S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership.
S2: Hi and welcome back to Amicus. I’m Dahlia Lithwick. I cover the courts and the law for Slate and I am also covering for this special series of amicus voting. This is Part 4 of our Election Meltdown series. It’s produced with Rick Hasen, election law professor at UC Irvine and author of the new book Election Meltdown upon which this series is based. Welcome back, Brick. Great to be with you. What I ask could possibly go wrong with November’s election.
S3: So I’ve got two scenarios that really worry me.
S4: Imagine for a 2000 type situation with Trump in the White House and those precincts can’t be counted. Pretty wide scale voter purge.
S2: We’ve been asking civil rights lawyers, public officials, local journalists and disinformation experts for their election doomsday scenarios.
S3: Imagine deep, big the night before an election, a scenario in which people did leave the Internet and take much more physical action.
S4: Our system is only going to work if people have enough confidence in it that they can accept the results. We’re not asked this question, so we all spiral into despair. But instead, to think about what we could do now before November to protect the most important thing we do as Americans voting.
S2: Of course, if you want to spiral into despair, that’s totally on you. But if you want to be part of this unbelievably important conversation, do join us in Washington, D.C. on February 19th for the Annika’s election meltdown live show featuring former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Guilherme. MacArthur genius fellow and vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Daniel Cetron. And the director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. Dale Ho, go to Slate.com. Flash live for tickets.
S1: So on this week’s show, we are tackling a kind of slippery issue that is already woven itself through the first three episodes. And that is how should we how do we? What is the best way to talk about challenges to and problems with the integrity of U.S. elections?
S5: You know how you think slippery is exactly the right word here, because everything we’ve talked about before in the earlier three episodes was pretty tangible. We talked about voter suppression and claims of voter fraud and what that does. We talked about issues of election administrator incompetence, the non-sexy topic that became sexy after Iowa. And we talked about dirty tricks, foreign and domestic. Old fashioned new-fangled we’re turning to now is the question of how do we talk about elections? What does it mean when people call elections stolen? Is it ever appropriate? What does that look like?
S1: We wanted to bring on board this week one of the very smartest writers and thinkers on this topic. Professor Carol Anderson. She is the Charles Howard Candler professor of African-American studies at Emory University. Her research focuses on public policy with regard to race, justice and equality. She’s also the author of, I think, a simply extraordinary book, One Person No Vote How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy. I blurbed that book at the time and I still handed out to people left and right like Candy. Carol Anderson, welcome to the podcast.
S6: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Dalia. And Rick, thank you.
S1: So I feel as though this Maya Angelou quote has been used every single day since then. Candidate Donald Trump came down the escalator and called Mexicans rapists. And the quote is this one When somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time. And in the case of Donald Trump and how he may react if the election in 2020 is close, well, he’s not just been showing us who he is. He’s been telling us for a very long time.
S7: So important that you get out and vote, so important that you watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.
S8: We don’t want this election, Soloff.
S9: And when I say watch, you know what I’m talking about, right? You know what I’m talking about. I think you got to go out and you got to what you want to drive him crazy. Don’t do four more years. Say eight more years. You’ll drive.
S8: We do not want this election stolen. I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election.
S10: If I win.
S11: You want to drive a bridge, you just say eight more years or twelve years.
S12: Sixteen. Sixteen would do it. Good day with it. You’d really drive him into the loony bin, sir.
S1: So let’s start with you, Carol. This is this episode is about rhetoric. What are your concerns about? You know, where we say sticks and stones? Words will never hurt me. But this rhetoric is worrisome, right? Should we be taking Donald Trump seriously and literally when he talks this way about stolen elections?
S6: Yes, because he will steal it. And I’ve got to say, when I when I heard this language, it reminded me it sent me right back to a period in 1946 where there was a U.S. senator out of Mississippi name Theodore Bilbo, Ted Bilbo and Bilbo. Was a vile man. And in 46, black veterans were coming back from fighting the Nazis and they were demanding democracy, and Bilbo told his throng of white followers, you know, you gotta keep him from the ballot box. And so how do you keep the Negro from voting? You get the tar and the feathers and you don’t forget the matches. And there was a moment in there when he was laying out what to do. And he said, oh, I don’t think you understand what I’m talking about. Let me be more specific. And that’s what Trump did right there. Oh, you know what I mean? You know what I mean? And so this is about voter intimidation.
