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Democracy Works: States united for democracy

States United Democracy Center co-founders Joanna Lydgate, Norman Eisen, and Christine Todd Whitman
States United Democracy Center
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States United Democracy Center co-founders Joanna Lydgate, Norman Eisen, and Christine Todd Whitman

With hundreds of elections deniers running in the midterms, democracy is on the ballot this fall. The team at the States United Democracy Center is at the forefront of efforts to ensure free, fair and secure elections in 2022, 2024, and beyond. Cofounders Norman Eisen, Joanna Lydgate and Christine Todd Whitman join us this week to talk about how they're doing it in states across the country and how everyone can support their efforts.

Through legal, policy and communications work, States United is fighting back empowering state leaders as they defend elections. These officials are the frontline champions in the battle for our democracy. Governors help enshrine voter protection into law, and attorneys general defend those laws—along with election results. Secretaries of state oversee elections, and law enforcement leaders make sure they are safe and free from violence. States United’s mission is to bring these leaders together to protect elections, prevent political violence, fight disinformation and pursue accountability for those who step outside the bounds of our democracy.

Eisen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, former Ambassador to the Czech Republic and special counsel to the White House for ethics and government reform. Lydgate is the former chief deputy attorney general of Massachusetts. Whitman is the former governor of New Jersey and Environmental Protection Agency administrator in the George W. Bush administration.

Episode Transcript

Michael Berkman 
From the McCourtney Institute for Democracy on the campus of Penn State University. I'm Michael Berkman.

Chris Beem 
I'm Chris Beem.

Jenna Spinelle 
I'm Jenna Spinelle, and welcome to Democracy Works. This week we are joined by the co founders of the States United democracy center, Norm Eisen, Joanna Lydgate And Governor Christine Todd Whitman. We had the pleasure of welcoming these three to campus a few weeks ago to receive the 2022 Brown Democracy medal. And this is an award that the McCourtney Institute gives every year to people and organizations who are doing important and innovative and interesting work in democracy. You might remember Desmond Meade and surge a pop of it as previous winners and people that we've had on the show. But I thought it might be good you guys just to talk a little bit about why we chose States United this year. And you know why we thought it was important to highlight the work that they're doing, particularly at this time.

Michael Berkman 
Yeah, Jenna, terrific winners this year, they gave a great talk on campus. And I think your interview coming up is also terrific. I think, Chris, if you agree with me on this, we chose him because we really wanted to direct attention on elections, Election Administration, and the challenges of the big lie.

Chris Beem 
I absolutely agree. And I was actually kind of worried if people are looking for us to really, you know, challenge these people or disagree with them, they're gonna find this show very boring. Because all of us all three of us really admire these people in the work they're doing. I mean, before they even came to this, they had this incredible pedigree, but taking up the cause of election administrators, and working to defend them in their work on the front line of democracy, right job, one of a democracy is to have free and fair elections. And that's under attack right now. And these people see it as their job to fight back. And we were lucky that they were willing to come to campus to accept our award. And yeah, it was really impressive to hear what they have to say.

Michael Berkman 
Yeah, I mean, when we came out of the 2020 election, we were quite impressed with the quality of that election with how well people had done in in administering that election under very difficult circumstances. For folks that don't remember, we're in the middle of a pandemic, there were all kinds of new voting rules. A lot of the folks many of them older who traditionally worked the polls, were sitting this one out. So there were a lot of new people helping to turn it and we want it somehow. And then, of course, in the aftermath of the election, certain people around the country high profile people like the Secretary of State and Georgia, Raffensperger, or the governor in Arizona did do cheat. But also many, many people throughout the country working in elections had done we thought a really brave I don't know, if it was say brave, but had really done that. They had done the right brain, they've done their jobs under very difficult circumstances under a lot of pressure under a lot of stress. And we wanted to have some way of recognizing them. But also, I think, we wanted to acknowledge the work of a group that had their eyes focused on the future and a future election.

