During a Sep. 23 news conference, when asked about the election outcome, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see what happens,” in response to a question about committing to the results. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
In a sweeping response to Trump’s threats against democracy, Thursday, Sep. 24, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., argued for action to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. Sanders, a twice contender for the highest office, knows what’s at stake when it comes to Biden v. Trump.
There was no exaggeration in Sanders’s tone as he spoke from George Washington University to a streaming audience nationwide.
Before laying out his six-point plan for election result integrity, Sanders noted that Dan Coats, Trump’s former director of intelligence, has called for the establishment of a nonpartisan commission to oversee the election, with a focus on assuring it’s conducted fairly.
Coats wrote, in the New York Times (quoted by Sanders), “The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.”
Sanders called upon all U.S. elected officials, “whether they be Republican, Democrat, or Independent,” to oppose all forms of voter suppression and voter intimidation, and to make sure “every vote is counted, and that no one is declared a winner until those votes are counted.”
Sanders was referring to the possibility of the Supreme Court deciding who to install as the next president—a strategy taken from Election Day 2000 that now threatens to ensure Trump a second term if his pick to replace the Ruth Bader Ginsburg is approved. Should the Election Day results go against Trump, his campaign would no doubt take its arguments of “voter fraud” before the court—even if they have no merit.
Benjamin Ginsburg, who served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign during the 2000 Florida recount, wrote in the Washington Post: “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents—by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”
But with stringent election timelines, in the event election results were challenged in court, the clock on when to certify the results could run out, forcing the court to declare a winner without a finalized popular vote.
Sanders proposed a number of measures to “preserve American democracy.”
“First,” he said, “it is absolutely imperative that we have, by far, the largest voter turnout in American history and that people vote as early as possible.” He reiterated his support for Biden and urged those who’d backed him in the primary to turn out for the Democratic nominee. “Let’s be clear, a landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy.
Second, Sanders said that given the pandemic and a massive increase in mail-in voting, state legislatures have to take immediate action to allow mail-in votes to be counted before Election Day—as they come in. Currently, 32 states allow absentee ballots to be processed and counted before Election Day. “All states should do the same,” Sanders said. “The faster all ballots are counted, the less window there is for chaos and conspiracy theories.”
As a third point, he emphasized the duty of the media to prepare the public for a prolonged count. News outlets must communicate that “there is no longer a single election day and that it is very possible that we may not know the results on November 3rd.”
Fourth, he said social media companies have to “finally get their act together and stop people from using their tools to spread disinformation” or to “threaten and harass election officials.”
Fifth, he called for Congress and state legislatures to hold hearings as soon as possible to explain to the public how the process on Election Day and the days that follow will be handled. “As we count every vote, and prevent voter intimidation, everything possible must be done to prevent chaos, disinformation, and even violence.”
Finally, he said that above all else though, all Americans, “no matter what their political persuasion,” must “make it clear that democracy will not be destroyed.”