A lot has happened since the controversial 2020 election, and many states have implemented laws that make it easier to vote and hard to cheat. With the 2022 midterm election rapidly approaching, can Americans be confident that our right to vote is properly protected? What more needs to happen before November? On this episode, Heritage Election Law Expert Hans von Spakovsky explains.
Tim Doescher: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Tim Doescher, and this is Heritage Explains.
Doescher: The 2022 midterm election is rapidly approaching, under 100 days away. And that means all the work since the controversial election in 2020 to change and shape election laws in the states will be tested. So where do things stand heading into this important election season? Are elections freer, fairer and more honest? What more needs to be done before the election? And what does the Biden administration have to do with it? To answer these questions, we talk with frequent Heritage Explains guest Hans von Spakovsky. He's a senior legal fellow here at the Heritage Foundation and also manages our election law reform initiative. On this episode, he explains after this.
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Doescher: Hans, we are now less than 100 days from the 2022 midterm elections. This is going to be the first nationwide election since the controversial, we'll call it, 2020 election. We've seen a lot of action in the states in terms of changing and updating laws to, I think, encourage more election integrity. Maybe we've seen a few go the other way. And we've actually already had several statewide primary elections so far. But before we start, we use the term election integrity all the time here.
Hans von Spakovsky: Right.
Doescher: And I feel bad that we've had so many episodes with you on it, and I don't think we've ever actually had a definition of the term election integrity. Can you just give me a short definition of when we say we're pushing for election integrity, what do you mean?
von Spakovsky: We want a system that has fair, honest and secure elections, so that after the election day is over and the votes have all been counted, everyone involved, including the candidates who lost say, the candidate in particular, "Well, I may have lost the election, but it was a fair election." There was no cheating, nobody was kept out of the polls who's eligible to vote. I mean, it's basically, the phrase has popped up, we wanted to make sure it's easy to vote, but hard to cheat.
Doescher: Hard to cheat, yeah. Yeah, that's a good base point here. Like I said, we're now under 100 days out until the midterms. It's a big one. How are you feeling in terms of our collective preparedness, easy to vote, hard to cheat election integrity. Where are we at?
von Spakovsky: Well, we're actually much better off than we were in 2020.
von Spakovsky: And the reason for that is that, look, the one good thing I think we can say that came out of the 2020 election was that finally state legislators, and a lot of places realized, there are holes in the system that need to be fixed. And voters realized it also.
von Spakovsky: And so a large number of states passed election reforms, not only in 2021, but also this year. I mean, in Missouri, for example, they've just signed into law a new bill that put in voter ID, that banned drop boxes, which are dangerous, unsecured drop boxes, and made a number of other good changes, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's had a tough time getting legislation passed because you have a split in political authority there. You've got Republicans controlling the legislature, Democratic governor.
von Spakovsky: The Democratic governor has continually vetoed election reform bills there like voter ID, but he just signed a bill that the legislature passed banning private funding, Zuck Bucks. In other words, no, no donor anymore is going to be able to pour money into Pennsylvania, into Democratic urban areas like they did in 2020 to try to manipulate election results.
Doescher: Okay, I have to ask you then. I mean, we went there. That was a huge deal in the 2020 election.
von Spakovsky: It was.
Doescher: Lots of money was spent, there was lots of money to be spent. I mean, Mark Zuckerberg has a ton of money to spend. What would be a Democrat governor's motivation for signing something like that? Is it just the accountability of his legislature or elections? Or what is this?
von Spakovsky: I don't know how they convinced him to do that because he had previously, like I said, vetoed other bills, but they were able to get it done. And like I said, that's an example of the good improvement that states have made. Now, the other half of that, Tim, is the fact that unfortunately liberal groups and the Merrick Garland-Biden justice department has been suing states over these reforms.
von Spakovsky: Making absurd, absurd claims. I mean, for example, in Georgia, they sued over the election reform bill that Georgia passed. They weren't able to get an injunction temporarily stopping the law from going into place, so it was actually in place for the primaries. And at the very same time, the justice department, all these left-wing groups were suing, saying, "Oh, these reforms are going to suppress votes." They just had record turnout in their primary.
