Americans should have confidence in the election process, this expert says. Here’s why

Election integrity and security have been under scrutiny after the 2020 election, driven by false claims by former President Donald Trump and many of his associates of widespread fraud.

Recent reporting by the Washington Post shows that a majority of Republican nominees on the ballot across the nation have denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election. Tammy Patrick, a former elections official who now works for Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan foundation focused on supporting fair and free elections, told the PBS NewsHour’s Nicole Ellis such trends are troubling because “individuals have been told that their democracy has failed them. And that’s not true.”

Watch the conversation in the player above.

Despite this trend and the discourse around it, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, Patrick said. “But when it does occur, there are safeguards and safety nets in place to identify any of the fraudulent activity and remedy and rectify it.” Patrick also points out that a feeling or belief that voter fraud occurred is not a form of substantiation.

“People do some things differently from one state to the next. But at the end of the day, everyone is providing voters with ballots. They’re securing the process. They’re making sure that there’s access to eligible voters. They’re counting the ballots with integrity and [voters] should have confidence in the process,” Patrick said.

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Ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol by a pro-Trump mob and their attempt to stop the count validating Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, Trump and his allies filed 62 state and federal lawsuits challenging the results of the presidential election. All but one failed, a USA Today report shows. Their only victory restricted voters in Pennsylvania without ID from going back to correct mailed-in ballots if they were found to have errors, and had no effect on the outcome of the election in that state.

How votes are counted

The process of authenticating and counting ballots varies depending on whether you vote in person, by mail, at home or absentee. They’re either counted in person by feeding your ballot directly into a machine for in- person voters, or through a central tabulator at the election administration office. States that allow pre-processing of mail-in and absentee ballots are able to report more results on election night. States that require counting to begin after polls close tend to have results that come in after election night. Patrick says that, no matter how you vote, there are multiple layers of security in place to verify the identity of the voter and an accurate accounting of all votes cast.

Mail-in ballots are endowed with the federal protections of the United States Postal Service. At secure drop boxes, some states require around- the- clock video surveillance, while others have elaborate chain of custody processes. When “election professionals go to pick up the ballots from ballot drop boxes, they have a chain of custody document that says who they were, how many ballots they picked up, what was the ballot drop box location,” that documents the lifecycle of the ballot and everyone who had possession of it prior to arriving at the tabulation center or election office, Patrick explained. At polling places, bipartisan poll workers and election professionals are trained to assist voters and maintain the integrity of the voting process.

Patrick said that while concern around widespread voter fraud lacks evidence, there are valid reports of individuals and organizations recently seen monitoring drop boxes while wearing tactical gear, weapons, and recording devices, activities that can make many voters uncomfortable. Patrick says the best way to navigate those concerns are to know your options for voting that ensure safety and comfort.

Poll workers brace for potential conflict ahead of midterm elections

A federal judge in Arizona on Oct. 28 refused to bar a group from monitoring outdoor ballot boxes in the state’s largest county, though they were showing up armed and in ballistic vests. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi, a Trump appointee and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, said barring those monitors could violate their constitutional rights. Liburdi concluded that “while this case certainly presents serious questions, the Court cannot craft an injunction without violating the First Amendment.”

As false claims of election fraud persist, Patrick says, “if you have concerns or you’re interested in this, sign up to be a poll worker, sign up to work extra hours at night processing provisional ballots and be an observer of the process.”

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