“How to safeguard against the worst possible outcomes in November”

David Ignatius WaPo column:

What can U.S. citizens do to help protect the integrity of our November presidential election, after President Trump’s refusal last Sunday to pledge he’ll accept the outcome and his unfounded claims that the election could be “rigged”?

Be prepared, is the obvious first requirement. Knowing there’s likely to be a challenge to November’s results, state election officials should work diligently to provide safe and secure ways to count the votes, in-person and absentee. The coronavirus pandemic makes this planning harder — and more essential.

Be patient, is the second obligation. It may take a week after the Nov. 3 vote to confirm a reliable national tally. Partisans on both sides will be tempted to mount raucous demonstrations while the tense vote count continues. But that would play into Trump’s hands. As the country moves toward a possible political transition, law and order — and their essential companion, justice — will be the people’s friend….

The good news is that election-security experts have been working hard for months to prepare for November. Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, chairs an ad hoc committee that published a report in April that included 14 practical recommendations for legal, political, media and technology preparations to foster election security. Hasen published a book on the problem earlier this year: “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to Democracy.”

Hasen said in an email Thursday that since the group’s report, “Lots of states have ramped up capacity to handle absentee ballots . . . and many are working on plans to run safe in-person polling places in the fall.” At least 76 percent of American voters will be able to cast mail-in ballots in November, The Post reported Thursday. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have made recent changes to make voting by mail easier, according to The Post.

More states should adopt contingency plans in case of disruptions on Election Day, Hasen urged. “What if there’s a cyberattack that cuts the power in a city? What if the machines malfunction? States need to have back-up systems ready in case of election emergencies.” And the media should educate the public about the likelihood of delayed counting, with so many absentee ballots. “There need to be people speaking out if anyone tries to claim victory early,” he said in the email.

State and local election supervisors take their jobs seriously, but voters need to make sure their state authorities are ready for an avalanche of absentee ballots in November. Ballot places and counting centers need enough money, people and equipment to operate smoothly. The time to monitor this — and fix any problems — is now.

Because Trump has already signaled that he’ll raise vote-fraud issues, independent monitors and fact checkers should get ready now to weigh unsubstantiated claims that results have been manipulated. And state election officials should plan how to counter misinformation that might spread on social media, advises Hasen.

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