As the Nov. 3 election approaches, a new poll shows California voters are uneasy about its integrity and aftermath.
The UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies (IGS) poll shows 42% of likely voters feel the election is not likely to be conducted in a fair and open manner. It also shows 82% — including high numbers of voters from both parties — are worried that many Americans will not respect the election outcome.
“It was not that long ago that voters in both parties had high confidence in the integrity of the election process,” said IGS Co-Director Eric Schickler. “The loss of that confidence is a worrisome sign for democratic stability going forward.”
David Levine agrees. The former elections administrator and elections integrity fellow with the Alliance for securing Democracy said the poll findings are “concerning” on a number of levels.
”What we see is that voters aren’t necessarily aware of all of the steps that election officials, their federal partners and others have done to make sure our elections are secure,” including post-election audits and an increasing reliance on paper ballots, Levine said.
Levine points to repeated warnings from the FBI about disinformation related to the election, including fake websites about how and where to vote.
On Monday, the agency warned that foreign actors could attempt to sow distrust by spreading false reports of “hacked” or “leaked” voter databases, though that information is already available for public purchase.
“Our democracy is only as strong — in some respects — as our belief in it,” Levine said. “It is really important that our confidence in our elections match the actions we have taken to help ensure that they’re going to be secure.”
Levine says election officials should provide robust voter outreach and education about how the process works, while encouraging voters to create a plan for how to cast a vote. He also says voters should consider casting ballots early — whether by mail or in person — in order to avoid long Election Day lines during the pandemic.
While mail-in voting has become a tried and true part of elections in California, many are concerned about delays in the U.S. Postal Service following a reorganization which began this summer but has since been postponed.
The IGS survey showed 41% of Californians are unsure about whether they can trust the Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots safely and on time. But by a two-to-one margin, supporters of President Donald Trump are much less likely to trust the Postal Service.
“What you see in this poll is the influence President Trump has on voter perceptions,” said IGS Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. Trump has consistently and without evidence attacked mail-in voting as a “scam” and ridden with fraud. (Get the facts on voting by mail in California.)
The UC Berkeley poll shows that’s having an impact: 50% of Trump supporters say they will vote with their mail-in ballot, either by returning it via mail or dropping it off. The other half say they will vote in person.
In comparison, 90% of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden supporters in California plan to vote by mail. That disparity “has to be coming from Donald Trump’s own words,” DiCamillo said.
While 68% of Biden supporters and 59% of undecided or third-party voters say they trust the USPS to deliver ballots safely and on-time, only 33% of Trump supporters say the same.
The poll also shows younger voters are less likely to trust the Postal Service. At 44%, the 18-29 age group is the only group where under 50% of respondents were skeptical of the Postal Service’s ability to deliver ballots without issue.
DiCamillo noted that the survey asked about the national election and did not focus on voting locally.
“We weren’t talking about the integrity of the California election or the mail voting process here in California,” he said.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the Golden State “is a model for election accessibility and integrity,” pointing to an online ballot tracker which voters can use to ensure their mail-in ballot is received and counted.
“We meet regularly with Postal Service leadership to coordinate the timely delivery and return of vote by mail ballots,” Padilla said in a statement to CapRadio. “I encourage any Californians who have questions about our elections to go straight to the source for answers—their county elections office or the Secretary of State’s office."
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