple voting through voter impersonation, the kind of fraud that you've -- we've heard Republicans for years talk about happening and why voter ID laws are necessary. That type of fraud is extremely rare. We see virtually no cases of it.
HASENAnd I -- looking for, in a study I did for my 2012 book "The Voting Wars," from 1980 on, I can't find a single case anywhere in the country where that kind of fraud has been used to change the outcome of an election. Now there are other kinds of fraud. Absentee-ballot fraud is more common, not -- usually in very small, local elections, usually involving the buying and selling of votes. I don't think that Trump has been alleging that that's going to go on. And it's hard to imagine a presidential election, a big state like Pennsylvania being swung by absentee ballots, where you can't even get an absentee ballot without an excuse.
HASENAnd then, as Beth mentioned, last night Trump introduced a new idea that it's non-citizen voting that's going on. And he pointed to one study, a study that was in a peer review journal that's been roundly criticized. And I'd invite your listeners to go to PolitiFact, they collected all of the criticisms of this particular piece. And recently, just I think it was two weeks ago, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., looked at the evidence of non-citizen voting in connection with a case involving Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who's tried to make it harder to register to vote without proof of citizenship. And the court said that non-citizen voting is an extremely small problem in this country.
REHMDo you have any other statistics you'd like to share, Beth?
REINHARDWell, you know, I think that gets to, you know, the difference between what Trump is talking about and reality is that, yes, there are examples of voter fraud. And Trump's campaign has pointed to some. He, when he's in Pennsylvania, that's the topic that he almost always raises is in Pennsylvania because, in Philadelphia, they have had some cases of voter fraud. But once again, these are -- tend to be isolated instances and not a wide-ranging conspiracy that would tip the election one way or the other.
REHMAnd joining us now from Atlanta, Ga., is Representative Stacey Abrams. She's House minority leader. She represents the 89th District of the state of Georgia. Thanks for joining us. And you are, I gather, concerned about a different kind of election rigging and that is discouraging voters from showing up at the polls. Why is it that you think this could happen?
REP. STACEY ABRAMSWell, I think that Donald Trump is engaging in his normal pattern of prestidigitation, of having us look at one thing while he's doing something completely different. And in this instance, what I think is the rigged election is voter suppression and voter intimidation, which have been long-standing practices. In Georgia, we recently had an issue of residency checks, where Sheriffs were following black residents in a poor county, demanding that they prove that they have the right to live and vote in their county. The Sheriffs would literally follow them home and demand proof of residency.
REP. STACEY ABRAMSIn Indiana, under Mike Pence, the Indiana voter registration projects just had the state police raid their office, line their workers against the wall and engaged in very intentional voter discrimination against 45,000 African-American applicants. And to the issue of Pennsylvania, when he calls upon his followers to go and check out those places, what he's referring to are predominantly African-American communities where illegal observers will be standing there for the sole purpose of intimidating those voters.
REP. STACEY ABRAMSAnd so what I worry about is that while we're sort of chasing the conversation of the non-existent voter fraud, what will be left untouched is the very intentional voter intimidation and voter suppression tactics that have been used in the wake of the vetting of the Voting Rights Act to suppress minority votes, which will be essential in this election.
PATRICKI'd like to hearken back to something that Secretary Merrill was talking about, about observers and also on this conversation about voter intimidation and poll watchers. So all across the country there are at least the opportunity for individuals who have expressed concern with the process or who want to be more involved or understand how things are going on -- are being taken care of at the polls on election day can be involved as being poll workers or as being a poll watcher. But what's critical to know is that there are institutional mitigations to make sure that not only those who are concerned about the integrity of the process -- to make sure that's not jeopardized, but also that voters' rights are not being infringed upon.
PATRICKSo you do have observers from political parties that are allowed inside of a polling place in some states. In other states, stakeholder groups are allowed inside of the polls. They can't talk to voters, but they can stand and observe and watch. You have Department of Justice observers in many places across the country, government accountability observers. You have domestic observers but also international observers from all around the world will be observing our election cycle. And the voters, themselves, as they stand in line -- hopefully the lines won't be long -- but as they stand in line, as they're processed, should know their rights and watch out for their fellow citizens.
REHMRick Hasen, how intimidating can these polling watchers become to individuals who may be voting for the first time? Maybe they have all the necessary documentation but are a little shaky as they come forward.