S1: And when you hear him say you need to be watching, that chimes in a really different key when you look at through your historical lens.
S6: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because that watching is about intimidation of minority voters, that watching is really rolling up on them, making it really clear that the ballot box is not where they belong. It is about putting communities, quote unquote, back in their place as if their place is not as American citizens who have the right to vote.
S1: And turning to you, Rick. Trump’s rhetoric has shown zero sign of abating. I think it’s probably ramped up in this area, but there has been a shift, right, since 2016 in the way other Republicans talk about voter fraud and stolen elections.
S5: Yeah, I think Trump is no longer the aberration. It’s become mainstream. There was a tweet from Marco Rubio back in the 2018 election where he basically said that the this was back when it was the contest over whether Bill Nelson, the incumbent senator, was going to stay in office or whether it was going to be Rick Scott. And there were some problems and how the count was done down in Broward, as we’ve talked about. And Rubio tweeted. Now, Democrat lawyers are descending on Florida. They have been very clear that they aren’t here to make sure every vote is counted. They are here to change the results of the election. And Broward is where they plan to do it. And you had Paul Ryan make similar kinds of statements claiming that the lake counted vote in California, which shifted some congressional seats from Republican to Democrat as more votes came in. He called that bizarre, insinuating without actually saying that there was something nefarious going on.
S1: So if now we’re talking about Republican claims of vote fraud, we talked about this in part one of the series almost as night follows day. We’re just going to have to talk about voter suppression, which follows those claims. And Carol, here’s where I would love for you to sort of just walk us through your concerns about voter suppression, this sort of architecture of it, and how it has come about and what it is that you think about when we talk about voter suppression.
S6: And you’re right, voter fraud to me is the the false bottom, the false foundation for this enormous architecture that is designed to block key segments of the American population from the ballot box. Voter fraud was a Republican talking point because it reminds me again, as the historian it reminds me of back in 1890 when Mississippi was trying to figure out how do we stop all of these black people from voting. But they knew that they couldn’t write a law saying we don’t want black people to vote because the 15th Amendment of the Constitution says that the state shall not a bridge to the right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. So you just can’t write the law that blatantly. And they say so what we’re going to do is we’re going to use the societally imposed conditions on black folk and make those conditions the access to the ballot box. And so you take IndyMac’s poverty born out of centuries of slavery, then the black codes than sharecropping. And you say, well, you know, if you were really concerned about democracy and you were really invested in it, you would be willing to pay a small tax in order to be able to vote. Well, if you’re impoverished, paying a small tax that is somewhere between two to six percent of your family annual family income is no small feat. But it will block you sure. As anything else from being able to vote in the same with the literacy tests, et cetera, and all of these measures they cast in terms of. Clearing out corruption from the democratic process, making sure that our elections were clean and that they were fair, making sure that the they were protecting the sanctity of the ballot box with the Mississippi plan. So when we hear then this thing about voter fraud and it’s about keeping those people from stealing elections, it’s the same rhetoric emerging out of Mississippi in 1890 and in that language of voter fraud, because when you press them, as you know, they can’t really point to this massive, rampant voter fraud that they claim is the reason for all of these voter suppression techniques like voter I.D. and end like they are the kind of exact match program that they have here in Georgia, where your name has to be exactly there from your voter registration as to your as with your driver’s license bureau, you know, or you get kicked into electoral limbo. All of those kinds of measures are around the lie of voter fraud, but they are lethal to democracy. Absolutely lethal.
S1: And just to be super clear, Carol, because I think this is so important. A lot of people think these claims of, you know, busloads of Mexicans who are brought in to vote illegally or claims that, you know, how can it be possible that there are more votes than there are registered voters when we tally the counts? This is not new. I mean, the buses are new, but no arguments that the whole system is being gamed to make sure that non-voters are screwing up free and fair elections. This goes way back to the time that you’re talking about. It’s just a different manifestation of the same claims.
