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S2: It isn’t a crisis only when it’s in Iowa. It’s a crisis when it’s in any city county around the country. And it’s a problem that’s far too pervasive in too many poor communities of color, like fine wine. You know, a good election count takes time. Maybe you have to wait a day or two. We have to change expectations. Introduce transparency and accountability into these sort of algorithms of exploitation and manipulation, which is for their bottom line. Bad for democracy. It’s not actually that difficult to find any number of opportunities to get involved. If what you’re interested in is helping people exercise the most fundamental right that we have.
S3: Hi and welcome to Amicus. And the fifth and final part of our Election Meltdown series. I’m Dahlia Lithwick. And this past Wednesday night, I had the extreme honor and privilege of being joined onstage by a voting rights and election integrity dream team.
S1: Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Guilherme. MacArthur Genius Fellow. Danielle Cetron. The ACLU. Dale Ho. And of course, Rick Hasen. Slate plus members are gonna have access to an extended director’s cut of this live show. If you’re not a slate plus member yet, be sure to check it out at Slate.com. Slash ambigous plus. And I want to take a minute to think. Slate plus members because their support is actually the reason we were able to bring you this special series in the first place. We promised our live show would offer solutions. Spoiler alert there are no short term quick fixes, but you are going to hear a lot about things we can all do, things that shore up public faith and confidence in our elections and help us avoid the election meltdown. This whole series has been sounding the alarm about one more thing. There’s a bit of a recurring visual joke that goes throughout the show. So there was this rather lovely little rug on the set and it became the place where we metaphorically through all of our worries and concerns and nightmare scenarios. So that’s what the rug reference is. It’s just the repository of everybody’s fears. Makes sense now. Good.
S4: With that, we head to Washington, D.C. for an election meltdown.
S5: Hi there, Washington, D.C..
S6: Thank you.
S7: Those of you who’ve been listening along as we’ve been doing this election meltdown series, asking ourselves the seemingly complicated new question, can American democracy even survive the 2020 election?
S3: We’re hoping to find some actions, some real solutions, some rallying cries that will allow us to say, hell, yeah, we’re going to thrive and survive and be better after the 2020 election. And here’s how we’re gonna do it. So I am going to be joined here onstage by a brain trust that is like no other that is gonna help us hack this little problem. And I want you to welcome each of the amazing guests we have here tonight. So I’m about to be joined by Andrew Guilherme.
S8: He is the former mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, the former Democratic nominee in twenty eighteen. Ruben Attali election in Florida. And since his narrow defeat in that election, he has focused his efforts on voter registration, founding forward Florida action to that end. Please help me welcome Mayor Andrew Dillon. And now we are going to bring on Danielle Cetron. She is a professor of law at Boston University School of Law, where she teaches and writes about privacy, free speech and civil procedure. She’s also at 20 19 MacArthur Genius Fellow, and she is vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Please join me in welcoming Danielle Sicher. Next, we bring on Dale Ho. He is the director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. He supervises the ACLU voting rights litigation. Dale has active cases in over a dozen states right now throughout the country. He argued the census case before the U.S. Supreme Court and he argued Fisher v. Kobach in Kansas, a case that we’ve talked about an awful lot in this election meltdown series. Please join me in welcoming the wonderful Dale Ho. And that brings us to last but not least, UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen. He has been my co-pilot for this series. He’s the author of the book Election Meltdown, on which this series has been based. And he has been our election law Sherpa throughout the series. Thank God. Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming the wonderful Rick Carson.
S7: Rick, let’s start with you. I’m sure everyone’s listen to every second of the last few weeks, but can you remind us sort of why we’re all sitting here, what it is that we were doing and why we undertook to do it in February before the election? What are we looking at here?
S9: Well, I think this is an I think this is an easier conversation to have. Thanks to the Iowa Democratic Party, which illustrates how many things could go wrong in it in an election and in the book Election Meltdown. I talk about why trust in American elections is declining. People are worried that their votes are not going to be fairly and accurately counted. A recent NPR study found that over 40 percent of the public is worried that their votes are not safe and secure. And so the purpose of the book and the purpose of our podcast series is to ask why is this happening? And more importantly, what can we do to make it better? And so the book went through and the first four episodes of the series went through four reasons why trust in American elections is declining. First, voter suppression efforts that have been passed in mostly Republican states that have convinced Republicans that voter fraud is a major problem even though it’s not, and convince Democrats that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote, which they are. But they don’t always succeed at doing. The second problem that we talked about in the second episode was incompetence, pockets of incompetent elected administrators. And these can be Democrats or Republicans. We tend to focus our most attention in large Democratic cities because that’s where there are more votes. And in those cities, sometimes the voters are hit with a double whammy first. They have very poor election ministration and then they’re accused of participating in fraud. Third problem, dirty tricks. And we talked about those that was not just the Russians doing their thing in 2016, but also old fashioned tampering with ballots. We saw that in Bladen County, North Carolina, where a congressional race first time in recent memory. That’s a redo, a congressional race, because it was actual fraud in that election, not the kind of fraud that justifies the kind of laws that we talked about in the first episode. And then the last issue that we talked about was this increasingly incendiary rhetoric about stolen or rigged elections. And there we talked about Trump a lot about Trump and how he’s claimed that elections are stolen or rigged. He’s called on voters to watch other communities and to look for fraud. But we also talked about how Democrats talk about stolen elections, too. We talked about the very difficult question of what do you do in a place like Georgia where you had the sitting secretary of state, Brian Kemp, who is not only running the election, he was running for election, he was running for governor, running the election, did a whole bunch of suppressive things. We talked about those in the fourth episode. Is it OK to call him the legitimate governor of Georgia? And so we had a very intense conversation with Carol Anderson, a professor at Emory, about that. So that was the first four episodes, the last chapter of the book, the one we haven’t talked about yet is, well, what can we do about it? It’s nine months before the election. What are we going to do to try to minimize the chance that in November, when 47, 48 percent of the population is going to be very unhappy anyway, no matter what happens, that they’re going to say, OK, we lost the election, but we think it was a fair election the way it was run. We’re going to fight another day to be back in office.
S10: And I want to really, just as a predatory note put out there something that’s been sort of a subtheme of the whole series and is a subtheme even today. I’m looking at deals face and he’s really, I think, articulated back in the green room that part of the problem is having these conversations that, you know, Homer Simpson famously said, like beer, it’s the cause of and solution to every problem. In this case, I think the cause of and solution to this problem is that these very, very intractable issues that we are kind of exploring in depth in this series make people feel hopeless and make people feel disempowered. And we’ve had a lot of listener mail from people saying, holy hell, this is really terrible. Maybe my vote doesn’t count. And we have been trying to sort of thread the needle throughout this series of being honest about the problems, but also honest about the fact that you have no choice but to vote anyway. And one of the things we want to talk about here tonight as we talk about solutions is the ways in which there is not an existential problem here. These are systems problems largely that we can solve, but it requires confidence that systems work. So I just want to put that out there and we can sort of debate that proposition. But I do think that it’s incredibly. Difficult to have a series about a thing that is going to make people say, maybe I don’t want to vote. I want to turn to you first, Andrew, because, you know, Rick opened with the Iowa caucus and the sort of cataclysmic meltdown that we saw. And you wrote a piece in the post saying pretty explicitly, this is getting a lot of attention and it’s a lot of white people. And it doesn’t get attention when it’s people who have black and brown skin for whom every single election looks a lot like this. And I wondered if you could sort of amplify your concern about how we have just come to live in a universe in which it is simply understood that you are twice as likely to have a malfunctioning machine or some other system problem if you are a person of color and that Iowa was not the first.