HASENWell, certainly I think voters can be -- especially new voters -- can be intimidated by the process. In fact, going back about 20 years, the Republican National Committee organized what they called ballot security measures, where they would have armed, off-duty police officers at polls. They would do other things that were found to intimidate voters. And in fact, the DNC, the Democratic National Committee sued the RNC. And they settled the case. There's a consent decree that prevents the RNC from engaging in these kinds of activities. It actually expires at the end of this year. It could be extended for up to eight more years if it's found that the RNC has violated it.
HASENAnd now there's a question about whether Trump's activities in organizing these poll watchers would count as an agency activity of the RNC and perhaps provide for further protection from this. But I do want to distinguish between two things. One is Trump inviting people to join his campaign and act as poll watchers. That he's done, but it's not clear that they're actually doing anything with these names. But the other is rogue people who are going to listen to what Trump says at his rallies where he says -- he has said, after you vote in your polling place, go to those other certain areas, which I take as code for inner-city minority areas, and make sure that there's nothing wrong going on.
HASENAnd I'm worried about rogue people with guns going to polling places on election day. We're all going to have to be very vigilant on this.
REHMSo Representative Abrams, what do you think that local officials who are designated to be at the polls can do in the face of that kind of intimidation, which might actually happen outside the view of those who are supposed to be inside.
ABRAMSI think there are three things. Active citizens who pay attention need to immediately call both law enforcement and contact their local parties if they see anything that looks like voter intimidation. Because most people don't know what their rights are. They aren't aware that it is unlawful for voter intimidation to happen. Secondly, both parties -- and I think this isn't a partisan issue -- need to make certain that they're taking full advantage of the laws that allow that type of voter protection, meaning having poll observers, poll watchers -- whatever the nomenclature is for your community -- at the polling places. Because each party and often the candidates are allowed to have people who are there.
ABRAMSThat is I think incredibly important this year, because I think Mr. Hasen is right, that there are going to be people who aren't necessarily called directly by Donald Trump, but who are hearing these accusations and decide to take it upon themselves as sort of election vigilantes. And I think the third is to make certain that we take advantage of early voting wherever possible. Because the type of organized voter suppression that I'm concerned about tends to happen on election day when the lines are long and when people decide that they're frightened or become dissuaded from voting because they're terrified that they are somehow committing a crime.
ABRAMSBecause when you are first-time -- when you've only heard about voter suppression or voter intimidation, it is difficult to own your franchise when you're terrified that something that you do could cause harm to yourself or to your family long term. And so I think we have to be very active citizens this year, as much as possible.
REHMAnd to you, Denise Merrill, what do you see as the role of the secretaries of state playing here in this process of making sure that intimidation does not occur?
MERRILLI would agree with all the speakers that voter intimidation is a big issue, probably much bigger than any kind of voter fraud. I would remind everyone, almost every state has some sort of hotline you can call -- we certainly do -- where you can, you know, a citizen can call in and say, I've seen thus and so at the polls. And the, usually the secretary of state's office or the election enforcement commission in many states, will then decide whether to act. So at least you're on the record. And I would encourage people to call those hotlines also.
MERRILLAnd, yes. I mean if anything good has come out of all this, I think it is that we are all on heightened alert. We are all making sure that we are dotting every I, crossing every T, making sure every check and balance is in place. And I think that's a good thing. And I also think that if Americans are listening to these types of programs, they're learning a little more about how the election system actually works. And again, as everyone has said, I would encourage everyone to go be a poll worker. If you're really interested in what's going on with your elections, you know, average citizens are recruited to be poll workers. So it would be a great way to really act on how you're feeling about the elections.
REHMDenise, can you give me an overall, general hotline people could call?
MERRILLThere is no national hotline.
MERRILLIt would be in every state. And it's usually on a website. So for example, in my state, it's just simply SOTS, secretary of the state, dot ct dot gov.
MERRILLEvery state has a secretary of state website and you can get all the information, including a picture of your ballot. You can see if you're properly registered.
MERRILLAnd that's, in almost every state now we have that.
REHMAll right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I do want to open the phones and take some of your calls. Let's go first to Mike in Dallas, Texas. You're on the air.
MIKEHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
MIKEI had a question for the reporter on your panel. It seems like the role of media and how the media has been portrayed in this election has really been different from years past. The narrative I see coming from the Trump campaign is that anything that doesn't paint them in an unfavorable light is taken as biased or incorrect in some fashion. And so, you know, we have fact-checker websites and now I see posted on Facebook and other places that we have to vet the fact checkers and see if they're biased in any way. And there's all these different narratives coming about that.
MIKEAnd so for your reporter, how does she feel, if there was a Trump presidency, how would that affect her career and the careers of her colleagues? And could they continue to be impartial in their jobs?