Chris Beem 
That's well said, I completely agree. I mean, it was we actually did think about, you know, raising up one of these people, but it was really hard to say, Well, why this person and not this person, when they're all kind of doing the same thing. have, you know, under damped, they're putting their responsibilities and their job ahead of any pressure to defend some kind of partisan point of view. And it was very difficult to do. And these are not wealthy people. These are not well connected people. They're not they don't have a security guard. They're just folks who have this job, and they take their jobs seriously. And as a result, they had to stand up to a lot of pressure.

Michael Berkman 
And of course, States United as an organization, and the work they're doing is so important right now, because of everything we've been seeing since January 6, were this notion that the election in 2020, has only metastasized and spread around the country. And throughout the Republican Party. There seemed like this brief period of time after the events on January 6, that the leadership of the Republican Party was really going to pull back from all this, but they decided not to, and they've gone in full force.

Chris Beem 
I think it is really astonishing to me, that we're two years out from the election. And there is not I mean, there simply is no evidence of any kind of you know, steel of the election any notion that something underhanded or illegal or anything like it happened, right. And that's despite looking under every rock to find it. Right.

Michael Berkman 
Yeah. So just to be clear about what we and I think states United sees as the issues going into this election, there's first of all, to make sure that the administration of this particular election goes smoothly. And people are not intimidated that the votes are counted fairly, that the vote counters aren't intimidated. I mean, there, you see evidence, and both voters are being intimidated, right vote counters are potentially going to be intimidated. And so they want to certainly monitor and help to monitor and do what's necessary in this election. But also, they're highlighting the danger of the fact that there are over 300 election deniers on the ballot. And I saw something today breaking it down in a somewhat different way that most of the states have an election denier in a position of authority over elections. So to be clear, that means like the governor or the Secretary of State, it could be some other offices, didn't even need any it say anything about the more local officers sheriff's that have increasing activism in this area and local officials have different types.

Chris Beem 
The only thing I would say is that, you know, as you see with the election deniers is kind of multi prong strategy, right? Intimidation, breaking of the law, in or in terms of, you know, behavior of some trying to create new laws that restrict access, or you know, make it harder to vote.

Jenna Spinelle 
The other thing that I think will come through the interview is that they have a very positive outlook, at least as positive as one can have given everything that the two of you have just been talking about. And they're making the case that everyone has a stake here, democracy is for everyone. It's not a partisan issue. So I think you'll hear that come through as well. So let's go now to the interview with the team from states united. Normalizing Joanna lidgate Governor Christine Todd Whitman, welcome to democracy works, and congratulations on receiving the 2022 Brown Democracy Medal. So you are here at Penn State and receiving the brown medal for the work that all three of you as leaders of the States United democracy center do and I thought we could maybe just start with a bit of the origin story of States United. So Joanna, why don't you kick us off?

Joanna Lydgate 
Well, two years ago, in the summer of 2020, I was working as the Deputy Attorney General in Massachusetts, and I had spent my career really seeing the power that states have in our system. The first case I litigated as a lawyer was the Massachusetts challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which was a case where Massachusetts on behalf of its residents fought for marriage equality, and one national change. And in so many other cases, over the course of my career. Similarly, you know, we pushed for rights, that ended up being national in their impact, whether it was suing Purdue pharma, and the Sackler family for causing the opioid crisis or whether it was holding the line on some of the worst of the abuses during the Trump administration. And as we looked ahead to the election, we knew that states once again, we're going to be at the center of everything, you know, elections are national events, but they're run by the states. And so the state officials, in particular, the governors and state attorneys general and secretaries of state who run and oversee and protect elections, they're really the guardians of our democracy. And really, as we saw in 2020, it's on their backs that are free and fair elections rise, or fall. So we decided to set up this effort to really give them backup to give them support. We knew it needed to be bipartisan. And so Christie was one of the first people that Norman I reached out to norm and I had worked together before. And we set up this effort to really work on a bipartisan basis to defend and protect the state officials who defend and protect our votes and our freedom to vote.

