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August 18, 2021

Voting experts: Actions underway now to quash future effort to overturn U.S. elections

A steady flow of disinformation and a push by many states for legislative changes that threaten the election process are fueling mistrust and confusion among voters, according to voting experts who raised myriad voting issues at the American Bar Association 2021 Hybrid Annual Meeting.   

The panel examined the question, “What should be done to ensure that the public has confidence in the electoral process and accepts the outcome of the vote?” during a program presented on Aug. 9.  

Polls show that a majority of Americans want to know that there is free access to the polls, said former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, co-founder and co-chair of the nonpartisan organization States United Democracy Center. Most Americans also agree with methods such as drive-by voting, early voter registration and ballot drop box but are confused by what they hear from top officials.

“There’s confidence in the electoral process but there’s a troubling undercurrent of doubt about the disinformation,” Whitman said.

Election lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg agreed that combating disinformation is the right tactic, but he added that people of opposing viewpoints and parties need to get out of their silos to talk to each other. “You can’t sustain a democracy with each side just talking to themselves,” he said.

Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for the nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause, pointed to the importance of the work of the organization’s 1.5 million members and election officials.

The grassroots organization pushed many states to have backup paper ballots and a robust and legitimate audit system in place to ensure fair elections. Albert said their passion and activism help to move state governments in the right direction.

State election officials are in the middle of an ongoing battle for the future of democracy, said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

“The bottom line is the 2020 election results were accurate, it was a secure election and the most accessible election with more people voting than ever before in our country’s history,” she said.

Benson warned that people need to prepare now for another attempt to overturn the national election in 2024. To help ensure democratic elections, she called for people to commit to amplifying the truth, push back on legislative changes that seek to change the rules of the game and commit to serve on the front lines as election administrators and workers to protect the truth and the nation’s democracy.

Whitman advocated for civic education for the general public so that they know and understand their responsibilities as citizens. “We need to make our voices heard,” she said.

Benson also said sufficient funding for elections is critical — not just to properly run them but to help educate voters on the tools they need to cast their ballot. She also called for more federal protection for voting rights.

Despite all the disinformation and pushback on voting rights, Benson said she still has hope — and that’s because “good people stepped up and did the right thing.”

The panel discussion, presented by the House of Delegates Committee on Issues of Concern to the Legal Profession, was moderated by Verna Williams, dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

Help promote election integrity

Election experts offered ways that lawyers can assist in ensuring fair and free voting throughout the country:

  • Help to carefully craft federal legislation.
  • Hold lawyers accountable who make false statements about election procedures and outcomes.
  • Provide pro bono support to state officials who uphold election laws.
  • Be a trusted voice and resource for election information in your community.
  • Serve as election workers.
  • Encourage state bars to offer CLE hours to attorneys who serve as election workers.