S11: Yeah. No, it wasn’t. I don’t know if I’m so sick, nor the audience or not. By hello. Everybody does. I’m honored to be here. And I actually do think that it is important that we talk about these issues and illuminate them in a way that I think don’t leave people sort of depressed and thinking that they did shouldn’t participate in the process because it’s not fair, but hopeful about what we can do about it.
S12: And also very present with the things that need to change in cities, counties where most elections, frankly, are administered and in states all across the country. I did talk about I was on I was doing some CNN coverage of the results from Iowa.
S11: And I watched the slow melt down of nearly every panelist that night. As we kept saying, well, we are that we are the results. I mean, this is this is right now around seven o’clock and folks are getting impatient. And I just had a thought that at so many precincts, people are waiting for hours just to get in there to cast a ballot. To maybe even later find that their vote wasn’t even counted or maybe get inside and be told that they were at the wrong precinct and not had the agency to then say, why I want a challenge ballot. Maybe it is that you were in limbo because you had to go to work and you don’t want to lose your job. You had to get out of line. And so I think about the polling precinct where I go and vote, where if I live in a pretty nice neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, if those folks who I vote with are not in and out of here like 15 minutes, they’re like, what is going on? That the system must be broken. I’m but if you go to many neighborhoods of color where so many of these precincts have been collapsed into one where there isn’t enough support staff for folks to be able to move through it expeditiously, there’s just an expectation that you’re going to be there 45 minutes, an expectation you’ll be there for an hour. Now, whether that’s that’s right or wrong, it just struck me that on this particular night. And I will concede that the problems that we saw in Iowa should not have happened. But we were blowing all the way up, not over the fact that there were issues around whether these votes were legitimate or not, but just whether we were getting the results of the timely enough manner that we wanted them.
S12: And what a luxury it was for us to have that issue is not a question of can I vote? Will my vote be counted? Is my name on the roll? 300000 people in Florida have been purged in 2019 from the voter rolls. So if I showed up, I wouldn’t even show up on the on the roster. So just put it into context a little bit. I know it’s not complete apples and apples, but just causing our awareness to go up to say, man, these are issues that we should be fighting every single day. And it isn’t a crisis only when it’s in Iowa. It’s a crisis when it’s in any city, county around the country. And it’s a problem that’s far too pervasive in too many poor communities and communities of color.
S10: So so, Dale, you’re here is our gladiator, right? Like you’re out on the hustings fighting about these. You know, you’re you’re you’re bringing these cases. You’re not checking your hands up and saying, you know, the systems are broken. I guess we should all move to Norway. You are you are doing the litigating. And I think that’s a little bit why you have the most furrowed eyebrows when we talk about, you know, how some of this feels hopeless sometimes because you’re trying, I think, to make it less hopeless. And I wonder if you could just give us a quick survey of, you know, the cases that are out there that you’re involved in, what you’re watching, the ways in which actually the guard rails are the legal guardrails or are fixing some of the things we’ve talked about or may fix some of the things we’ve talked about.
S13: Well, you know, I don’t wanna be Pollyanna either. I am nervous about communicating a message that could be disempowering to folks, telling folks that, you know, the system’s unfair. People are being excluded. I don’t want people to go from that to thinking that the system itself is a legitimate and that their participation no longer. Matters, but at the same time, I also don’t want to give people an idealized view. I wouldn’t be doing the kind of work that I’m doing bringing lawsuits around the country to remove barriers to eligibility and voting if I believed we were in an OK situation at this point. But just to give folks an overview of some of the work that the ACLU is doing and the work that I lead, we’re bringing lawsuits around the country to expand who’s eligible to vote to make voter registration easier, to remove obstacles from voting during early voting periods and on election day. And we just. Just to give you an example of the first category eligibility. We just got a ruling in a case that we have today in Florida.
S14: The people I’ve heard about.
S15: Florida is one of or was until 2000 through 2018, one of only four states at this point with laws on the books that disenfranchised you from voting for life if you had any single felony conviction. So one felony conviction, your ex ex-communicated from civic society for you your entire life. Right. Because fraud is so big. That meant that there were a lot of people and a large proportion of the people disenfranchised nationwide. Just in that one state, 6 million people barred from voting nationally because of a criminal conviction. 1.6 million in Florida. So almost a quarter of the disenfranchised nationally in a single state and a single, very important state. The numbers in Florida are kind of shocking people to believe me when I give people these numbers. But it’s one out of 10 adult citizens in the state. It’s more than 20 percent of the adult black population of the state of Florida. So when you when you think about those numbers, which I think are really a testament to how we’ve over criminalized society and to what mass incarceration has done to our society. But when you think about those numbers, I think it’s really hard to. And here I’m going to do the thing I said I was going to do. But I hear those numbers. It’s hard to think of Florida as a real functioning democracy. Right. When that many people. But when that many when that many of your citizens are excluded from participation in civic life, it really, I think, does at least raise that question.
S16: Well, Florida came back after the voters of Florida in 2018 passed a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to people upon completion of their sentence. The Florida legislature came back in 2019, passed the law that said completion of your sentence includes repayment of all fines, fees, court costs.
S15: You know, in Florida, they assess you, a court costs to assess whether or not you are sufficiently indigent as to be entitled to a public defender. Seriously? Right. So, you know, you walk out of court for a criminal prosecution with between 500 and 1000 dollars just in costs and fees assessed to you for going through the system. Our initial estimate was that of the 1.4 million people who’ve completed their sentences for the people that we could get data on, about 80 percent of them still have some legal financial obligations associated with their sentences and that the percentages are higher amongst people of color than they are amongst white former offenders and fell in Florida. So we know what kind of effect this is going to have. We got a great ruling from the district court in this case last year. And just today, this morning, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling, holding that if people can’t afford to repay those financial obligations, that can’t be a reason for excluding them from the franchise. It is a limited ruling, it only applies to the 17 plaintiffs in this case. But if all things hold, they will be permitted to vote in the March presidential primary and we go to trial in April and hopefully that will resolve the status of the hundreds of thousands of other voters in Florida in the same situation.
S7: So, Danielle, we one of the reasons we wanted you on the podcast when we were sort of conceiving of what we were going to do is, you know, you work there at the intersection of technology and privacy and free speech and law.
S10: And, you know, you kind of came on and scared our face off because you were talking about misinformation and disinformation. And, you know, that the specter of deep fakes and all the ways in which, you know, we think we’re having a process problem about voting. But actually there’s a meta problem, which is we’re all pushing around fake information and none of us can tell what’s real anymore. And that, I think is a sort of grinding problem underneath whatever electorial fixes we could talk about.
S7: And I wondered if you could sort of give us your sort of good and bad. What what has improved since 2016? What is scarier?
S10: What do you think about when you think about this entire kind of cacophonous world of fake news and bad news, disinformation, information, foreign and domestic, that people cannot tell anymore what’s true and how that inflicts on how you think about the 2020 election?