REHMInteresting question but a bit off our topic this morning, since we are talking about voting and the process and voter intimidation and charges that Trump has made. Beth, if you'd like to answer the question, that's up to you.
REINHARDWell, I would just say, Trump certainly has made no secret of his disdain for the press and he has used that -- unlike past nominees and Republican candidates who have, you know, liked to make the media sort of a whipping boy and that gets applause at rallies -- but Trump has definitely taken it to a new level, as you said, in completely disqualifying all of the fact checkers out there as biased, therefore none of the critical things about him can be true. So -- and, you know, just one more thing is that, as you know, he had at one point blacklisted certain media organizations from attending his rallies. And so there certainly will be a...
REHMIncluding The New York Times, The Washington Post.
REINHARDRight. So if he was in the White House, there would certainly be a lot of questions about access and freedom of the press.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Alan in Ann Arbor, Mich. You're on the air.
ALANThank you. Thank you for this discussion. While many conversations about voter fraud are involved as suppression, the real question I think that has not been mentioned at all in any of this discussion is that the voting machines, the computers, are all private. It's all proprietary software. It's all hackable. It's very simple systems. There's no way, actually, without paper ballots and hand counting, to verify that what you actually voted in the machine is what is registered in the outcome.
REHMAll right. Tammy, do you want to respond?
PATRICKSure. So I was the local election administrator in Arizona for over a decade and have worked during that time with NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology on the voluntary voting system guidelines, which are in fact the standards with which most of the voting equipment in this country are manufactured to. And I think it's important to know that the voting equipment that we cast our votes on -- whether you're voting by mail and it's being mailed in and being counted centrally or you're at a polling place personally feeding it into the machine -- those machines are tested at test laboratories that are accredited.
PATRICKThey go through logic and accuracy tests between every single election, because every ballot is different from one election to the next so they have to be tested. Poll workers test the equipment in the polling places before they turn them on in the morning and allow voters to begin casting their records. And there are actually audits that are done all across this country to make sure that the number of voters who come in are the same number of voters who cast ballots. So there are ways of reconciling the number of ballots cast, how many votes were tabulated.
PATRICKAnd it's not just having a hand-count record. Because I oversaw hand-count audits of voting equipment tabulated ballots for years and I will tell you that hand counting is very problematic. It turns out that most citizens have difficulty counting ballots in stacks of ten.
REHMTammy Patrick, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. And when we come back, I know Professor Hasen wants to make a very important comment on that issue. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Just before the race, in our overall discussion about rigged elections that Donald Trump continues to refer to during his campaign for the presidency, I want to go to you, Rick Hasen. First I want to read this email from Joel, who says, "it appears the relentless Republicans have arranged for voting machines to be installed, which are accessed by Wi-Fi and have no paper trail. It would seem, if you believe Trump, these will be used to rig this election in favor of Hillary Clinton. Why should we believe in the integrity of these machines given the history with hanging chads in Florida, for example?" Obviously referring to the Bush-Gore election and the 500-or-so ballots that had to be examined. Go ahead, Rick.
HASENYeah, I was going to make two points about these hacking concerns. One is while I agree with what Tammy said about most places, where votes can be compared between the totals that come out of the electronic machines and then a hand recount as some kind of audit to make sure that this is correct, there are some places in the United States, including in parts of Pennsylvania, for example, where they use electronic voting machines that do not have a paper trail.
HASENAnd while there's no reason to believe that these machines are being hacked, and they are tested, I think in order to preserve voter confidence in the electoral process, we need to get rid of these machines and always make sure that there's a piece of paper that could be checked if only because it will give people more confidence in the process.
HASENAnd the other point I wanted to make was about the reports of Russian hacking into election systems because we've heard a lot about this, and it's important to point out that these are not hacks that are going in to try to manipulate machines, the machines that count the votes. Instead these appear to be attempts to gain information about who's on voter registration lists, more like identity-theft-type problem than about trying to change the election, still something concerning but not the same thing.
HASENAnd I do believe that part of the reason that this hacking may be occurring is precisely to aid someone like Trump in making claims that the system is rigged or hacked. It just undermines the public confidence, and it's why state, local and federal officials have to cooperate to make sure that this kind of hacking doesn't take place, even if it's not changing vote totals.
REHMStacey Abrams, two questions, first about these new machines our caller claims are being installed, which are accessed by Wi-Fi and have no paper trail, and secondly the question about Russian hacking and what local officials can do to oversee that none of that is going on.