S6: Absolutely a different manifestation. And what Mississippi did and this is you know, so what I look at right now is what I called Jim Crow 2.0, because what Mississippi did in this rise of Jim Crow, which included the massive disfranchisement of black voters, was, yes, we think of disfranchisement in terms of the violence, the the physical violence, the brutality, the terror, the killings. And that happened. But it was the bureaucratic violence, the policies that seem really legitimate because they’re cloaked in legalities, they’re cloaked in these rationales about protecting democracy. But in fact, what they are designed to do is to wipe millions off of the voter rolls just the way this this array of of of policies that emerged in this new Jim Crow 2.0, Polk Post, Shelby County v. Holder world that we live in, which was the Supreme Court decision that gutted the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. And so we get voter I.D. laws that are racially discriminatory. We get poll closures and having the majority of those poll closures being in the form of pre-clearance jurisdictions we and and creating these distances from voters to where they can actually vote, knowing that those distances, in fact, lead to a decline in voter turnout. We get extreme partisan gerrymandering. We get eliminating early voting days. We get massive voter roll purges. Even though the National Voter Registration Act says you cannot kick somebody off of the rolls simply because they haven’t voted regularly. You have these secretaries of state using the rationale if they haven’t voted regularly and we sent them a postcard as a means to wipe millions of people off of the voter rolls. So just like with the Mississippi plan of 1890 that had like the poll tax, the literacy test, the grandfather clause, the good character clause in it, it eventually would include something called the white primary. They knew that if one didn’t get them, the other one would. If that one bad policy didn’t get them, the next one would. If that policy didn’t get them, the next one would. So by the time we got to 1940, only 3 percent of African-American adults were registered to vote in the South. When you think about the the policies that are are coming right now with the voter I.D., gerrymandering, poll closures, etc., they are designed to whittle away those key members of society that do not vote basically for Republicans. Yes, you do get gerrymandering coming from the Democrats, but those other measures. Those are Republican measures.
S1: And Rick, just on this question of constitutional history, I want you to fill in one other blank. There’s gonna be a big change in the landscape for the 2020 election. That’s the expiration of the consent decree that was first worked out almost 40 years ago. Can you tell us what that was about and why it’s going away and why it matters? Sure.
S13: So back in the early 1980s, the Republican National Committee was sued by the Democrats for engaging in what the Republicans euphemistically called ballot security measures, including things like sending off duty uniform police officers to polling places to largely minority communities. And the Democrats said that they were violating the Voting Rights Act and acting illegally. And rather than contest the case, you know, try to prove that they were not engaged in illegal activity. The Republicans agreed to settle the case through what’s called a consent decree. That’s a kind of a court order that the parties agree to. And if you violate it, you’re in contempt. So in 1982, the Republican National Committee was put under this rule that they couldn’t engage in these measures to try to keep people from the polls or vote caging, trying to send mail out to people to try and find people who maybe have moved and try and kick people off the voting rolls. All of these things were done before this consent decree. And over the years the consent decree was renewed. It was challenged and it kept going. And then we got to the 2016 election. And here you had Donald Trump and we heard that set of clips at the beginning saying, you know, go to those polling places and watch. And the Democrats went to court, said, look, they’re doing it again. And this went through the courts for a couple of years. And eventually the Third Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said, yeah, the consent decree can end now because it was supposed to expire at after the 2016 elections. And even though Donald Trump has engaged in voter suppression, there was no evidence he was doing it in coordination with the Republican National Committee, and it was only the committee that was subject to this consent decree. Okay. So the consent decree is gone. In the meantime, Donald Trump has taken over control of the Republican National Committee and he’s taken over control of lots of state parties. And so we know in 2016 that Trump had a page on his Web site where you could sign up for so-called poll watching activities. I’m expecting there’s going to be a big ramp up of this activity with the RNC as a national effort to try to engage in the same kind of tactics that got the RNC in trouble back in the 1980s. So I think this is the first election we’re having without these protections and about four decades. And I’m very worried.