Doescher: Yeah, right.
von Spakovsky: Record turnout, which shows that all those claims that reforming elections is voter suppression is just totally false.
Doescher: And you talked about, I think, when you were in here a couple times ago, about the official election report from the federal government saying that more people voted in the last election exactly than any other election.
von Spakovsky: Exactly.
Doescher: Which completely puts to rest the left's claims that these laws are keeping people from voting.
von Spakovsky: Right. But so we've got good reforms from the state legislatures, but there are fights going on right now in the courts.
von Spakovsky: Where people opposed these reforms are trying to stop. I mean, just one quick more example that just shows it just defies common sense.
von Spakovsky: Okay. Look, you have to be a citizen to vote in federal elections.
von Spakovsky: You have to be a citizen to vote in state elections. In fact, it's a felony under federal law for you as an alien register and vote. So what did Arizona do? Well, they passed a law saying that election officials are supposed to verify the citizenship of people who register to vote, and guess who sued them? The Biden justice department.
Doescher: Biden justice department. One of the things I think is incredibly impactful is this election fraud database that you basically have been leading for years here, where you're documenting the moments of adjudicated and convicted election fraud cases.
von Spakovsky: Yeah, that's right.
Doescher: And that's a big deal because the left says that election fraud doesn't exist. Or it does, but it's very, very limited. But we have all these examples and you just did a piece, a recent piece, documenting another case of election fraud. It's happening. Talk about how the election fraud database is changing the game and compelling these legislatures to make changes.
von Spakovsky: Well, they're using our database. Whenever state legislators talk about reforms and their opponents say, "Oh, there's no fraud. We don't need to worry about that," they're they're using our database to show actually fraud does occur. And literally, we just added, I think, eight new cases. And these are proven cases.
von Spakovsky: So this is not speculation. These are people convicted in a court of law, like, to just give you a quick example, the former Congressman from Pennsylvania, a Democrat, who just pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts. What was he doing? Well, he was working as a political consultant, representing candidates, Democratic candidates, at the state, local and federal level. And he pleaded guilty to bribing, bribing election officials in a number of precincts in Philadelphia to cast bogus votes and stuff them into the ballot boxes there. And they do this in multiple elections, multiple elections.
Doescher: You have this interesting breakdown of Republican and Democrat, these party involvements happening at the state level. The state Democrat Party and the state Republican Party have their roles in these elections. And I know both of them, since 2020, have been making moves to further their own agenda. Talk a little bit about the party breakdown, the Republican and the Democrat Party breakdown, where we're seeing these poll watchers, where we're seeing these different dynamics throughout the states.
von Spakovsky: One of the most unfortunate things that's happened in the past two decades is this schism that has developed between the two political parties when it comes to election integrity. And this is demonstrated by the fact that in 2005, Jimmy Carter, former Democratic President, James Baker, former Republican Secretary of State, actually formed a task force on election reform, recommended all kinds of things like an ID requirement.
von Spakovsky: But what's happened since then, is this schism has developed with basically Republicans pushing for things like ID and the Democratic Party opposing it. In fact, the lawsuits I was talking about earlier, many of them have been filed by either the Democratic Party organizations locally or their political allies.
von Spakovsky: So they actually want to stop the kind of reforms that just 20 years ago, a former Democratic President said was something that was not only common sense, but necessary to secure our elections. And I don't understand the reason for this, but it's a fact that that has happened.
Doescher: Yeah. Well, we have the election fraud database, and then building on that is an accountability mechanism that we have here called the Election Integrity Scorecard.
von Spakovsky: Right.
Doescher: This thing is so expansive, folks. I'm going to link to it in the show notes so you can go check it out. You do a state-by-state analysis, color-coded. Red is bad, green is good, and then there's the inbetweens of all the states, and building off of where these election fraud issues are happening, and what the things in place that these states have to prevent these things from happening. Talk a little bit about the Election Scorecard and how that's having an impact here.
von Spakovsky: Yeah, it took us a whole year to do the analysis and put it together.
von Spakovsky: And what we did is we came up with 47 different best practices criteria for the states, to judge their election laws and regulations by. I mean, a quick example, again, is you get points if you have a voter ID law.
von Spakovsky: You get a zero if you have no voter ID law.
von Spakovsky: But we also cover cleaning up voter roles, maintaining their accuracy, things like that. And then we compare the laws of every state to what we'd consider to be the best practices, and then gave them a grade and rated. 100 points was a perfect score, no state got that. The highest state scored in the low eighties, but some of the states, they wouldn't even qualify as an F they were so bad.