ABRAMSWell, as to the issue of the voting machines, I will defer to Mr. Hasen and to Secretary Merrill. I will say on the issue of Russian hacking, that has been of grave concern in Georgia, as well as other states. I know that the Department of Homeland Security has offered to support and provide access to oversight for those states that face the fear of hacking. Originally our secretary of state declined that support. He did agree to serve on a panel that is putting together protections for different states, and my hope is that we take this threat seriously.
ABRAMSWe have to move beyond our traditional understanding of what tampering looks like, and we have to believe that Russian hacking is indeed the new face of interference in public discourse. And so my hope is that every secretary of state will be as thoughtful and will be willing to accept help wherever it's offered, and the Department of Homeland Security has identified this as a challenge and has put together a response, and I'm just very hopeful that we take advantage of it.
REHMAll right, and Denise Merrill, turning to the issue of the machines themselves.
MERRILLYes, I am not aware of any jurisdiction in the country that connects their voting machine to the internet in any way, shape or form. Perhaps what the caller is referring to is the fact that some of the scanners, they're basically scanners that most of us vote on, and I would say it is true there are still touchscreens that don't have paper trails in about -- I believe about 10 to 15 percent of the jurisdictions, but those were actually certified originally by the EAC, which is the federal agency.
MERRILLBut that aside, you know, 85 to 90 percent of the voters will vote on a scanner, and that scanner is not connected to the internet. Now I believe some of them have the capability of being connected to an internet system that would send the results directly to the state office, you know, for -- but even that, it's not permitted in any jurisdiction I can think of, but if somehow some rogue poll workers or moderators decided, well, it's much easier to just connect it and send the results up, those results are still cross-checked.
MERRILLYou know, elections are not technically certified in most states for about two to three weeks. So those results you see on election night are unofficial results. You would still have weeks to compare the local vote totals with the numbers that are reported, and so even that seems highly improbable, frankly.
REHMAll right, so she, Denise, just said that 10 to 15 percent of the voting machines around the country do not have a paper record. Are we...
REHMSorry, did I misunderstand?
MERRILLYes, sorry to interrupt. A lot of the touchscreen machines do have a receipt that you get.
MERRILLSo there is a piece of paper that you as a voter can keep, but it's not -- you don't vote on a paper ballot. Some, very few I believe, of the touchscreen machines have not even a receipt, but I would defer to Professor Hasen on that point.
HASENNo, no, I don't know the percentages, but there are some, and these receipts are not receipts you can take with you because then that would facilitate vote-buying, but they would be something that could be kept in the polling place. There are some machines that do not produce the paper trail, and hopefully in the next round of new voting machines, we're going to get rid of those.
PATRICKSo this is actually what I'm hoping will come out of all this conversation. I was fortunate enough to serve on the President's Commission on Election Administration after the election of 2012, where we had the long lines. We decided we need to take a look at that. And one of the things that we mentioned in our report was what we called the voting equipment crisis. At that time, we didn't have an EAC, we didn't have new standards for the voting equipment to be manufactured to.
PATRICKOh, I'm sorry, EAC is the Election Assistance Commission.
PATRICKIn the election world we love our initialisms and our acronyms. And what we were talking about there was that the voting equipment being used in this country is aging. Prior to the Help America Vote Act, which came out in response to the hanging chads in Florida and the fact that all of our voting equipment was quite archaic, we were trying to modernize the electoral process.
PATRICKAnd what we had is we had all of our jurisdictions all across the country buy new voting equipment within a small window of time, and that equipment is aging. So when the individual talks about new machines that are connected to Wi-Fi, there isn't a standard in this country that allows for voting equipment to be connected to the internet.
PATRICKThe new voting equipment is, in fact, far more sophisticated, without any sort of connectivity. So it's really critical that we start talking about translating this discussion of our election's infrastructure into not just giving up on it on November 9th, but how do we translate that into a conversation of what are our resources going to be next year to buy new voting equipment, to invest in the infrastructure to make sure that our elections maintain their integrity.
REHMAll right, to Deborah (PH) in Clearwater, Florida, you're on the air.
DEBORAHThank you for your show, Diane, it's always enlightening, and you're a national treasure.
DEBORAHMy concern is that after all of Trump's comments deriding our election process and all of it being splashed all over our news media and all over the world, what if confidence in our election process becomes so eroded, both nationally and/or internationally, that it throws the results into question?
REHMWow, what do you think, Tammy?
PATRICKSo that really is the question and the problem, I think. It kind of cuts to the heart of the matter. The only thing that can shake the foundation of American democracy is for voters to not believe in it or to not participate in it. And if we have either of those things occur, then we really have a problem. But what we have to remember is that Americans are tenacious, and I think that what we're going to see on November 8th and hopefully before November 8th, we need to make sure that voters understand what their options are in voting, so if they have the opportunity to vote by mail, to go into an early voting or an in-person absentee location and cast their ballot before the eighth, to go ahead and do so.