S1: OK, we’ve now heard that Carol is very worried. And you are very worried. And yet, Rick, you included the consent decree, the vote caging in your chapter on rhetoric. It’s about the language of, quote, unquote, stolen elections. Why did you put them in your chapter on rhetoric and not in your dirty tricks chapter?
S5: Well, you know, words sometimes lead to actions. And so, you know, if all we heard was Donald Trump saying, well, you know, the election’s going to be stolen and it doesn’t mean anything. Then, you know, who cares? You know, just just words. But I think words motivate people. Words make people think that the election is, you know, up for grabs and that there’s going to be some kind of struggle to try to control polling places. I gave a talk back in New York and someone came up to me after and said, what about all the people with guns? And it reminded me of a picture that a Trump supporter posted on social media around the time of the 2016 election where he said he was going to go watch at the polling places. It was basically a pickup truck with some guns mounted on it. You know, scary stuff.
S1: So, Carol, this brings us to Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election. It got so much attention in many ways. It became the focus point of so many of the issues that we’re trying to bring together here. We have voter purges. We’re talking about registration applications that were put on hold. All sorts of election day troubles, of course, at predominantly non-white voting precincts and problems with voters, absentee and provisional ballots. All of it is happening. Can you just give us a privacy on what the issues were in Georgia’s 2018 Grubin? Tory election. And why it came to stand for something very consequential around the country.
S14: And I think part of it is to understand that Brian Kemp, who was the Republican nominee for governor, was also the secretary of state. So he was responsible for running the election. And he didn’t recuse himself. So he was in charge of running the election that he was running in to be governor.
S15: I liken it to the director of the lottery saying all of the equipment is fine and then pulling the winning billion dollar lottery ticket. Go and look at one. And nobody is supposed to look askance at that. And particularly when you’ve got a history, a history coming out of Georgia of massive voter suppression. And it crystallized it really began to crystallize. With Randolph County, I’m I’m going to start there and then move us through the camp is running against Stacey Abrams, who would be the first black woman elected as governor in a in a in a state. And she’s got an incredible organization behind her camp is in charge of the state apparatus. And his office approved a consultant who was going around to various counties recommending that they close polling places for fiscal reasons when it hit Randolph County. Randolph County is 61 percent black. This consultant recommended that seven of the nine polling places in Randolph County be closed. When you begin to realize that the counties where he was recommending this are counties that were had sizable numbers of minorities and that camp had raised concerns about all of these minorities who are registered to vote, and if they come out in November, that they’re going to win this election. That you’ve got the template for voter suppression. So with the the at poll closures, rent the Randolph County, one got got beat back. But then you had issues with, well, voter roll purges, you had issues with not enough machines in districts. So you had lines that were some sometimes four and a half hours long before they even moved. You had issues with missing votes in the lieutenant governor’s race. And as they tracked that down and I mean, missing votes like one hundred and twenty some thousand votes missing in the lieutenant governor’s race, and those get tracked back to black precincts for people who voted on Election Day using the machines, but not you don’t see the decline for those in those precincts who did early voting, who did absentee ballots. So it appears that something went haywire in those machines that you get the missing missing votes. None of this gets investigated. None of this gets looked at. And you have voter intimidation also happening. And you get him certifying his own election. It just it reeked of all that is wrong. In the system, but the narrative, when you talk about the rhetoric, the language that you get is that it is easier to vote in Georgia than it is most places. We have automatic voter registration, we have early voting. We have we have we have that and that. We had an enormous turnout. Oh, I believe it was over 60 percent in terms of voter turnout. So how could they be there, be voter suppression when you have all of that? And so what we don’t get is that that voter suppression, that voter turnout happened in spite of not because of.
S16: The work of the state.
S15: What the the gutting of the Voting Rights Act did is that it put the onus for protecting the right to vote on the individual and not on the state.
