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A new book out Tuesday examines how the falsehoods about election fraud in the 2020 election now threaten democracy.
Written by David Becker, executive director and founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, and CBS chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett, the book, “The Big Truth: Upholding Democracy in the Age of the Big Lie,” also offers remedies to the challenges the country faces.
Becker’s organization works with election officials of both parties on how to run accessible and secure elections. He’s also had a front-row seat to the difficulties swamping election officials in his role managing a network created last year to provide free legal help to election supervisors and workers who face harassment, threats or frivolous criminal prosecution.
I reached out to Becker to talk about the new book what can be done to avert danger to our democracy.
Here are the results of the exchange, lightly edited for length and clarity:
Q: There’s so much doom and gloom surrounding coverage of American elections. But in your book, you say our “elections are more secure, more transparent and more accessible than ever before.” Describe what you mean by that.
Factually speaking, there’s no question that the 2020 presidential election was the most secure, transparent and verified election in American history. Ninety-five percent of all voters, including the voters in all the battleground states, cast ballots on verifiable and secure paper ballots, compared to less than 80% of voters in 2016. That’s the highest number of verifiable paper ballots in our nation’s history, with Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia all moving to paper ballots statewide since 2016 (when most or all voters in those states voted on digital or non-paper ballots that couldn’t be fully audited).
Those paper ballots were audited, with 43 states and DC conducting the largest number of ballot audits in history, confirming that the voting machines counted the ballots properly. And then there was more litigation than ever before, by both parties, clarifying the rules of the elections prior to Election Day (with Republicans winning over 85% of those cases), and more litigation than ever before confirming the results of the election, in over 60 cases, before judges of both parties, including several judges appointed by the former President himself.
Somehow, professional election officials around the country managed the highest turnout in American history, by a large margin, and oversaw the most verified and scrutinized election in history, in the middle of a global pandemic. Regardless of the outcome, the 2020 presidential election was a triumph of American democracy.
Q: What do you say to voters who are consumed by the false idea that the 2020 election was stolen?
Despite the facts, the losing candidate and grifters that surround him have weaponized and monetized the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. But these lies crumble under even minimal examination. Election deniers claim rule changes implemented due to Covid altered the election landscape, but those rules were made out in the open, months before the election, and could have been legally challenged – and many were legally challenged.
Both sides disliked some of the rules, as Republicans challenged philanthropic grants to election offices or expansion of mail voting, and Democrats challenged limits on mail ballot drop boxes, but both sides had their day in court, and both sides knew the rules on Election Day.
Election deniers claim the voting machines altered the results, but all the battleground states had verifiable paper ballots and audited those ballots to ensure the count was accurate, with Georgia counting all of its presidential ballots three times, once entirely by hand to confirm the results.
Election deniers claim there was fraud in large cities in 2020, but the losing presidential candidate actually did better in Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and other cities in 2020 than he did in 2016 when he won the presidency. And it appears that the losing candidate realized he lost at the time, as he had a legal right to request full statewide recounts of the ballots in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and declined to request a statewide recount in any of those states.
Finally, Republicans on the ballot did very well in the 2020 election, with the exception of the presidency, outperforming expectations up and down the ballot, winning every swing House race and expanding their majorities in state legislatures. In fact, many of the legislators raising false concerns about the election were elected on the very same paper ballots that they’re complaining about.
For all these reasons, the former President’s own Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, attorney general and his campaign and members of his family all stated that they saw no evidence of widespread fraud or problems that would change the outcome of the election. And in the nearly 700 days since the 2020 election, nobody has presented a shred of evidence to any court or law enforcement that would call the election or the counting of the ballots into question. If a voter thinks the 2016 election was secure, and Trump was legitimately elected (and he was, winning a majority of votes in states that comprised a majority of the Electoral College), then the more-secure and more-scrutinized 2020 election must also have been legitimate.
Q: The book talks about “strengthening the guardrails of democracy” by, among other things, revising the Electoral Count Act. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working on that. What must their legislation include, in your view?
I think the bipartisan group of senators working on revising the Electoral Count Act have done a remarkably good job of clarifying and refining the Act.
It makes clear that the vice president does not have the right to reject the will of the voters in the states and choose the next president. It strengthens the process to make clear that the joint session of Congress on January 6th is ceremonial – that the electoral vote is set in December, when the states send their certified slates of electors to the National Archives. And to prevent a small number of members of Congress from subverting the will of the voters in the states, it raises the threshold for objection, requiring a critical mass of members of Congress to agree to object.
While the Electo