Norm Eisen 
Yes, Joanna and I simultaneously were leaping into action and thought of each other as winning persons. And then Christie was the indispensable third from the very beginning. Well, and I think in fairness, Joanna, was coming to it really from a nonpartisan orientation. So as I think in her role in Massachusetts, and really working in that role, Joanna beautifully with both D's and R's, including Republican governor of Massachusetts and I of course, having served as a Democrat probably a little more identified. We your motto here is partisan for democracy hours is nonpartisan. So we thought to have Joanna and I thought that really from the very beginning to have that balances was important to have a leader who came to democracy from the Republican side, and ergo, the three musketeers of democracy prediction,

Christine Todd Whitman 
I was delighted to be part of be asked to be part of it, because it had been something that I'd been worried about coming in for a long time. And particularly starting way back when Trump first started to run the way he was, well, I had known him a bit in New Jersey, unfortunately, because he has a lot that had a lot to do with Atlantic City. And I knew even then, that his respect for the rule of law was somewhat suspect. And certainly when he was running for president, you could see that and I was very worried about what was going to happen, because when people lose respect for the rule of law, we're in a dangerous place in our democracy. So when Norman jhoanna reached out to me, I was more than happy to say, Yes, I will do whatever I can, to help with this effort in a bipartisan, nonpartisan way just to get facts out to people and, and protect the democracy because I've never been as scared for our future as I am now.

Jenna Spinelle 
And, you know, on that point about some of these basic tenants of democracy that you've described, you write in the book, the three of you co authored, which we'll link to in the show notes, if anyone would like to check that out. But you talk a lot about democracy and anti democracy. And it seems kind of silly, on the one hand to have you define those terms, but I think at some level, like, we're kind of Through the Looking Glass on this a little bit in that, you know, people who, you know, are subscribers to the big lie or who are pushing for more restrictions on voting, they chewed talk about democracy are we've kind of sort of the, the meaning has been warped. And so I guess I am wondering how you, how you define it, and how you how, if at all, you think about these other, you know, definitions that are increasingly floating around out there.

Christine Todd Whitman 
There's only one definition of democracy, democracy is our ability to elect our leaders. And that's the most important and valuable thing that we have from our Constitution, frankly. And so the eddy democracy means people are undermining that ability. They're undermining people's confidence in the vote. And I will back up a little bit, because I also think part of what's happening to us now is our own fault, because we got very lazy. And up until a couple of recent election, actually, it just went right back down in the last set of primaries, voter turnout in primaries average 10%. So that's your most partisan people choosing the candidates for the fall, which leaves you with more partisan candidates. And it's been growing, the divide is from growing ever greater, between the right and the left on both sides. And so people have said, pox on both your houses, I don't want to participate. And that has started the to undermine people's confidence because the outcomes of elections don't get them where they think they should be.

Joanna Lydgate 
I mean, democracy is We the People, right? It's the most basic principle of this country. And as we see an effort to systematically undermine that it takes a lot of different forms that can be voter suppression, it can be challenging results of elections, it can be passing bills that change the way elections are run, people running for office to oversee elections who have questioned over and over again, the system lies, conspiracy theories, misinformation, it's all of that that's anti democracy. And I think something people don't necessarily appreciate is that no matter what issue you care most about, it could be climate, it could be education, it could be abortion, it could be the economy, it doesn't matter. It all comes down to free and fair elections. So this is really about our system as a whole. And whether we're going to continue to be a country that is about we're the people.

Norm Eisen 
It's the legitimating idea of America. It's one that we pioneered, but that has caught on. And it's one of the things that is admired about the United States around the world. The free, fair and secure elections are the bridge from the choice, the will of the American people, the expression of that will and the legitimacy of what our elected representatives, and our government does. So if you attack that connector, you and disrupt the peaceful transition of power, you really are opposed to the very idea of America.

Jenna Spinelle 
Right? But yeah, I think it speaks as much to our media climate as anything as this entirely alternate universe of what democracy means has taken so much hold and I know that that's one of the things that your organization and is working on is how to counter some of these anti democratic media narratives. Can you talk more about what that work looks like? And maybe any successes you found about sort of the best ways to do that?