S14: And that is a massive game change so that individuals have to stay in line for four, five, six hours in order to cast a ballot, because there hasn’t been enough there. There weren’t enough machines put in precincts for people to be able to vote in a reasonable amount of time, that it is up to people to be able to to to have the right kind of I.D., although the kinds of documentation you need for to get those I.D. is racially skewed, etc, etc, etc.. PHIL So Yul Brynner right there? Keegan I am, and that is what happened in Georgia. Georgia became ground zero for all that is wrong in the voting systems that put the onus.
S15: And then there is a major onus of responsibility on the people and not the state to provide the kind of election security and election protection and the adherence to the right to vote. And you got the rhetoric as well. The fearful rhetoric that what Stacey Abrams was really trying to do was to get all of these non-citizens to vote and to then justify.
S14: The kind of crackdown in terms of the kind of scrutiny over people’s names as they register to vote. I mean, it’s that kind of creating the boogey man, creating the fear, creating the kind of sense that, you know, only I can save it. I’m here to protect democracy when in fact the point was to figure out how to stop so many people from being able to vote. One of the. And I’ll end with this one. One of the key moments was in October 2018. So a month before the election and Georgia’s exact match program, which a judge had previously ruled was racially discriminatory because it privileged Anglicized names, Bryant Camp withheld 53000 voter registration cards applicants because their names on the voter registration card did not exactly match that in the state’s driver’s license database or in the Social Security Administration’s database. Now, that could be something as simple as your name is, Rene. And you you write it with an accent over the E! But the state’s database doesn’t have the accent or your last name is Garcia Marquez. And you have a hyphen between Garcia and Marquez.
S15: The state does not in that withholding of the 53000 voter registration cards in October of 2018. Seventy percent of those withheld were African-American. I mean, this is this is what was going on in Georgia.
S1: So what Carol Anderson is describing here is horrible and the responses was horror. Let’s listen to Sherrod Brown speaking at the National Action Network.
S4: If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia. They stole it. It’s clear. It’s clear. And I would say I say that publicly. It’s clear.
S1: And here’s Stacey Abrams describing the same election.
S17: This is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper as a woman of conscience and faith. I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy.
S1: So Rickerson, you describe being shocked at the response you got when you said that those kinds of speeches, that that Democratic reaction, that that language was, quote, overheated.
S5: Yeah. So, Dalia, this is a moment that makes me a little queasy. I’ve been worried about this discussion we’re having about to have now since we started recording the Election Meltdown podcast, because I’m trying to thread a very thin needle. On the one hand, what Carol’s described as accurate in terms what was going on in Georgia. It was disgusting what Kemp did. She didn’t even mention what I consider to be the most banana republic moment in modern American election administration history, where Kemp had had for years problems with the security of his voter registration database. And a few days before the election, somebody called the Democratic Election Protection Hotline and said, hey, I’m a someone with a background in software development. I just want to check my voter registration information online. And I realized by changing a few keystrokes, I can see basically everybody’s voter information and whatever files are on the system. The Democrats alerted computer scientists at Georgia Tech who learned some national security officials. Next thing you know, Kemp posted on the official secretary of state Web site, the Web site you go to, if you are trying to see where’s my polling place, what am I voting on? He he accused the Democrats of hacking into that database. So to cover up his misfeasance, he acted in a disgusting way. And yet I said the Democrats should not call the election stolen. That instead they need to watch their rhetoric. And for this, I was attacked relentlessly, including by Alec Baldwin with his million followers and said, you know, don’t listen to Rick Hassin. Yes. Call it stolen. And it seems to me there are three good reasons why we want to avoid the language of stolen elections. Number one, that gets us into a debate about social science evidence. And, you know, according to people who’ve looked at Georgia, despite the exact match, despite the voter purges. You can’t say as a matter of social science that the election was actually stolen, that the things, the disgusting things that counted actually swayed the outcome of the election. Number two, doing that puts the focus in the wrong place. It ignores the dignity of each voter. If you remember back to our first episode, we spoke to Nina Perales and she talked about the one voter who was being removed from the rolls as a non-citizen, which she was actually a citizen, that it was traumatizing, even if it doesn’t affect turnout, even if it doesn’t affect election outcomes. It affects the dignity of each voter. That’s where the focus should be. Yes, it’s suppressive. Yes. This an attempt to try to manipulate things beat. But once you move into talking about stolen elections, it raises my third concern, which is that it undermines confidence overall in the system. And so it’s perfectly fine that the clip you played of Stacey Abrams saying that I don’t have a problem with it. It’s Sherrod Brown saying it’s stolen and it’s Stacey Abrams at other points saying, I won my election when she was a statement. She made at one point its statement saying, I will not accept the governor as the legitimate governor of Georgia. She goes back and forth with Jake Tapper for about three minutes on this question. And it seems that we really need to draw the line and say let’s not call election stones going to undermine people’s confidence in the overall process if we start using this language when it can’t be proven. And I think it actually could be counter productive.
