We are members of different parties, but we share a commitment to the health and integrity of our voting system. Based on our time leading the Presidential Commission on Election Administration and each of our four decades of work in U.S. elections, we believe our electoral system is strong and will deliver the reliable results required for the peaceful transfer of power that is foundational to our democracy. It is important that the public understand this and that the media strive to depict the election process as working, not as it is portrayed by those seeking to undermine its legitimacy.
Despite all the 2020 rhetoric, this country has a solid system to count votes; to adjudicate allegations of fraud, irregularity or error; to provide avenues for resolving close elections; and to declare winners. When challenging the results, opposing parties are charged with vigorously advocating their positions so that fact-finders can issue determinations that may then be peacefully accepted. No matter how hard the feelings, that is what’s best for the country….
Suspicions are high that the 2020 election will not run smoothly and will be difficult to validate. This is primarily due to President Trump’s characterization of the electoral system as “rigged” and his claim that the historic number of mail-in ballots cast because of the pandemic will result in widespread fraudulent voting.
The president has notably failed to produce any evidence of systemic fraud to support his claims. He has ignored the fact that Republican observers have witnessed voting in every election and have discovered fraud only in rare, isolated incidences. Never have they found anything close to the scale of irregularity that would justify the president’s rhetoric.
Moreover, the president has promoted the suggestion that votes cannot be lawfully counted after midnight on Nov. 3. Some have read an echo of this extraordinary and factually inaccurate claim in Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s dissent in the recently decided voting case from Wisconsin and worry that the Supreme Court could be heading in this direction. We do not read the Kavanaugh concurrence to support the Trump argument. In any event, this argument completely lacks merit. Ballots received by the statutory deadline — whether they are physically cast or postmarked by Election Day, depending on each state’s own laws — will be counted no matter how long it takes to count them. The counting can and always has continued past Election Day.
As a result, the president’s attempt to undermine the election is a self-serving assault on a fundamental American system. It should be condemned across party lines.
We believe any candidate (or his supporters) abusing these norms will be unsuccessful for two reasons: First, Americans have a history of rising to the occasion to stop any threat. Local, county and state election officials can typically count on the support of responsible elected officials, federal and state courts, law enforcement and the national security agencies to uphold the law and norms that ensure voters are heard.
Second, the process to overturn an election would require specific evidence proved on a precinct and county level. Blanket challenges won’t work. Bombastic rhetoric at a rally or a television interview is far from sufficient.