S17: OK, so maybe we should start with the good guy and guy. Not everybody’s hope. So I’ll start just with a definition of what a deep fake is. And I think what is good is we’re starting to understand the phenomenon. So the deep fake is either manufactured from whole cloth or manipulated audio and video that shows people doing and saying something that they never did or said. And we’ve seen in the last six or eight months a real rapid escalation of the technology that once you would look at a video and say, you know, you can see some of the imperfections, but it is developing so quickly that now it seems as if we’re at that point where audio is impossible. Least for audio deep fakes, impossible to tell. Just as a technical matter, the smartest of people, the greatest experts can’t tell the fake from the real. So when this phenomenon hits and like everything the internet, it begins with porn. Forgive me, but welcome to my world. You know, it’s ugly. You know, deep fakes. Come on the scene. There’s a subreddit named Deep Fakes and it is basically porn videos with women’s faces, celebrity female fakes, faces inserted into porn. And the name is then taken from the subreddit Deep Fakes. And it sort of the notion of what a deep fake is. And it’s still predominantly. So the 15000 deep fake videos online, 96 percent of them are deep fake sex videos. And in 99 percent of the time, it’s women’s faces being inserted into porn. And it’s often true with network technologies that the first victims of mischief and abuse are women in marginalized communities. And then they get mainstreamed. So I’m trying to figure out maybe what my good news was.
S8: I was going to say, sorry, sorry, we’re having a rip snorting good time.
S17: We’re coming to understand the problem for the fullness of it rather than, I think, a hype that scared people. And still people were saying, what are you talking about? What is it fake? We at least have a phenomenon. We have our arms around it. We’ve seen examples. We’ve seen it used in satire. President Obama, you know. Jordan Peele did a satire of President Obama, a deep fake. So we’re coming to see and understand the problem.
S18: I just want to say that one of the things that I realized from reading Danielle’s work was I thought the greatest danger of a deep fake was you’d see something and you think, you know, oh, my God, you know, I can’t believe what this candidate is doing. Well, I think the the bigger danger is that we’ve just come to disbelieve everything. Right. And we disbelieve truthful information. And we have a hard time knowing what’s true. And I think you and and Bobby in your article coined the term the liars dividend.
S19: So here you could have Donald Trump saying that wasn’t me on the Access Hollywood tape, that that’s fake news and that becomes more credible the more that’s fixed, the actual real fake stuff out there.
S10: Right. Right. So part of the sort of play here is that if you can’t know what’s true and what’s false, you give up on the possibility that you could ever know anything. And that’s the playbook.
S20: Let’s do one. Yeah. Go relate that to. Yes.
S21: ACLU case in Florida. One huge kudos to you all there needs to be defenders of liberty in the same election that I lost by 30000 votes, which was the closest gubernatorial election in the 2018 cycle and the closest the Democrat had gotten to winning the race for governor in Florida for 24 years. Thirty thousand votes. The voters of the state of Florida, 65 percent of them decided that we were gonna be a forgiving state, a state that allow people second chances that you were not going to be judge for ever by your worst day.
S12: And obviously, the legislature came into power just nakedly recognizing that that it is possible that they could get the short end of the stick, even though the majority of people being read franchise are white. Yet in the first three months in Duvall County, something like 54 percent of the people registering were black men, sending quite a signal to people around where the energy was around this. So to the idea of fake news, if everything is, you know, questionable, what is real, the lasting legacy, I fear, on the continued litigation and I’m glad we are continuing it. But the but the but the conflict that the legislature and the governor has created is that it is throwing great doubt and suspicion and fear into the minds of these individuals who we very much so want to register to vote and get involved in the process. But in Florida, if you register to vote and you have not satisfied these fines, fees, court costs, restitution, knowingly or unknowingly, you sign that you are now registering yourself to vote. If it is later found that you still have five Spees court costs or restitution to be paid, you can be criminally prosecuted. So why would anyone volunteer to put themselves into a situation that you just got out of? All you want to do is participate in the democracy, make away for yourself or your family. But you do that now at the risk of prosecution again. And so I’m hopeful that over the length of this, this will all be worked out. I fear that in the short term for 20, 20, that there’s so much fear in the environment that it really does complicate our ability to do the work we have to do, which is to register and re-engage these folks.
S13: I just want to say that I agree 100 percent that, you know, voter confusion is, I think, not only something that we’re worried about, but very much and a goal of folks on the other side. Right.
S16: The message after Amendment 4 was passed in twenty eighteen was folks can vote. The message after the legislation was passed in twenty nineteen was no, you can’t. And now there’s this court ruling, it applies to 17 people, maybe it will apply to more people. And I think a lot of folks are rightfully confused and would worry about signing a piece of paper under penalty of perjury that they’re eligible to vote. One other point on that is that Florida’s records on fines and fees only go back to the early 1990s. So if you have a conviction from the 80s or earlier than that likes actually some of our clients do, you actually can’t find the records associated with your conviction to determine whether or not you’ve paid off all of your fines and fees and you still, upon registering to vote, have to swear under penalty of perjury right now that you’ve fully discharged all of those. So it’s really confusing. It’s something, you know, in all of our cases, frankly, and it speaks, I think, to the limits of the effectiveness of the work that I do. You know, we can change the laws, but if the public doesn’t understand what those laws are, if it doesn’t get communicated out sufficiently in advance of an election, the work that we do is only going to be so, so useful.
S22: And finally, I just want to say finally on this, and then we get off Florida, at least for the bad news.
S23: I guess the podcast is over. I’ve no doubt. Oh, Lord.
S22: Are we that bad? Yes, we are. Some days, some days to understand the significance of the impact in a state like Florida. You’re talking about a governor’s race that was decided by point four percent of the vote.
S24: Donald Trump won the White House by a point in Florida. Barack Obama won the White House twice by a point in Florida. Al Gore.
S12: Depending upon where you sit on this question, five hundred and thirty eight votes, or as we like to say, a 5 4 Supreme Court decision decided the presidency of the United States. And so if we think this is just, you know, a little happenstance thing, 1.4, 1.6 million people, we’re talking about a state that is routinely in presidential and gubernatorial elections. In this case, the last five gubernatorial elections decided by a point in my case, point 4 percent, that these are the kind of marginal differences that can completely overturn or impact the outcome of an election.
S10: You know, it’s interesting. After the census case was decided, I wrote a very depressed piece saying it doesn’t matter. People are now going to be afraid to fill out the census regardless of the outcome, because they sort of feel as though the government’s coming for them. And a dear friend of mine sort of took me out to the woodshed under this sort of dale ho ho theory of don’t keep putting the idea in people’s heads that even when you win, you lose because there is now confusion and a sense that the system is rigged. And so it was a sort of good moment for me to realize that you can’t kind of take your wins. And the problem of confusion and despondency is a separate problem. Let’s do this quick, quick lightning round with the caveat that Dale does not want to participate, but just a sort of 15, 20, 30 seconds of what your when you project forward, Rick, to 2020, election night, what is your nightmare? And then once we get it out there, we’re going to fix it all. But just tell us your worst case scenario.
S18: Next, say, we already talked about one on the podcast, which was a cyber attack on a Democratic city in a swing state that cuts the power to Detroit or Milwaukee. But that’s not my tonight. Oh, good. He’s got a different one. Yes. Here’s one. Pennsylvania’s changed the rules. This is a good thing. It used to be that if you wanted to vote absentee, you couldn’t show up at the polls on election day and have a good excuse. Now, they have no fault. Absentee balloting, which is good, except it takes a long time to process absentee ballots. And we know that in Pennsylvania. We also know that in Michigan, where they made a similar change, it may be days before we get the results of the presidential election in November. So here’s the nightmare scenario. It’s election night. It all comes down to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, as it did the last time.