S1: So, Carol, I think I want to ask you to just react. Because I think one of the problems we’ve seen throughout this series is a sort of a symmetry. Right. Behave better. Behave better, because one side needs to foment confidence in elections and the other side doesn’t care. So I just want you to respond to what Rick is saying, because I think what he’s saying all makes perfect sense and yet behave better is a little bit bringing a shrimp fork to a knife fight. Right.
S14: Well, you know, I I where we are right now as a society is that we have one side that fights by the marquee, the Queensbury rules and another side that is straight WWE. Right. Where anything goes. And and so I hear, Rick, in terms of we’ve got to make sure that we maintain confidence in the systems because wants confidence in the kind of institutional structures of democracy are are shaken, then everything goes off the rails.
S18: So I hear that being here in Georgia and watching the the this thing unfold, watching how demoralizing it was to voters who who stood in line for hours, only to be told that their names weren’t on the rolls, but they could file a provisional ballot. But they’re not told that the provisional ballot requires them to come back within a certain number of days to prove that they are actually legitimately able to vote. So you get a slew of provisional ballots not counted on to watch those who had applied for absentee ballots because they knew that they weren’t going to be here on Election Day, only to to not have their their absentee ballots come to them. And so they were denied the right to vote.
S15: And then when you begin to to hear that these are happening in these kind of key communities, it tells you that then what we need to have is a way to begin to talk about the perfidy, the the the vileness, the the dastardly way that we have a full blown assault. On one of the key pillars of American democracy, and we have to be able to then say and there will be consequences for this. And so when we are afraid of of questioning, of using the language that then leads to the questioning of the viability of the elections, there has to be a response to that, though that is of equal intensity, equal fervor and an equal sense of integrity. That the way that this election was run. It was unethical and it lacked integrity and the results then rewarded someone who did something absolutely unethical and absolutely without integrity.
S1: So, Rick, I want to give you a chance to respond, but I also want to flag here that Stacey Abrams said in response to your piece in Slate that, quote, This is not about rhetoric. It’s about the reality of people being denied their basic right to vote in the United States, especially in the state of Georgia. And quote, I think Carol is saying the same thing. The rhetoric is the reality.
S5: Well, you know, I’m 90 percent of the way there. And, you know, all of the criticisms that both Carol and Stacey Abrams have put out against how the election was run. I agree with it’s when you cross the line into calling an election stolen. I mean, what’s going to happen the next time when the other side calls the election stolen? I would reserve that language for something we talked about in our last episode when it had actual proven ballot tampering. This was the North Carolina 9th Congressional District race. There we can say that that election was literally one where we think there was so much fraud that we can’t even say who the winner was. I think, you know, the week after I wrote this piece that it was on Slate where I was attacked saying, don’t call the Georgia election stolen. I wrote a piece called Stacey Abrams has a brilliant strategy to deal with voter suppression. And basically what she did was bring a series of lawsuits to try to rather than attack the Georgia system, piecemeal, attack one piece of it. She instead claimed that the whole system overall was was a system that was unfair to voters and especially unfair to voters of color. And I thought that’s the right strategy. That’s the way to take this indignation, which is completely justified and channel it in a productive way. If we get to a situation where Georgia can make it harder and harder for people to vote and the courts don’t respond. And there is no political response. That’s the point where I think we’ve crossed the line. And I don’t think we’re quite there yet. But I understand the the anger about what happened in Georgia and what could happen again. So I think the way to do this is to try to be productive, but avoid crossing that line that says that this election was stolen. The loser was actually the winner, which is, I think, what Sherrod Brown said in that clip.
