How election officials avoided chaos at polling stations Tuesday | CNN Politics

How election officials avoided chaos at polling stations Tuesday | CNN Politics


In many ways, the 2022 election was an example of landing a plane safely.

The fallout from former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election — and conspiracy theories of fraud, hostility toward election officials and promises to monitor combative polls for those lies’ activities — did not translate into widespread chaos in constituencies across the country on Tuesday.

We see every adult,” said Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican. “We see the candidates being nice, condescending and acknowledging their loss.”

Several factors contributed to the mostly drama-free conduct of the midterm elections, according to election officials and voter advocates.

Among them was the clear message from election officials in key states that disturbances at voting sites would not be tolerated. A federal judge’s ruling emphasizing some perceived intimidating behavior outside the polls in Arizona during early voting was another shot through the arc.

But it was also two years of preparation — and lessons learned from the difficulties of responding to the misinformation surrounding Trump’s electoral loss in 2020 — that helped avoid the kind of election day confusion that can be exploited to call into question the results.

“One of the things is that we had the opportunity to prepare for it—everyone did. It came out of nowhere in 2020,” said Chris Harvey, former director of elections for Georgia, who is now executive deputy director of the Georgia Peace Personnel Standards and Training Board.

The count continues in many major states, and there is still potential for litigation over the vote, especially if margins are thin in Nevada and Arizona — where Senate and gubernatorial races are competitive — or in California, where some House races could determine control of the lower chamber.

Although there was little evidence on Tuesday of controversies over voting at the polls themselves, that didn’t stop Trump and his allies who spread lies about the 2020 election from running the same rules of the game this year on issues as routine in places like Arizona’s Maricopa County.

However, these allegations were a reminder of the way in which minor administrative errors were exploited to make the sensational and baseless allegations of fraud that permeated the 2020 election.

“The coming days and potential weeks will provide plenty of opportunities for domestic and foreign actors to continue to undermine our elections and create chaos,” said Chris Krebs, a former Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s cybersecurity arm during the 2020 election. . “It will be a real test of our mental strength, but I am more confident today than I was yesterday in our ability to get past the bullshit and stand up for democracy.”

Those in the electoral community said that the past two years, in which election officials have been targeted with harassment motivated by false allegations, prepared them to act proactively to refute those false allegations.

“Elections officials were very aware of the tense environment in which they were operating,” said Nate Purcelli, professor of electoral law at Stanford University. “Although their actions were not significantly different (from 2020), they knew they were under scrutiny by both legitimate forces and conspiracy theorists.”

In Georgia, training and coordination between election officials and law enforcement helped them feel confident that they planned all emergencies, according to Harvey, whose agency certifies law enforcement in the state.

“When election officials are more confident, it conveys a sense of calm and ease,” Harvey said, adding that sentiment is then transmitted by “osmosis” to voters and the public.

Claims by election deniers that there will be “tons of people at the polls” prompted people to help with voter protection work on election day, said Susan Almeida, director of state operations for Common Cause, a nonprofit government watchdog group.

Police said there were some one-off incidents at polling stations Tuesday, such as the arrest of a man after threatening voters with a knife in a Milwaukee suburb, forcing a polling station to briefly close, although there were no injuries and he was arrested without incident, they said. the police. .

Meanwhile, election deniers appear to have greatly exaggerated their presence at the polling stations.

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– Source: CNN Business

“What we see happening is the determination of the correct scale of what was claimed to be a much more significant threat than what was ultimately achieved,” she said. “Sometimes with tactics like this, the story is intimidation. It’s about making the movement seem bigger than it is, and it seems to make a fringe idea seem so mainstream it’s all over the place.”

Ben Ginsberg, a retired Republican attorney, said that after two years of election deniers bragging that they would flood polls with observers to find fraud, those promises did not lead them to present any legitimate evidence on Tuesday of mass fraud at voting sites. He praised the work election officials have done to prepare for potential conspiracy theories.

said Ginsberg, who now co-chairs the official nonpartisan Legal Defense Network, which provides legal assistance to election workers. “A lot of election officials were more transparent in explaining things, and they knew a lot more about what to pay attention to.”

Adams, the Republican Secretary of State of Kentucky, has battled election misinformation for months and has seen frivolous open requests and harassment drive local employees out of their jobs this year in unusually large numbers.

At one point, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a prominent 2020 election conspiracy theorist, took a specific goal of Adams, urging his supporters to “bomb” the election president with requests for public records.

Adams said that after the FBI seized Lyndell’s mobile phone as part of an investigation into a Colorado election security breach, the requests and phishing quickly subsided. “I don’t think he lost his credibility with the people following him, but… when he was neutralized by the FBI who seized his phone, it lowered the tension a bit.”

Lindell has not been charged with any crime.

After months of pre-election turmoil, Adams said on Wednesday that elections in his state had gone smoothly and that the candidates and their supporters had remained calm.

“I think we dodged a bullet,” Adams said. But he worries that the peace may not last.

He noted that the competitive race for the governor will be on the ballot next year as Democratic Governor Andy Bashir seeks re-election in the Republican-leaning state. And then a hot presidential election looms in 2024.

“I have learned that rejecting an election is like a virus,” Adams said. “You think it’s gone and then a new variant appears. So, she’s in a dormant phase now, and I think she’ll be fine for a few months and then come back.”

Trump allies who have loudly spread the former president’s lies about the 2020 election began Tuesday in Maricopa County, Arizona, where a printer problem in several precincts prevented some ballot papers from being scanned properly.

“They are trying to steal the election with nasty machines and delay. Don’t let that happen!” Trump wrote on his social media.

Charlie Kirk, founder and president of the right-wing group Turning Point USA, tweeted a false claim about two-hour wait times in Maricopa County on Tuesday afternoon — which the county was Rebut in Tweet.

The use of social media to raise suspicions about voting machines reversed the tactics of Trump supporters in 2020, when they published wild and unfounded allegations about alleged fraud involving USB drives and the use of sharp tools to fill ballot papers that were clearly false. .

On Tuesday night, a county judge rejected an attempt by Republicans to extend polling hours by three hours due to problems with the voting machine, saying there was no evidence that indifference prevented anyone from voting.

“If people have cases or evidence of fraud, we want to hear about it. Bill Gates, president of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, told CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.” ”

However, that didn’t stop Republican gubernatorial candidate Carrie Lake — one of several statewide candidates in Arizona who have embraced Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen — from claiming in a speech late Tuesday that he had There are problems with the results, saying she felt there were problems with the results. It was Groundhog Day.

In anticipation of protests Tuesday night, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office closed off areas where protesters had gathered in 2020 Tuesday night with a seven-foot fence. A police helicopter flew overhead, more than a dozen deputy sheriffs circled the perimeter of the fence, and a group of officers on horseback periodically rode along Third Avenue.

But the expected protests did not materialize. By 10 p.m. local time, a few people had gathered outside the fence: a white-haired man holding a large American flag and two young men in masks, one of whom was wearing a T-shirt that read “Fk Antifa.”

That man asked the reporter, “Where’s everyone?”

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