From the nation’s leading expert, an indispensable analysis of key threats to the integrity of the 2020 American presidential election
As the 2020 presidential campaign begins to take shape, there is widespread distrust of the fairness and accuracy of American elections. In this timely and accessible book, Richard L. Hasen uses riveting stories illustrating four factors increasing the mistrust. Voter suppression has escalated as a Republican tool aimed to depress turnout of likely Democratic voters, fueling suspicion. Pockets of incompetence in election administration, often in large cities controlled by Democrats, have created an opening to claims of unfairness. Old-fashioned and new-fangled dirty tricks, including foreign and domestic misinformation campaigns via social media, threaten electoral integrity. Inflammatory rhetoric about “stolen” elections supercharges distrust among hardcore partisans.
Taking into account how each of these threats has manifested in recent years—most notably in the 2016 and 2018 elections—Hasen offers concrete steps that need to be taken to restore trust in American elections before the democratic process is completely undermined.
UC Irvine law and political science professor Hasen (Voting Wars) investigates the causes of recent concerns about the integrity of American elections in this candid and disturbing account. He identifies four primary dangers for 2020 and beyond: voter suppression, inept electoral officials, foreign and domestic manipulation through social media and fraud, and "incendiary rhetoric" claiming that a particular race was stolen or rigged. While Hansen cites many examples of Republican misbehavior, he calls out Democrats as well, noting that Hillary Clinton's claim that Wisconsin's strict voter identification law may have cost her the 2016 election was rated "mostly false" by the fact-checking organization PolitiFact. According to Hasen, focusing on whether such laws change results gives the misleading impression that "voter suppression matters only if it affects election outcomes." He writes that there is "reason to fear" President Trump won't concede the 2020 election if returns show a narrow Democratic victory, but points out that Trump has been unable or unwilling to follow through on many of his authoritarian impulses. Hasen's proposed solutions include bipartisan cooperation to remove incompetent electoral officials and the tightening of regulations related to absentee ballots. Readers hoping for immediate fixes will be disappointed, but those focused on the long-term health of American democracy will appreciate this bracing and comprehensive inquiry.