S25: And Donald Trump is ahead on election night and he declares victory.
S18: And the networks say it’s too close to call, too early to call it, because there’s all these ballots to count. But yet, Trump says, as he said in twenty eighteen in the mayor’s race and in the Senate race, he says no. You know, the only the ballots that come in the first night, those are the real ones. Everything else is, quote, massively infected. So Trump claims victory, even though four days later the Democrat is declared the winner. So Trump then goes to the Republican state legislature and says, you know, why don’t you send in a slate of electoral college votes for me? Because the constitution gives you the power to choose the electors. And so two slate of electors go to the Unites States Congress, where according to a bunch of arcane rules, the House chooses the president. But under a rule where each state House delegation gets one vote, one state, one vote. And there are more Republican state House delegations than Democratic state. So Trump could actually lose the election, according to the count in Pennsylvania from election officials, but be declared the president again. So that’s just one.
S26: You didn’t. You’ve given that some real thought. That did not happen.
S10: OK. I’m going to skip Dale for a minute. Danielle, tell us your your nightmare scenario you talked about a little bit, but. But tell us what you’re when you think about what could really go wrong in your lane, at least, what do you worry about the night before an election?
S17: There’s a deep, vague showing. The main one of the major party candidates doing and saying something. Let’s just imagine so despicable about kind of a core bloc of voters who that person needs to go out and vote. So offensive and it spreads like wildfire. Right. It’s not only on Twitter and Facebook. It’s being, you know, shared on WhatsApp and and the tipsy election and of course, can’t undo an election. And so significantly, too, it sort of shakes how we think of elections, the legitimacy of elections on the theory that this is so far fetched. It’s really not so in the Philippines about six months ago. There’s a deep fake of someone who is up for a very important official in the government, up for a position. And a deep fake went around showing him having sex with another man, which is illegal in the Philippines. And he was removed from the job. It turns out it was a faked video. And the same is true for so yesterday in India. There was indeed fake actually released by a candidate for office. It was a mess. She gave. But then he showing him in the many different languages, so he perpetuated a fraud, suggesting that he was speaking languages. He did not. Different dialects. He did not speak. Right. And so we sort of see brazen, deep fakes, not a hostile state actor. It’s not a hostile party to your opponent. It’s our own officials creating deep fakes to perpetuate fraud. And it’s happening in the here and now. So I feel like I’m a little hysterical and that’s OK. But but it’s not far fetched that way. Right.
S20: I’ll leave it there. Andrew. Do you have a nightmare scenario? And I guess you were living it. Yeah. Donald Trump is president. That nightmare scenario.
S12: I can’t participate in that kind of game theory, but I don’t think it’s going to be certainly in a state like mine and maybe those close to mine, an actual episode necessarily. I think it is the cumulative effect of all of these. What we might think of as little things that are contributing to what will ultimately, I believe will be a one percent difference outcome in my state. So the voter purging that has happened. Three hundred in almost random ninety thousand over 2000 and 19 in my you know, thanks to court litigation, we get the signature mismatch sort of figured out, but we don’t necessarily have the college campus and the voting precinct thing make, you know, all the way figured out, although we’re working through some compromise on that. But but I think there’s gonna be all of these small things, long lines. Florida has already already been the country’s nightmare Allah 2000 election.
S22: So we can actually deliver this thing again to. All right. Florida is the gift that keeps giving when it comes to these things.
S21: But I think it’s gonna be the cumulative effect of everything that they are doing right now that will absolutely weigh on Florida’s 29 electoral votes, because we are I think of all the states that are swing states, the only swing state that could by itself determine the outcome of the election with his 29 electoral votes.
S10: Dale, I am looking at you scared eyes, but do you have a sort of nightmare scenario? Are you very much of the view that everyone will write in on a white pony and vote and the election will be awesome?
S3: And even if you don’t think that, you’re not going to say anything else? Hilik Ponies. Ponies fly.
S27: Actually, I had similar thoughts to those expressed both by Andrew and actually by Rick to about the effect that more states having no excuse absentee voting is going to have. It’s a good reform, right? States that have it tend to have turnout. That’s about two percentage points higher than states that don’t.
S16: Michigan and Pennsylvania, two very, very pivotal states in the 2016 election, have adopted it for the first time in an election. But it might mean that the counting is going to keep going well past election night and that could create a problem. I’ll step out. I think about like the legal regimes. Right. And the effects that those might have. But I’ll step out of my lane a little bit and just talk about voting trends and demographic patterns. And you’ve probably all heard this, that the dissonance between the Electoral College or the potential for dissonance between the Electoral College and the popular vote seems to have increased right where we saw a popular vote margin of 2.7 million in 2016 and Trump when the Electoral College. It’s very conceivable that the ala that the popular vote margin could be double that and Trump could still win the electoral college. Right. You can imagine an energized Democratic base in California and New York, you know, turning out in higher numbers. You could imagine the changing demographics of states like Texas and Arizona and Georgia pushing those states much closer than they have been in the past. Texas was closer in the 2016 presidential election than Ohio was. Right. And people don’t generally don’t tend to think of Texas as a swing state, but they think of Ohio as one. So you could imagine the margin for the Republican candidate falling in some of these Sunbelt states, but not so much that those states actually tip over. And you could see the same alignment of states overall. And now we will have been in a situation where in half of the last six presidential elections, assuming 2020 goes the way that I’m suggesting it might work. There’s a divergence between the popular vote and the Electoral College. Fifty percent of the time, which we had only had what, you know, two or three times before the 21st century, that I think is alarming. And when you look at population trends and see that, oh, about, you know, 70 percent. The population by twenty 40 is expected to live in fifteen states. Right. The sort of structural imbalance caused by the Electoral College starts to become even more alarming.
S10: OK, so look, we promised a happy, happy show full of easy peasy fixes. I should stipulate Rick says in his his book that he can’t think of like really great short term fixes between now and November. But I wonder if you know where we’re all presumably smart people who’ve thought of these.
S7: What are some and feel free if you want to respond to one another’s nightmare scenarios or or give us some thoughts about things, whether it’s legal fixes, which I think I’ve learned throughout this podcast. There’s not a lot of these problems that can be fixed through, you know, sort of any regulatory regime that pops to mind. But I wonder if we can can at least muddle through some of what we’re worried about and talk about, if not fixes that we can put into place. But before 2020, medium term going forward fixes. Rick, you want to start?
S18: Sure. So I finally got a hold of this. I I’d heard it happened, but I didn’t see it myself. But someone sent me a clip today. Check the video. Yes. Maybe it’s a deeper, fakey fake. It was Wolf Blitzer on CNN standing in front of a negative countdown clock. How many hours since the Iowa caucuses ended before we had a result? So some of this is the responsibility of the news media. The news media needs to be educated, that they need to explain that slow count like fine wine.
S9: You know, a good election count takes time and just have a glass of wine and wait for the election results.
S28: And maybe you have to wait a day or two. And I think we have to change expectations because, you know, cable news, more than anything else is trying to create a sense of drama, even when there is no drama, like when you’re waiting on exit poll results. So, you know, you’re waiting to call a state and that drama can contribute to people’s angst. Right. Or that The New York Times meter. Remember that? Yeah, that’s true. You know, Clinton or Trump. So I think the media needs to tone it down.
S18: And, you know, I’m actually have formed an ad hoc group or we’re gonna come up with recommendations by early May over what people at Facebook can do, what the media could do, what local election officials can do.
