“Analysis: Messing with elections messes with democracy”

Ross Ramsey Texas Tribune column, discussing my new book, Election Meltdown:

Elections depend on trust — on the idea that the declared winners and losers were the real winners and losers.

So how’s that going right now?

“In a democracy, people have to have faith that elections are being run fairly, so that losers will accept the results and fight another day,” says Rick Hasen, an elections lawyer and professor at the University of California-Irvine. “That’s been taken for granted in this country and, effectively, no longer can be, with so much stress on our system and so much agitation that undermines confidence.”

He’s written a book — “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy” — that went public Tuesday. That’s the day the Iowa caucuses started coming to pieces.

“Confidence is the system,” Hasen says. “We don’t have a single election system. We have all of these pieces that fit together so that there’s legitimacy to the process. At some point, that can break down and you could have a substantial number of people who say, ‘This is broken, and I don’t believe this was a fair election.’ That’s what I’m really worried about.”…

The book makes some recommendations about shorter- and longer-term solutions, and Hasen had a hard time with this year’s elections. “The short-term stuff is where I struggled the most, and I’m actually convening a conference of leading experts in law, media, tech and politics to ask what those triage steps might be,” Hasen said. That livestreamed conference — “Can American Democracy Survive the 2020 Elections?” — will be at the end of the month, and he said he hopes it will result in a report “about things that should be done” by early summer.


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