WASHINGTON, D.C. – The McCain Institute at Arizona State University hosted the second event of its new “Defending American Democracy” series, with this installment focusing on threats to local election officials.
The discussion featured Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Pasco County, Fla.’s Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, and Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Maricopa County, Ariz. Bill Gates. The conversation was moderated by the Executive Director and Founder of the nonpartisan, non-profit Center for Election Innovation & Research David Becker.
The conversation centered around the continuing fallout from the 2020 election conspiracy theories, the threat that those theories pose to our electoral process and the external interference that continue to threaten our electoral process. The panelists also discussed some of the intimidation tactics that they have been subjected to as well as their colleagues.
“I have only been emboldened by these threats, and I know many of us have as well because no one is going to intimidate me out of the job that the people of Michigan elected me to do,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “And that is to protect every citizen’s right to vote.”
“It’s like Election Day never ended in 2020,” said Pasco County, Fla. Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. “After 2016, we were all fixated on our cyber-posture, and we’ve done a good job with that, but I remember being in meetings asking, ‘What about this huge vehicle of misinformation on social media and it’s never adequately been addressed.’”
“I’m really proud of how elections officials around the country – particularly the Republican ones – stood up to a lot to a lot of pressure in states like ours and counties like ours where Joe Biden did get the most votes and went ahead and certified the election,” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Maricopa County, Ariz. Bill Gates. “There was a lot of pressure, but nothing compared to the pressure since certification in November 2020.”
“What we’ve seen the last few years is an unprecedented attack on American democracy,” said Executive Director and Founder of the nonpartisan, non-profit Center for Election Innovation & Research David Becker. “We have seen unprecedented attacks on the civil servants and public servants, of both parties who run elections in this country…attacks on that infrastructure weaken American democracy and actually make our elections less secure.”
“[In Ukraine] we are seeing Ukrainians expressing such courage at great risk to themselves to preserve their democracy, we’re fortunate enough that we don’t have to must the same level of courage that the Ukrainians are, but I do think there’s a connection between the worldwide attacks of autocracies seeking to weaken democracies and the will of voters to govern themselves,” added Becker.
This panel is part of the Defending American Democracy series with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Click HERE to watch the full event.
About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
Inspired by Senator John S. McCain and his family’s legacy of public service, the McCain Institute is fighting to secure democracy and alliances, defend human rights, protect the vulnerable and advance character-driven leadership, both at home and around the world.
About Arizona State University
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.