Despite being the world’s most powerful and technologically advanced nation, the US remains like a third world country in how we our conduct our elections.
That is how US election security is characterized by author and DrillDown co-host Eric Eggers. Eric’s 2018 book, called Fraud, covered both the history and the present state of election security, at least up to that point. As he and Peter Schweizer discuss on this week’s episode, however, things took a step or two backwards in 2020 as our national election was conducted during a pandemic.
“Your book actually predicted a lot of the problems that we ended up having in 2020, and that continue to happen today,” Peter tells Eric.
The 2020 Covid-19 outbreak led to all sorts of compromises in election integrity as states struggled to arrange their procedures to respect “social distancing” and rushed to accommodate unprecedented numbers of absentee ballots. Those compromises led to allegations of ballot-tampering, ballot “harvesting,” and partisan electioneering in the guise of neutral-sounding “get out the vote” philanthropy.
As fellow author and previous guest Mollie Hemingway shared on the podcast last year, the 2020 election was “rigged, not stolen.” As True the Vote founder and election security advocate Catherine Engelbrecht also said on The DrillDown, private industries would go broke if they relied on voter roll information as old as our voter rolls.
One of the unprecedented things that happened in the conduct of the 2020 elections was the massive amount of money poured into what’s generically called “get out the vote” efforts. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated a total of $350 million to a group called the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) in the months leading up to the 2020 election. These funds, known as “Zuck bucks,”were passed along as grants to numerous county and city elections officials across the U.S. to help them hire more staff, purchase ballot drop boxes, buy mail-in ballot processing machinery, and other measures they deemed necessary to properly handle the election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In practice, these funds were allocated chiefly to Democratic-leaning areas within the states that accepted the funds, most notably Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where unprecedented numbers of absentee ballots were cast. Numerous observers have raised questions abut how these ballots were completed and delivered in those states, with some even alleging fraud.
US elections are conducted by the individual states, which can lead to some strange rules. In a state delegate race in Virginia, a mathematical tie in an election led to having both candidates’ names written on scraps of paper and dropped in a now-famous blue ceramic bowl – with the winner drawn from the bowl. Arizona’s recently contested gubernatorial primary saw one candidate, Karri Lake, begin to question “irregularities” in the returns on election night while she was behind, only to forget about it when the count turned in her favor. The 2000 presidential race in New Mexico, as Eric says, was decided by just 336 votes. State law there would have dealt with a tie with a card game, by staging a “one hand game of chance.”
At bottom, though, what is at stake is that, in a democracy, voters must believe in the integrity of the voting system, its safeguards and the honest conduct of those who deliver, cast, and count the ballots.
Listen to the show for a funny, but serious look at the state of American elections and the work still being done across the states in the wake of the 2020 questions to make them more transparent and respectable.