S28: I think we have to think about it in small bore problems. There’s no one magic fix. We’re not going to solve the voter purge problem by 2020. But there are things that we can do. And the news media’s got some responsibility here.
S10: And would you I would maybe add to that. And you’ve, I think, made this point also, just when you make a mistake, you say it and that the culture of nothing to see here, nothing’s wrong. We didn’t do anything wrong. And that simply it’s part and parcel of the sort of performance aspect like this is not a circus. This is democracy. And when there are errors and there will be errors. The single worst thing you can do when everybody is paranoid is to lie.
S18: Well, I remember on when the Iowa results were coming out. Everything was slow. But it was when the Democratic Party put out a statement saying that there were, quote, quality control issues, that I knew something was up like fess up to the app.
S19: And then they denounced partial counts and then they had to take them back because they did them wrong. I mean, there’s still fighting now over those counts. So, yeah, you have to fess up to your errors and explain what happened. Transparency is the number one thing on the list for election officials.
S10: Okay. Dale, what do you got?
S27: Well, I mean, to Rick’s point, though, about, you know, expectations on when we’re going to get results. It’s it’s it’s really, I think, as a cultural phenomenon, very difficult in the social media age when there such a premium placed on speed. Right. Everyone’s got to have the fastest take the quickest result if the tweet doesn’t start with capital breaking. You know, people don’t want to read it sometimes. And so I don’t know what the solution is other than that. I think it goes even beyond kind of media practices and just kind of cultural expectations in our 24 hour on demand social media world. But one easy fix on something that we talked about earlier, the absentee ballot counting issue right in Michigan I mentioned is one of those states closed the state in the 2016 presidential election. Now has no excuse, absentee voting. They have a requirement in Michigan that the ballots cannot be counted until Election Day. That’s not a very good legal requirement when you expect the number of absentee ballots to skyrocket this year compared to previous years. The secretary of state of Michigan is. For a simple fix for this, let us start counting the ballots. She’s saying as soon as they come in. Right.
S14: It’s a no brainer, right?
S27: So there are some technocratic should be non-ideological fixes to some of the problems that we’re talking about that will at least hopefully reduce the likelihood of the kind of nightmare scenario where we don’t know who won Michigan or Pennsylvania on election night.
S10: And is there some engine that is pushing for some of those fixes? I mean, who is somebody out there. Angsting about this in public in a way that could allow for some of these technical fixes?
S27: I mean, it’s so hard when you have 51 different systems governing our election systems. Whenever you talk to someone from another country and try to explain how our elections work, they’re sort of they’re just kind of baffled. They look at us like, how can this possibly be? But it’s really hard because it’s decentralized and the rules differ when you cross state lines.
S28: But in Michigan, Jocelyn Benson has gotten together with city clerks, county kind of clerks, and they’re lobbying the legislature now. She’s a Democrat. The legislature is Republican. The governor is a Democrat. So it’s kind of hard to get bipartisan agreement on election things because everybody’s looking at what might benefit their party. But at least she’s putting it on the agenda.
S10: Danielle, do you have some thoughts on fixes? And I want you to talk a little bit about because you’ve given a lot of thought to what if we regulated Facebook? What if we regulated Twitter? What if the candidates all agreed that they just wouldn’t push out, you know, something that was fake? Is this something in your world that is fixable if we put our sort of shoulder to it and just won on the positive point?
S29: I think our electoral federalism has a real upside, which is there. What is isn’t one point of failure. So as frustrating as it is, there isn’t one bottleneck that can completely fail. So in a way, like as we’re trying to take stuff off the rug of despair, you know, maybe we can put our electoral federalism in the hat. You know, in the positive box.
S17: OK, but so what what do we do that now that we have, you know, Facebook and Twitter, as in their algorithms are are and in the interests of their shareholders, because there isn’t regulation is to mine our and exploit sort of the worst sides of us. Right. The stuff that we’re gonna like click and share on is the most salacious. Right. And that’s what earns them advertising income. And so what I think we need to do is we can’t trust on faith anymore, that these companies are just going to self-regulate because every time they promise and we’re gonna be more responsible. m.c says to Congress, that just doesn’t happen. Right. So I think it’s twofold. Right. We need strong privacy rules around the use of micro-targeting ads that are not transmitted. Back to Rick’s point about transparency, ads that are not transparent. So eighty nine hundred ads at any given moment. Trump is, you know, or any candidate is tailoring to someone like Neonazis hum. Come vote for Trump. We never see those ads. And Facebook is enclosing them in a way that they were supposed to be transparent right now. Facebook says that political ads, we’re not going to let you see any of it. Right. So both privacy rules and transparency rules, there’s like the Honest Ads Act, we could do better. Right. But ways in which we’re gonna introduce transparency and accountability into these sort of algorithms of exploitation and manipulation, which is for their bottom line, it’s bad for democracy. And the other is sort of my famous bugaboo, which is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides a legal shield for online service providers for content user generated content. And it the whole idea of it was to incentivize self monitoring. And the statute is called Good Samaritan blocking and filtering of offensive content. And unfortunately, the way the statute’s written is it doesn’t require you to be a good Samaritan. So sites that are in the business of, you know, deep fake videos, they get to earn advertising income. They get to encourage people to post destruction and they get to say, sue me, too bad. So sad. I got a section 230 defense. And so we need to think about changing Section 230 to reintroduce the incentive to actually be a good Samaritan so that these algorithms can’t earn your money, you can’t facilitate abuse and then walk away from it. Mm hmm.
S10: How about you, Andrew? Would you pick up something from the rug?
S20: A drug is very hard to read of despair. And tell us what if you could could. If we fixed Florida, this rug would be floating and the room.
S12: But toward your question, around 2020, things that we may be able to do given the short window we have for 2020. So my first suggestion and this is a little self-serving in the sense that this is work that I picked up on in Florida, which is voter registration. If you are not actively working to increase my bias. Yours, but Democratic Big D Democrat registration in your area. I would encourage you to figure out how you can involve yourself with an organization or an entity who is doing voter registration work. We’ve got over 4 million eligible on registered in my state alone and we’ve fixed our attention on trying to register and re-engage a million of them in advance of the 2020 presidential election to have impact in that process. The other thing since this is to speaking to the decentralized nature of how elections are run largely is a volunteer structures that are being run not from state to state, but from county to county differences. Rules can be difference between those places. Lauder’s as 67 counties. Others have, you know, whatever number that they have. I would love to see the Election Protection Brigade. Those of us who are out there trying to ensure that we attempt downing, tamping down on deliberate intimidation at the polling places, passing out leaflets, material that help people know their rights when they’re in some of these places. If you’re told that you don’t have a valid I.D. decision, you know that you have a manual or someone that you can go to to help you navigate that process. I think we take for granted how difficult it is for the average person who is not doing this work every day to show up and have agency when it comes to a conflict with an elected official. The elections official who’s telling you that this is the rule when they may themselves be misinformed. Someone coming in and saying, I need a ballot that is in my language. You don’t have the right to say, no, you cannot. You you have to provide that person the ballot in which they can understand what is there. So the election protection piece, in my opinion, is something we as citizens can do since our elections are run by citizens. And by and large, I think to the extent that it will be loss, it will be lost by various elements of human error or human intake and perception that we basically are going to be the ones that screw this up. We at the individual level or get it right. Not not withstanding some of the larger, you know, sort of themes that have been put out here already. So I would just challenge people for things that you can do. You can register voters, you can engage voters. You can help turn voters out. You can join an election protection brigade, because, as you know, the president has already called for his people practically to take arms, go watch them, go to these precincts, observe what it is that they’re doing. I’m not suggesting, you know, a violent response to that. I’m simply saying we’re gonna need a affirming and positive response to that for the voters who we know may be more easily targeted here.