S1: I think that there is merit to Rick saying, unless there is proof that the thing was, quote, stolen, we dilute the value of the word stolen because we don’t empirically know that’s the case. Is that a fair marker for for where we should really unloose the unloosed, the incendiary rhetoric?
S15: You know, it it’s it’s going to get tough, because when you have a government that controls the system and can control your ability to determine what happened.
S18: So in previous elections here in Georgia, including a special election, there were some concerns than fact that there had been some hacking. As you know, at the time, Georgia’s voting machines ran on Windows 2000. And and and Microsoft had provided patches since like sometime in 2010. So, you know, this is four or five years after Microsoft is providing patches to to the software. So these machines were easily hackable and there was some concern about that. You know, there were lawsuits.
S15: But when they went to go look at the machines, the servers had been wiped clean. So when the ability to discern the evidence about whether something had been done fraudulently or not is solely in the control of those who may have done it, then using irrefutable evidence as the the benchmark becomes really fraught because it then leaves you in a space where they are continued to be rewarded for perpetually bad democracy behavior.
S1: And Rick, you should probably update us. There are still lawsuits pending that came out of that election. Where do they stand right now? What what does any of this implicate what’s going to happen in 2020?
S5: Well, so those lawsuits are ongoing and lawsuits over voting machines, as Carol mentioned, those are among the most important cases in the nation right now. Right now, Georgia has been ordered to get rid of its old voting machines and they’re bringing in new voting machines where it’s a brand new kind of machines called a ballot marking device. You’re going to vote on a touchscreen. It’s going to pop out a paper ballot. But one of the big fights as it pops out a paper ballot. The little barcode on it and the question is what counts as the valid vote? Is it the bar code or is it the names that are also printed on the ballot? And like Carol, I’m very concerned because it looks like Georgia is going to say it’s the non human readable bar code.
S13: And there’s gonna be no way then to know if the election was fair. And then we’re crossing into a question. If there’s no way to be able to say who won the election through something we can verify with our own eyes some kind of transparency, then we are moving into a situation where I think it is fair to call the election illegitimate. But, you know, we’re at that critical juncture now and so much is going to depend upon what happens in the courts over the next few months.
S1: So, Carol, then this brings us, I think, to the the guts of why we wanted to speak to you about this. There is this fundamental issue here, right? We’re talking about the divide between aspiration and reality and the divide between the language we use to describe reality because we want to hang on to the aspiration. And yet there’s this fundamental problem, right? Democracy asks all of us to suspend disbelief, vote as though every vote counts. And in so doing, Carol, they ask brown and black Americans, poor Americans, elderly Americans, new citizens, underrepresented Americans to do the heavy lifting, to both show up every damn time and vote as though it counts. And also be treated constantly as though they are the enemy and their vote is, in fact, most susceptible to manipulation. So we’re saying the remedy is show up, vote, vote like it matters and pretend to weigh all the reality that you’ve just described. The remedy is more voting. And that’s a kind of untenable argument to communities that work really hard do show up and get blasted in the face with all of this. Right.
S14: I really I mean, I saw it multiple times after the 2018 midterm here. The kind of he knew believed that the the it’s not quite despair because despair is just you’ve given up. It was an anger.
S16: In that, but the.
S15: How do I put this to not vote is to allow those who really do treat you as if.
S14: You aren’t a viable human being as if you aren’t a citizen, as if you don’t have rights. It is to allow them to continue to shape the public policy sphere. About how you live your life, how you work, how you don’t work, how where you live, where you don’t live. It is. We have a tradition of refusing to cede that kind of authority.