Doescher: F minus.
von Spakovsky: Right.
von Spakovsky: But the point of this is, any member of the public, any legislator, they can go to our map, you click on that state, it'll bring up its score, its ranking, and a complete summary of the good laws in the state and the places where the state is deficient in not doing what.
Doescher: So you're giving the recommendations as to where they can go to improve.
von Spakovsky: Yeah. And if you're a citizen, and you want to see how your state's doing, you can check this. And then you want to talk to your state legislator? You can go to your state legislator, and say, "Look, we don't have this. We're not doing this. Why aren't we doing this?"
von Spakovsky:It gives you an outline of how to make sure you've got a good state. And keep in mind, the whole point of this is to not only prevent fraud, but also to make sure that everybody who's eligible is able to vote.
Doescher: It's amazing when we look at the polling numbers on election integrity haunts. I mean...
von Spakovsky:Yeah, there's no schism.
Doescher: There is none, everybody.
von Spakovsky: Exactly.
Doescher: Everybody is for voter ID, everybody is. I mean, of course there's your outliers, but for the most part, a vast majority of Americans are for these things that make elections fair, easy to vote, hard to cheat.
von Spakovsky: Yeah. No, the only people against it are the out-of-touch leaders, of these progressive groups, a lot of leaders, unfortunately, of the Democratic Party, and a lot of people in the mainstream media. The American public, no matter which political party they support, they think this is all common sense. And in fact, they want it. That's what you have to have to have the kind of public confidence you want in the election process. And that's going to help everybody.
Doescher: Yeah. We're under 100 days away from the midterm elections. What, if anything, needs to be done between now and then?
von Spakovsky: What needs to happen between now and then is the state that have these really stupid lawsuits filed against them over these election reform bills, they just need to keep putting up a big fight.
von Spakovsky: To make sure that those laws stay in place, like the voter ID requirements in states.
Doescher: Okay, so do they have injunctions currently on them from the department of justice?
von Spakovsky: No, most of them in most of the cases, the plaintiffs who are filing this have been unsuccessful.
von Spakovsky: In convincing judges, and in some of the cases, Florida, for example, got this really outrageous decision from a trial court judge that was stayed by the court of appeals.
Doescher: Right, okay.
von Spakovsky: So the Florida reforms are in place for this election.
Doescher: Okay, all right. So we're going to keep watching these elections, we're going to keep fighting for more voter integrity, through defending the laws that have been passed in these states. Just give me a sense then, so on election day, what are we hoping for is the best outcome, the best scenario, just from the things that we have passed throughout the states that we've been advocating for?
von Spakovsky: The best thing is that by the end of election eve, we know who's won.
Doescher: That's right.
von Spakovsky: And it doesn't go on for weeks. I mean, what, in Pennsylvania, we have a primary that was, what, two months ago. And they're still counting ballots, trying to figure out who won. That is not the way you conduct an election. But by the end of election day, we want to know who won, and we don't want any serious issues having been raised about problems, about non-compliance with the law.
Doescher: Hans, I love it when you come in here. Thank you so much for tracking this, thank you for all of the work you've done. The Election Scorecard, the election fraud database, all of the times you're on Fox and you're writing all over the place. You're a machine on this stuff.
von Spakovsky: Well, thanks. But that's only because there's a lot of folks at Heritage working on this.
Doescher: Yeah. Well, again, Hans, thank you so much.
Doescher: Well, thank you, Hans, and thank you for listening to Heritage Explains. We so appreciate you downloading us every single episode, sharing us with your friends, hitting that Like button. And of course, head on over to those show notes to see all the content that helped build out this episode. We've linked to it, it's there. Continue the education. Michelle's up, next episode. We'll see you then.