S9: So I would just add that when you’re talking about election protection, one way of trying to protect the election is everyone should be looking at what their local election administrators are doing.
S28: There’s opportunities to observe the vote. If your jurisdiction is not demanding that there be post-election audits to make sure that the voting machines are counting the votes accurately and that there’s simply a piece of paper that people can look at to verify. So it’s not just a computer code, it’s a name that can be counted. These are the kinds of things that because it’s so decentralized, you need local pressure from local people. This is not something it’s going to be solved. You know, Dale can’t be everywhere.
S10: But I think I think you’re making a really important point that I think gets us out of this trough that we kind of fall into, which is there is this huge leviathan, unknowable superstructure that I cannot effectuate any change in. What you’re both thing is. No. Like the beauty of, I guess, Danielle, you made this point first. The beauty of what we think of as this like rickety decentralized system that is only as good as the Lake 90 year old lady who does this, you know, once every couple of years, then like, you know, is that those are positives because you can have real influence over those decentralized local recording systems. Right.
S12: Every one of you is seeing some version of that impression, partially because I think at the local level, as maniacal as I believe the president is in his larger apparatus is in, and how intent and orchestrated they are in trying to bend the rules to their will to provide them an electoral advantage. Many of these local elected folks you go to, you see them at T-ball games, you engage with them. I don’t think that they set out to intentionally steal elections, that there may be some examples and you probably know them better than I do. But by and large, they do what they don’t want the embarrassment. They want these things to work. And so in addition to, you know, going in and auditing at some level, you can also go and see the ballot before the ballot is put in the newspaper or sent out as an early ballot in our state. We had instruction. For the United States Senate race at one part of the page and in its clipped from the next page with actually has the race on us, so the instructions were not connected to the race that people were voting for, was someone. Well, the party should accord it, but anyway, somebody should have been able to catch that. But in 67 counties where every ballot looks different. Miami-Dade’s ballot is a hell of a lot longer than my ballot in Tallahassee, Florida. And so who’s paying attention to that? If you engage with it early enough, can you give advice, feedback that allows for those changes to be made before we end up with something that results in something cataclysmic? But it isn’t a cataclysmic activity that makes it that. It is a very small, nuanced detail that changed the outcome of an election. And we’re just far too used to that where I you know, where I live. And I think we can do something about it.
S10: So, Dale, let’s say you’re talking to somebody who wants to be educated, engaged and activated and they just don’t know. I mean, what they’re hearing, what Andrew Gillum is saying, and they’re like, what mail?
S7: Like, I could have done this. I could. What would you tell them to do between now and November? That would really be an impactful some action. That is not, you know, heroic that any person could undertake between now and November that would make them feel more confident in the entire process.
S27: Well, you know, as a lawyer, I’ll I’ll just say something that first lawyers can do. Right. And Andrew mentioned the, you know, election protection efforts that are happening. There is a consortium of civil rights and good government groups that participate in an election protection program that’s run by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights based here in Washington, D.C. They’re nonpartisan.
S30: And they set up boiler rooms, you know, these response call centers in about two dozen states that are on the ground even before Election Day, during early voting, but on Election Day itself and with call centers in D.C. to help people just navigate the process. Right. Sometimes you get very simple calls from people who are having a hard time verifying that they’re registered, having a hard time trying to figure out where their polling location is, helping people navigate those kinds of situations. And then when there is a real problem of malfeasance like voter intimidation happening or at an election administration problem like machines breaking down and lines being too long, then the lawyers in that room can spring into action, try to get something done that day to help make sure that no one’s disenfranchised. Now, you know, sorry, I’m a, you know, lawyers. I mean, everything looks like a nail to me. I always think about things in terms of legal problems, but things that non-lawyers can do. People can participate in a voter registration drive. People can, you know, participate with their party and get out the vote efforts during early voting them on election day. It’s not actually that difficult to find any number of opportunities to get involved if what you’re interested in is helping people exercise the most fundamental right that we have. It’s opportunities are out there. You just have to step up and take the time for it.
S10: And Danielle, I want to ask you a version of the same question, except yours is kind of existential, which is what do you tell people who are at this sort of, you know, the place that that Rick Hasen describes of, you know, I guess all news is fake and whatever I see on election night is going to be fake. And I guess, you know, as my son would say, he’s here somewhere. I should just move to Mars and date Mars women because the planet Earth is functionally over. What he’s going to that’s bleak. That that’s that’s what he says. The Mars girls, he’s never gonna forgive me for this. We’ll have to edit out. Danielle, what do you tell people who say we are now in this like quagmire of misinformation and disinformation? I don’t know how to tell my parents what’s true and not true. How do we navigate this?
S17: So let’s not forget, right. That we have sources of public trust. Right. PBS, NPR, BBC. You know, we often sort of, you know, sort of forget that we do have media where we say that they they enjoy the public trust and for darn good reason. Slate Right. I you know, our go to. Thank you. Right. I have my slate coffee cup at home because that’s one of the first plus subscribers just saying love, sleep, all subscribe. So but those are really incredibly important. Don’t rely on Facebook and Twitter, right. Unless it’s someone who’s part of that public trust and they’re linking to articles in Slate. Right. You know, we have to be better consumers. And of course, at the same time, we have to remind ourselves that the distrust that we feel. That liars are leveraging that Bobby Chesney, I call the liars dividend is gonna lead people to say, just believe what you want to believe. Truth be damned. And then folks are going to be self-serving to escape accountability. Just we have to remind ourselves of that. I don’t think we should stop efforts to educate ourselves about deep takes and the problem of disinformation and propaganda and just our disorientation. I think we have to look it in the eye and then look to those sources of public trust for news. Right. I don’t want your son going to Mars.
S7: Me neither. Andrew, I want to ask you a version of the same question, which is, you know what?
S10: After what you went through, you could have been completely justified in saying, I don’t think this is fixable. You know, this is a this is a monstrous system that purges the voter rolls, that does voter caging, that suppresses the vote, particularly the vote of black and brown people who who have really shoulder the burden of this for a long time. As Carol Anderson told us last week, and yet you have redoubled your effort to get people to believe in voting. And I wonder, like, I want what you’re having. Tell me how you kind of get up every morning and compose yourself and say this is a system that can still work?
S31: Well, I still believe in it.
S21: I worked my you know what, after two years trying to become governor of Florida and gave everything that I had to it, and an election that was supposed to produce 6.1 million voters, which would have been the increase of its share of four years since the last governors race produced eight and a half million voters. Right. We come close to 9 million voters in a presidential election. So we had crazy turnout, which meant people were responsive. Black voters for the first time in the history of the state of Florida voted at their share of the population. They didn’t do that in 0 8. They didn’t do it in 12. They did it in 18. So I can’t take for granted that these folks came out, participated in the process. The election result was certainly not what I wanted. And what many of them wanted for me and for themselves and for the state. But it to me would have felt like a total slight to everything that I said. I believed in everything that I campaigned on. If I was like the rest of the nominees who have come before me and lost and packed up their toys and went home, and I completely understand why people do it. Yeah. But Florida is a state that is a winnable state. It’s a state I’m raising my family. It’s a state that I love. And I am as idealistic about the process today as I’ve ever been before. And some I’m not. That’s Pollyannish, but in order to keep up every day sort of recommitting to this work, there’s gotta be some sense of belief that it is that that it’s going to work out. Dr. King gave a famous speech, not the I have a Dream speech, but here in Washington. And I think it was later titled Give us the BALLOT. And he said, All I want from America is for her to do what she said on paper. And when I think about the sacrifices of people like Dr. King and Rosa Parks and all of those heroes in shiro’s whose names I cannot call them faces, I cannot recognize who gave life, livelihood and everything in between for a cause that they themselves were not sure that they would ever be able to benefit from. There’s no way I can back out from this thing, right what people are.