Joanna Lydgate 
Yeah, you know, we have a project that's focused on truth and elections, which is another way of saying disinformation misinformation. And one of the things that democracy relies on is public trust. If people don't have trust in the system, we don't have democracy, we don't have peace. We know that from so many other countries and moments in history. And so what we do through our truth and elections work is we look at the sources of disinformation that people are exposed to, we try to understand some of these narratives, some of these most common narratives, these lies and conspiracy theories that unfortunately, have proliferated about our elections in particular, and then we help state officials push back against them and get truthful content out to voters. And you know, I think that work is as important as anything, Norm and I are both lawyers. And we'll fight every case we can in court, but it's really going to come down to the court of public opinion, and how well people understand this system, what's at stake, why these positions matter so much. And in this moment, in particular, how everything is going to come down to the states. So I'm really proud of this work. And I think it has enormous potential for good.

Jenna Spinelle 
And so on that point about sort of the legal challenges versus the, you know, public opinion challenges. How much similarity is there between those two pillars? Does, you know the legal follow the media or vice versa? Or is it different ways of getting at the same thing? Well,

Norm Eisen 
It's a chicken and an egg, situation in which we're constantly considering the application of our laws. But that application takes place in a rich context of public understanding, for example, and the United States is unusual and very special in this regard. And I think that's part of the reason that the three of us are motivated to work together to protect what has made the United States such a leader, since our founding at for example, we are one of the countries where you have a jury system. So the law actually turns in a sense, on public opinion, there's a very tight dynamic, and we spend as much time worrying about the legal cases, as we do thinking about the communications issues of talking to the American people and bipartisanship, or as we should say, Try partisanship is very, very important to have the credibility to make the case legally and publicly.

Christine Todd Whitman 
The way those cases have been articulated have been very clear, and compelling in a public point of view, so public can understand. And that's part of the importance of being able to have an opportunity to be with people like you, and podcasts and other media outlets to be able to talk about the importance of a particular case and why it matters to the public that we should hold people accountable. For instance, we've done a lot of have brought a lot of cases against others in the other lawyers, for instance, John Eastman to hold them accountable for some of the lies basically, that they have been telling, but we also need to get people to understand why they should care about it. So a lot of the time is spent on explaining the message. But also, I will say in the briefs that have been written by all our partners in this because it's not just the states united people, we have partners law firms that we work with, they have written enormously clear and direct sort of opinions. And as we've gone forward, and I'm happy to assign more Amicus is than I think I've ever done in my life, even as governor, I was involved in more lawsuits, although this time from the other side.

Joanna Lydgate 
Yeah, I think it's, it's important for people to understand that it's all connected. So you know, the effort to change the way elections are run. And we talked about this in the book, you know, the bills that have been introduced all across the country, to change the system. And the people who are running to oversee the system on a platform of lies about our elections, all of this and the and the litigation and the challenges to the result. It's all a highly coordinated effort. It's a highly coordinated attack on our democracy. And it's really important for people to be able to connect those dots.

Christine Todd Whitman 
And that's why we spend so much time on educating people on the importance of the state elections, that of all elections. We talk about them as being national, but they're all run by the states. And so the people that you elect to the position of Governor, the secretary of state, state attorney general, all have a role it varies from state to state, how much that role, what it is and how it To divide it up, but they all have an ability to affect elections and to put somebody in those positions who doesn't believe in the system is a very dangerous, that's Fox in the henhouse.

Jenna Spinelle 
So as is clear, you know, bipartisanship is at the heart of your work. But how do you square that focus with what I would also say, is a clear asymmetry among the parties in terms of their support for democracy and everything that comprises it

Christine Todd Whitman 
Well, remember that 60%? Well, 50% of registered voters today are registered Independent. And over 60% of Americans, when asked said they would welcome a third party, and they would certainly look closely at a third party, which tells you right now that the two major parties are not the center of the process, as it were, they're the ones that get the attention, because we still think in those terms of the duopoly, but they are losing ground, because people just don't trust what they've been doing. And they don't like what they're seeing or the way the country is going. So I think we have a pretty large constituency out there to reach, who understand that the extremes are not where we solve problems in this country, that it's by working together, that we get the kinds of solutions that will stand the test of time. And we're just working to try to give them all the leverage that they need. And all the information that they require in order to be able to stand up the way they really want to speaking and working together.