S15: The fight is there in the fight is in the vote because when you have different policy makers. Then you’re having a very different reality about how they value the vote, how they value democracy and how they value you. And all we have to do really is look at states that are figuring out, let’s have same day registration, let’s have automatic voter registration, let’s have expanded early voting. Those kinds of of of states that are figuring out how do we have a greater, more vibrant, more inclusive democracy, how do we try to ensure as best we can. That all eligible citizens will have access to the ballot box. So it’s not like you even have to imagine what this can look like. Sometimes all you got to do is look at the state that’s right next to you or the state that’s right above you to see it happening. And that is why you mobilize. That is why you vote. So it’s not like it’s an act of futility. Because in one of the things that I’ve said here in is that. We had an election in I think it was the Sixth District that pitted Karen Handel, who had been a former secretary of state and was currently a congresswoman against Lucy McBath and Lucy McBath won that election. So even in the midst of all of this voter suppression, a candidate who was about how do I meet the needs of the people? Actually, one. And those are the things we have to look to. Those are the things that we have to say. We can. We know that that change can happen and that it requires us really showing up, showing up in such numbers that we cannot be denied and showing up in such numbers. And again, when I talk about putting the responsibility of adhering to the 15th Amendment on the shoulders and on the backs of the individuals, that means checking your voter registration on a consistent basis to make sure you’re you’re still registered and to make sure your voting place is where you know it is and then making a screenshot of it. So you have evidence of it. It means knowing that the lines are probably going to be really long. If you vote in a minority precinct. So you come prepared. You come with your cell phone. You come with a battery pack. You come with water, you come with snacks, you come with comfortable shoes. Because if we don’t do that now, what comes afterwards is something that’s going to be absolutely horrific to deal with.
S1: So, Rick, at the risk of saying this much less gorgeously than Carol Anderson just did. I think the point of agreement between the two of you is you vote and you believe in your vote because it’s the best damn revenge, right?
S13: Well, you know, I’m just blown away by what Carol said. And I think it’s you know, it’s not a message of optimism because, you know, we’ve been looking throughout this series for optimism. It’s a message of resiliency. And, you know, the organization that Stacey Abrams formed is called Fair Fights. And I think that’s what we all have to struggle for. And really, let’s put the focus on that and really make sure that every eligible voter is going to have a chance to cast a vote. That’s going to be fairly and accurately counted in 2020. That’s really the bottom line of all of this.
S1: Professor Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler professor of African-American studies at Emory University. Her research focuses on public policy with regard to race, justice and equality. She’s also the author of several great books. But For Our Purposes today, her book, One Person No Vote How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy is a must read for anybody who is listening to this podcast. Carol, thank you for joining us. Thank you so much for having me. And that is a wrap for this fourth part of our election meltdown series on Amicus. Thank you so much for listening in. Slate Plus members this week are going to have access to an interview that Rick Hasen did with Dale Ho. He’s director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. What did you talk about with him?
S5: So we talked about fish versus Kobach, which is a case we referred to back in an earlier episode about whether or not Kansas could require people to produce papers, their naturalization certificate or their birth certificate before they’re allowed to register to vote. And Dale went head to head against Kris Kobach, and it was at least him. Read the transcript and exciting and riveting evisceration of Kris Kobach by Dale Ho.
S1: So that’s going to be showing up in your slate plus member feeds tomorrow if you’re not a slate plus member. This is a good chance to check it out at Slate.com slash amicus. Plus, Dale is also going to be one of our very special guests at the live show in D.C. this Wednesday, February 19th.
S2: The show is the fifth and concluding episode of Election Meltdown. And if you haven’t got your ticket yet, grab one. It’s going to be super interesting. And you can go to Slate.com, slash live for more information if you want to get in touch. Our email, as always, is damarcus at Slate.com. We love your letters. Or you can always find us on Facebook. Facebook dot com slash Annika’s. Today’s show was produced by Sara Bermingham. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate Podcasts and June Thomas is senior managing producer of Slate podcast. And we’ll talk to you next week live on stage from Washington, D.C..