S14: And I tried to say it to young people as well on college campuses.
S22: If people are working this hard to keep your vote from counting, don’t you think they know something about your vote? Don’t you think they know something about the power that you could command? If they were able to keep you from this process, you don’t lay down and give that up. You stand up, you stiffen your shoulders and spine, you fight back. And I think if we do that, I’m convinced that there are more of us than there are of them. But what they have had the success of doing is repeatedly beating us down to the point. And this is where it is, the gift that keeps giving to where we don’t believe. And if we don’t believe and we can subtract ourselves on the process, that’s the gift. That’s the disenfranchisement. That is the that’s the legacy of it. So now that you got me by 30000, you won’t give me again by 30.
S26: Dale, do you want to do you honors. Dale, sort of tearing up here and Lavonda.
S13: I just I just loved what he was thinking about the Mars romance.
S7: Rick, I think we’re going to take questions in a minute. And before we do, I want to give Rick a chance. You know, we’ve been on this journey together for four weeks now, and you and I have been sort of pinging back and forth between utter despair. And the belief that, you know, we don’t have a better system. And I always think of Justice Scalia like you just have to beat the other, you know, the other guy who’s running away from the bear and like, this is what we got. We just this is what we got. And I wonder if you have any reflections having sort of gone through this. And I know when we talk to Carol Anderson at Emory last week, it was really you said, I’m just creeping up to the point where I’m, you know, willing to hear the word stolen that an election was stolen. I’m not quite there yet. And I wonder if if if kind of going through this process, talking to the folks that we’ve talked to, has sort of located you somewhere different from where you started.
S19: Well, I’m different five times a day, but yet I hear something like the mayor said, and you know, what I hear is resiliency. And I hear determination. And that makes me say, you know, now is the moment for activism. Now is not the moment for complacency, because we’re talking about an election being such a complex system. You’ve got to attack it in a lot of different ways to be successful. And so if the job is on all of us. And so I do feel more determined going forward. You know, people said why write a book called Election Meltdown? It’s alarmist. I’m sounding the alarm. We’ve got nine months. Let’s get to work. OK.
S26: So here’s what we’re going to do. We have a microphone up here.
S7: Folks can stand in line to ask questions of our panel. I generally find that this works best if you put your question in the form of a question.
S32: And so I’m going to ask that we try to sort of be be kind of quick into the points so other folks can ask questions and really like if there’s anything that we have not gotten to today, particularly because this is for a podcast, if we’ve missed something that is weighing on you or that is essential, that has not been covered, now’s a very, very good time to bring it up. So Mike’s right up here. Come in and tell us who you are and ask your question.
S33: Hi. Phil Goldstein, thank you for doing this. This is phenomenal. First of all. Professor Cetron, let’s go Terriers. Part of my day job these days is to think about and write about election cybersecurity issues. And I’m curious, Professor. You know, there’s a lot of focus on tampering with voting machines and, you know, getting into the actual sort of physical election infrastructure. But what would you say is the biggest sort of threat vector when it comes to cybersecurity threats to the election? And what can state and local officials do to get out in front of that?
S29: I think Rick should take it. He wrote the book. You go in, then you go and I can a..
S18: But, you know, I’m not a cyber security expert. But from what I understand, a lot is being done. The last time in 2016, there were some states that did not cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security on cyber hacking. And, you know, I think the Illinois voter registration database was was broken into by going to like the smallest county where somebody, you know, was subject to a phishing attack.
S25: And there’s just has to be better training for all of that.
S18: But there’s not much we can do about that. I think what we can do on our end, besides demanding that our elected officials are taking steps is with the voting machines, is demanding those audits. And, you know, it’s a huge fight in Georgia. I was speaking at the Carter Library yesterday as a fight about these brand new voting machines that have a barcode on them that you can’t read. And the question is, what’s going to count as the valid vote if there’s a recount? It’s got to be something that a human being can see. I mean, so those are the kind of things that we can fight for. And those are the kind of things you don’t have to be a cyber security expert to know. However, whatever’s happening in the black box of the voting machine proved to me that it’s accurately representing what the voters wanted.
S17: And that’s what electoral, you know, the election. Several Kerry specialists I’ve been on less serves for like 10 years saying like, we need paper ballots. You know, they’re the most. You talk to all of my friends who’ve taken apart D-Ariz. Themselves, bought them, you know, on eBay, took them apart, saying they’re deeply insecure. We spent a whole lot of money on junk and we’ve got to get back to the paper ballots and at the very least, optical scans with audit trails.
S34: Hi, my name’s M.C. Hammond, and I just have a question about mandatory voting for Dale and for Andrew, and I really want to know if there’s anything legally preventing us from having federal mandatory voting.
S13: It’s not something that I’ve thought much about. I know Australia has it and they are, as you might expect, to have relatively high turnout there. You know, I think there are probably other people at the ACLU may have feelings about the government forcing people to participate in any kind of civic activity that might raise First Amendment concerns. But I will confess to not having really looked closely at it.
S31: I haven’t I haven’t thought a lot about mandatory voting. And probably wouldn’t be in favor, but it would be in favor of automatic voter registration. I would be in favor of election day as a holiday if we give Presidents Day off.
S22: We certainly ought to be able to get access to elections.
S31: I’m in favor of mandatory paper ballots so that when you do recounts, there is an evidence of how a voter actually intended their vote to count the mandatory part. I think you probably have a great debate in the country around that.
S12: And I could also see certain pressures either in the workplace or certain special interest or otherwise that could further complicate that. And I think drive a in of direction we don’t want. What I want is for more than half the country who are right now not voting to believe again in the system that if they show up and participate, they can shape this democracy in the way of their liking and their choosing. And unfortunately, far too many people don’t believe that regardless of who they vote for, Democrat or Republican. I’m not talking about the faithful. I’m talking about the overwhelming majority of us who are choosing not to participate. They don’t believe it works. And I think that’s what we got to really kind of put our attention toward, is how we inspire that kind of level of activism, an involvement.
S15: Hi, everybody, I’m Sam. My question is, what about bots?
S18: We didn’t talk about bots tonight. Is that something that’s already fixed or something that still needs fixing?
S29: I love how Rechter said 10 yel you’re the bot person.
S6: I was thinking the same thing. This is all you, Danielle.