PATRICKSo educate yourself, know what your rights are, know what your options are, get your ballot cast and make sure that you weigh in on this very important election because it's far more important, I think, than any of us quite imagine.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Rick Hasen?
HASENYeah, I think it's important for Republican and Democratic elected officials to publicly state that they believe the election is fair and that votes are going to be fairly counted. We've heard Mike Pence say that. We've heard Paul Ryan say that. The person we haven't heard say that besides Donald Trump, who has just been stirring up all of this, is Mitch McConnell. And I think it is just a national disgrace that Senator McConnell has hidden in his office and not come out and said that he thinks that the election is going to be run freely and fairly, the way, for example, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is a Republican, has said.
HASENI mean, really we need all of our leaders lining up so that Trump will be marginalized in the event that he starts to make these claims post-election.
REHMBeth, to whom have you spoken about this?
REINHARDWell, it was notable last night, there was a debate in the Florida Senate race between the sitting senator from Florida, who is a Republican, Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, and Senator Rubio said, you know, straight out, this election is not being rigged, there is no evidence behind any of this, so this should not continue to be said. We have 67 counties in the state, each of which conduct their own elections. I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election.
REINHARDYou'll remember of course Senator Rubio ran against Trump in the primary and lost, but he, like many other Republican officials, including Mitch McConnell, you know, everyone is making their own political calculation these days, how much can they distance themselves from Trump, how much can they rebuke Trump without hurting their own reelections or those of their majorities in the legislative chambers.
REINHARDAnd so there are a lot of complicated calculations going on. Mr. Rubio is ahead in the polls right now. So, you know, there's another reason why he might want to dispel the notion of the election being rigged. So you're seeing a range of reactions. Paul Ryan was very cautious the way he put it. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey...
REHMWhat did Ryan say?
REINHARDHe said something to the effect that I'm confident that our election officials will maintain the integrity of the election. But, you know, it was a statement without repudiating Mr. Trump for, you know, how dare you try to shake the faith of the electorate. So, you know, there are different ways for politicians to weigh in, and how they choose to weigh in I think depends a lot on their own personal standing.
REHMAnd it's so incredibly important for those upper officials to say this election process is an honest one, it really reflects the preferences of the American people.
ABRAMSDiane, this is Representative Abrams. If I can add one point, though?
ABRAMSThe challenge I have is that while I do think it's important in the tumult of this election for there to be this national reassurance, Mr. Trump is drawing on what has been a decades-long argument that voter fraud does exist. It's been the justification for voter ID laws, it's been the justification for poll closures, it's been the justification for a great deal of voter suppression and voter intimidation.
ABRAMSAnd so I think there's a slight lack of credibility for the call for us to sudden repudiate these arguments of voter fraud when it's been the very public officials who have been using it as justification to suppress certain types of votes. And so while I do agree that we need Mitch McConnell, we need Speaker Ryan to roundly repudiate it in the heat of this election, we also have to recognize that this is something that happens daily on a local level when state legislators and governors and secretaries of state push for voter ID laws and other restrictions on access to the ballot. And so I do think it's important for us to think beyond this election to the long-term implications as our country continues to change that the demographic changes do not foment this notion that voter fraud exists any time something looks different than we were used to.
ABRAMSAnd I think that's a critical issue.
HASENSo let me just turn it a little optimistically. I was very happy to see, there was a column from Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist at the Washington Post, this morning saying Republicans have to stop talking about massive voter fraud. I was television, on the news hour yesterday with Al Cardenas, who used to run the Republican Committee in Florida, saying voter fraud is not a big problem. So let's get as many Republicans as we can on record saying this now, and maybe we can move the conversation forward after this election.
REHMAre we simply, as the media, putting too much emphasis on what Donald Trump alleges?
REINHARDWell I think, you know, it's hard not to when he is the Republican presidential nominee. That is our job is to, you know, scrutinize his words. And, you know, there was all that talk, you'll remember, about him pivoting in the general and that he would be much more careful and cautious and stick to the teleprompter, and we've seen that not to be the case.
REHMAll right, I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. Let's be alert, let's be careful, let's be thoughtful, and let us have a certain belief that our election is going to be straightforward and honest. Tammy Patrick, Richard Hasen, Beth Reinhard, Stacey Abrams and Denise Merrill, thank you all so much.
ABRAMSThank you for having me.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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