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Trump Admits He Opposes Funding For Postal Service To Block More Voting By Mail

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President Trump told Fox Business Network that he's against additional funding and election assistance for the U.S. Postal Service in order to sabotage efforts to expand mail-in voting.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The Biden Harris democratic ticket is set, but roughly 80 days out the November 3rd election seems imperiled. The president today said he will block Democrats request for aid to the postal service. Social media is besieged by foreign trolls and COVID-19 fears cloud in-person voting. Joining me to examine this fraught election year is Richard Hasson, professor of law and political science at the university of California, Irvine and author of election meltdown, dirty tricks, distrust, and the threat to American democracy. Welcome to midday edition. It's great to be with you. President of Trump said this morning on Fox news he'll block the Democrats push for more postal service funding. Let's hear that

Speaker 2: 00:40 They want $25 billion billion for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work. So it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren't getting there by the way, those are just two items, but if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail and voting because they're not equipped to have it.

Speaker 1: 01:04 What's your reaction to this professor in order to have a proper election in the middle of a pandemic, many people are going to want to vote by mail and saying that you want to make it harder for people to vote by mail in the middle of a pandemic and doing so for political reasons is profoundly worrying and is just part of a pattern of the president making statements that are intended to make it harder to vote and to undermine people's confidence in the fairness of the election. Now, is there anything to Trump's claims that bad actors and 400 domestic will counterfeit ballots and doctor ballots and steel ballots are committed other election crimes regarding Malin voting. So I think that the amount of voter fraud in the United States is quite low when election crimes do happen, they're more likely to happen using absentee ballots than in person voting.

Speaker 1: 01:53 Uh, but even so the overall rate of absentee ballot fraud is low. And by referring to absentee ballots and talking about absentee and mail in ballots, because in my use of the terms, they're really the same thing. And, uh, most of these absentee ballot crimes or prosecutions were ones that would not affect the outcome of an election. I certainly think we could see isolated instances of ballots being tampered with, but to try to tamper with, uh, an election to absentee ballots on any wide scale would be easily detected. And so I don't think that it really presents a significant risk to the integrity of the election. And you posted a New York times column on your election law blog this week about the blue shift. What is that? And what's it have to do with Trump tweeting that we must know the results on election night, right?

Speaker 1: 02:43 So one of the concerns that I have is that given this shift to mail and balloting, and especially given Trump's statements, which are discouraging Republicans from voting by mail and encouraging Democrats to do so that we might be in a situation where you can imagine, say a swing state like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Trump is ahead in the voting on election night because those are the ballots that are going to be counted. First are going to be those in-person ballots. It takes longer to process absentee ballots to make sure they're done correctly and that all the anti-fraud provisions are in place. So you can imagine a situation where Trump is ahead on election night. Then we get to maybe a week or even longer later, but all the ballots are counted and Biden has won the election. In the meantime, Trump could claim victory based on the election night results and try to make claims as he has in the past that any ballots counted after election day are somehow fraudulent.

Speaker 1: 03:39 These are not valid claims. We never have election results happen immediately. There are projections of what's going to happen in California. It takes weeks to count the ballots. And one of the things that we see as Bal even before Trump started making these comments is that because Democrats tend to vote later, uh, the ballots that are counted later have more democratic votes to them. That's why we saw seven congressional races in Southern California in the 2018 elections start with election night leads for Republican congressional candidates. And in all of those races, Democrats were ultimately declared the winner as all of the ballots were counted. That's what the blue shift is. It's the fact that not only can we potentially expect the final election results to be different from the election night results, they're much more likely to favor Democrats. There's nothing nefarious about it. It's just the voting patterns of how people tend to vote. And what we see in terms of election result.

Speaker 3: 04:37 What about foreign interference this time around we've we follow the Mueller report, a detailed analysis of Russian interference in 2016 intelligence agents say it's happening again. There's reports of interference from China against Trump. How seriously are you taking these threats?

Speaker 1: 04:52 Well, there were different kinds of interference in 2016. One kind of interference is misinformation or attempts to stir up a social. Trump always saw the Russians do that. I think that is troubling. Although I do think that the platforms like Facebook and Twitter are taking some steps to try to root out what they call coordinated, inauthentic behavior, this idea of, uh, you know, using bots or otherwise sending out messages that don't really reflect real people, but instead a kind of political operation, I'm more concerned about other kinds of interference. Or remember in 2016 we saw the stealing and leaking of democratic party documents. So we might see that happen again. Uh, you know, we don't know who's stealing what documents and what might be released. And also what we saw in 2016 was the Russian government probing election registration databases in all 50 States, trying to, uh, show I think that they had some ability to access those databases.

Speaker 1: 05:50 Uh, no information was changed in terms of the results of the 2016 election, but I think it was attempt to try to undermine people's confidence in the process. Looking forward to the 2020 election. One of the nightmares that I spent out in a election meltdown is the potential of a power grid hack in a democratic city like Detroit in a swing state like Michigan. We don't have good procedures in place if there is that kind of disruption. And I think covert is on everyone's mind, but I think we can't put aside the potential for there to be problems like foreign interference, cyber attacks, things like that. Also occurring as we get closer to the election

Speaker 3: 06:29 And much is being said about voter suppression, like drastic cuts and the number of polling places in certain cities. Uh, do you worry about that?

Speaker 1: 06:36 I was already worried about the election before COVID hit. Now of course, one of the reasons we're seeing a polling place closures is that it's very hard to staff polling places, especially when you rely on older Americans are most susceptible to the virus, all kinds of reasons to worry that the election, you know, is one, that's not going to look like our typical election. I think we need to make sure that there are safe ways to vote both in person and by mail, especially with these concerns over vote by mail. We may end up seeing more people voting in person and with all the kinds of polling place closures and the procedures that need to be put in place like social distancing and cleaning of voting equipment that need to happen because of the pandemic. I think we should anticipate the potential for long lines, which was always a potential in places, but I think we might see it in more places. That's why in-person early voting might be a great option for some people who neither trust the mail or are willing to wait until election day to see what those lines are kind of cool.

Speaker 3: 07:34 Well, how great a thread is all this to the election? Uh, put your, your, uh, crystal ball cap on no. What are you fearing? What keeps you up at night? What might happen on November 3rd?

Speaker 1: 07:44 Well, everything we've talked about, uh, is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night from potential cyber attacks to, uh, lack of opportunities for safe in person voting, uh, to, uh, the president seeking to undermine the fairness and legitimacy of the election. I think what is most likely to lead to what would be considered by many to be a successful election is if the election is not particularly close, because if the election is very close, then you know, there's going to be fighting lawsuits potentially, uh, straight protests over arcane rules for how ballots are cast and counted. And that's something that really we're not well equipped for 20 years after the Florida debacle, which led to the Supreme court's decision in Bush versus Gore, we're still not prepared to deal with these kinds of, uh, election troubles. And of course it's much worse now with increased polarization and the rise of social

Speaker 3: 08:37 Well, the media is watching the voters are watching the whole world will be watching lots to cover here between now and November 3rd. I've been speaking with political science and law professor Richard Hasson of the university of California, Irvine and author of election meltdown, dirty tricks, distrust, and the threat to American democracy. Thanks very much.

Speaker 1: 08:55 Thank you for the opportunity.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.