S17: OK. So what’s really interesting about, you know, what we know from the 2016 election or studies from the spread of misinformation. And by that I mean just false information online. We know that. False stories that were negative and novel spread 10 times faster as men, sort of bland, truthful stories, and that same study showed that who is doing the spreading wasn’t bots. It was also with human beings. So we are here because of our sort of we have our own human pathologies. You know, we’re drawn to the provocative were drawn to the negative in the novel. Turns out we’re spreading it right. We’re spreading that, you know, salacious fake information. Pizza gate, Seth Rich. You know, like we are the bots where we I always say where the bug in the code is sort of not to be too bleak about it. But you know what? We are right. We we are spreading that disinformation. So it’s not that bots are are not a problem. They’re of the diversity or ecosystems of pathologies online. But Network Propaganda is a book written by Yochai Benkler, Rob Harrison and a third co-author. And they basically they’re sort of at the end of the day, we’re all out of disinformation really came from us Fox News and the sort of re-enforcing circle of right wing media rather than bots or it’s not that didn’t happen. It was there. It was disturbing. And we had hostile state actors involved. But it’s it’s a lot more of us culturally.
S35: It can also just lift up the echo chamber on the right that exists, the media echo chamber. There was so many of these stories that I mean, and I expressed this in my race for governor. I was accused of being anti Semitic. The claim caught me off guard. And the mayor of a city that had a sister city relationship with the Maha Cherone.
S22: I go to Israel for time. I fear even saying this. I feel like I have a black friend. So I was slow to respond because a part of that.
S12: But these things were linking back to these sites. We’d never heard of before. It wasn’t a reputable news organization was. So everybody just traveled like the wind. And that’s just one claim. There were others and others and others. So the sophistication of the right wing echo chamber. So if it comes from Fox or whether they are get these innocuous websites that look like new sources. So people are not just saying this is my thought. They are sharing an article.
S29: It looks like topics like Tallahassee, write it. You know, Enquirer, which doesn’t really exist for sure, but we create them.
S35: Right. So they don’t get that intensity of the bob piece. But it does get at the sophistication on the right of you by comparison. What the left has a smattering and we’re not telling lies, we’re just telling the truth on their side. They’ve got a sophisticated network that just sort of gets this stuff churning and it’s hard to take it back once it’s out there.
S29: And it’s. And your experience is anecdotal. It’s been so shown by scholars studying this information that insight break.
S19: I just want to throw on the rug something. No, no, it’s too late. Throwing things out there. It’s okay. Misinformation coming from the left and some Democrats believing, let’s emulate this. If there’s the Tallahassee and quick inquire, let’s make the Tallahassee star. And like fighting fire with fire is only going to exacerbate the problem that Daniele’s written about, which is that we won’t trust anything. Right.
S10: We unfortunately have time for one last question and I’m sorry to the folks who are in line, but we have time for one last question and then we’re gonna have to wrap because one of us has to get to the airport. So go ahead. And I’m sorry to the folks who are.
S36: Hopefully, this is a good question. You know, my name is Phil. My question is for Danielle. So in your perfect world, what does regulating Facebook or Twitter look like? I guess as it pertains to politics, but also just in general.
S29: Absolutely. So we have section 230, which says that no provider or I’m quoting the statute, no provider or user of an interactive service provider should be treated as a published author or speaker of information provided by another information content provider that does not say anything about. Sorry. That’s the language. Forgive me that Congress used in section 230 C one, it doesn’t condition the legal shield on being a good Samaritan. So what Ben would’ve said I have proposed is keep that provision which provides an immunity or a legal shield for failing to remove content and saying you keep it, but it’s no provider, a user of an interactive service provider. What we would add is that engages in reasonable content, moderation practices shall be treated. So we’ve got the language right.
S17: We’ve just gotta say it’s not a free pass, right. You’ve got to act like a good Samaritan and acting like a good Samaritans gaging and reasonable concept moderation practices vis-a-vis the particular harm.
S10: Paul, speech activity at issue, we have just time to do one more quickie lightning round. But but Rick and I have promised throughout that we are going to end this thing on a high note and we’re also going to give people an action, something they can do tomorrow morning when they get home and something they can do in two months and something they can tell 10 people to do. So I’m just going to sort of go through down the line and ask you to give the folks in this room who came out here, despite the fact that the first four episodes may have depressed or alarmed them. They came out here because they want an idea of something they can do to fix the system. And I wonder if we can start with you, Andrew. One action that every person in this room can take tonight and every day between now and November, register as many voters as you can.
S12: We’re doing it in Florida. Ford, Florida, action. But I could guarantee you that their outfits probably everywhere you live, even if you live here in D.C., there are ways for you to engage remotely. We all have platforms. I know Stacey does through fear, fight in a fire fight action where even remotely you can hustle. I mean, like hustle people. But it’s it’s it’s it’s an app where you can help us through texting, get people registered in engage, register, register, register.
S17: Danielle, educate, educate, educate. Right. Talk to folks about being smart consumers of what they read.
S16: Dale joined the ACLU People Power Volunteer Network. We’re gonna be plugging people into election protection efforts. The one I mentioned in November. And for folks in particular, states like Ohio and Arizona who are willing to do work in states like that. We’re going to be working on ballot initiative campaigns to bring automatic voter registration and election day registration to those two states. We did it successfully in Michigan with a ballot campaign in twenty eighteen. We’re going to replicate that in two states in 2020.
S7: Okay. And Rick Carson, one thing that everyone in this room can do to help American democracy survive, not just the 2020 election, but beyond what is a thing, an action step. Everyone in this room can take tomorrow morning.
S18: Don’t be complacent. Look at what the media is doing, what your local election officials are doing, what your elected officials are saying, and speak out when you see something that’s wrong and don’t spread misinformation. Be a I don’t want to say good Samaritan to be a responsible person and talk to your neighbors, especially if you disagree politically with them, because we’re in a very polarized moment right now and we’re in a moment of technological change. So it’s a very precarious position. And the more that there can be actual dialogue between people, I think the better off we’re gonna be.
S37: So I want to I really want to thank everyone who came out here tonight.
S6: Dale Ho, Mayor gillean, Danielle Cetron, and a special special thank you to Rick Carson for bringing us the idea of doing this podcast, putting so much hard work into it. I want to thank all of you who came out here to join in this conversation. And I want to thank you in advance, because I know you’re going to be putting the integrity of the 2020 election front and center in the coming months and help spread the word that this is neither pointless nor futile. This is something that really is on each and every one of us to buy in and make change. I also want to thank my amazing producer, Sara Birmingham, who has put together this entire series with an enormous amount of sweat and blood and tears and snot recently. So she has really, really been, I think, the vision behind pulling this series together. I want to thank the folks here at the Hamilton. This is the most extraordinary venue. The food is great. The drinks are great. Thank you so much for having us. I want to thank Fay Smith, the executive producer of Slate, live for Wrangling, all of us to get here and to Rosemary Bellson for the recording assistance here today. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you to my extraordinary guests.
S8: Let’s keep fighting and let’s be here any year to celebrate the fact that democracy survived. Thank you.
S38: Diane Ireland. And that is rest for this final part of the election up-down series Slate. Plus, members, keep an eye on your feed next week for a special bonus wrap up episode. Brick Hassin and I will have a debrief on the entire series. Thank you all so much for listening. Thank you for your support through the series. Your letters, Facebook messages, suggestions. And those of you who came out to see us in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday made all the difference. If you’d like to get in touch, our email, as ever, is Annika’s at Slate.com. We love your letters and you can always find us at Facebook. Gutt com slash Tamika’s podcast. Today’s show was produced by Sara Bermingham Extra. Special thanks to Slate lives.. executive producer Faits Smith and to Rosemary Bellson for her steady hand on the controls in Washington, D.C.. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate Podcasts. June Thomas is senior managing producer of Slate podcasts. And we will be back with a fresh new Amita’s next week.