Joanna Lydgate 
I was really lucky in my career to have had the chance to do so much litigation that was bipartisan, that was multi state states coming together on big issues around consumer protection and the like. And I was lucky to work in a state where the Attorney General was a Democrat, and the governor was a Republican, and they've worked so well together. And so I had seen those models of cooperation. They exist all over the country. And we saw them as norm just described and 2020, we saw so many good Republicans stand up and do the right thing. And there is a faction, certainly in this country, there is an anti democratic faction, but it's a faction, it's disproportionately loud. We know that the American people believe overwhelmingly in the system that we have, we know they're tired of hearing lies about 2020. They are tired of the fighting, as Christie just described, you know, they are tired of efforts to overturn elections in the will of the people. And so I think what this is really all about is making sure that people are educated that they know what's at stake, and that they get out in these midterms and vote and they need to vote like their democracy depends on it, because it does.

Jenna Spinelle 
You know, we talked recently on the show with Jessica Huseman who worked at an organization called Votebeat, which has a lot of reporting on election administration issues. And she was talking about all of the attrition that county and local election offices have seen. And that's another way that elections are being compromised, that they're done that people to run them or people hear testimony, lippy, also heard during the January 6, hearings about threats and all of these things, I mean, who wants to sign up for a job that doesn't pay very well, and it has all these other things that come with it. So I wonder if you see a role there for states united to play to help sort of tout the virtue or kind of, I don't know, sort of similar to like the, you know, America or like all these things that try to tout the benefits of public service, if we need something like that for these election positions at the county level, etc.

Joanna Lydgate 
I'm so glad you raised it, because it's definitely another part of the anti democracy strategy to drive these people out, not just by running election deniers against them, but to drive them out through threats and harassment and frivolous. You know, I'm not even going to call them audits, because they're not real audits. But

Jenna Spinelle 
Yeah, or even, you know, freedom of information requests, I think.

Joanna Lydgate 
That's right. That's right. And I think the good news is that these folks are holding strong, we get to work with them every day. They're incredible at what they do. One in three says they feel unsafe in the job right now, yet they keep doing the job, and they're holding strong just like they did in 2020. And they'll continue to do that if we continue to support them. I think about it this way, you know, when I need my car fix to take it to a mechanic when my kid is sick, I take her to go see a nurse or a doctor. election administrators are professionals, like so many other people we rely on in our lives and in our system. They're trained to do this. They've done it for decades on a nonpartisan basis. And so to be undermining and questioning their work in this way, you know, not only is it totally unmerited but it's really unAmerican and so we do our best to as norm just describe to support these officials and to educate the public on what they do. But we also get to be inspired by them every day and all across the country

Christine Todd Whitman 
And the other thing we do, which is unusual, really, is we work with law enforcement to help them understand what the parameters are, what they can do, what is legal for those observers to do when because that's another thing. That's part of the strategy. Actually, I think the RNC, the Republican National Committee is actually encouraging their training poll watchers and encouraging them to be disruptive. And so it's important for those who are on the other side, and for law enforcement, particularly to know how far you can allow these people to go, how close can they get to the elected officials, how much they can do and say outside of a polling place that that's threatening. So that's an important part of what we do as well. And Joanna just was at a large conference, biggest in the country.

Joanna Lydgate 
Right, in the country gathering of law enforcement leaders from across the country. And we spoke about election protection and political violence prevention and law enforcement really doing the work of protecting the safety of our elections, the safety of our election officials, and there are so many great law enforcement leaders out there, who are ready and willing and doing this work. And it's new, it's a new part of their portfolio. And it's really unfortunate that, you know, this is where we are as a country. But there are so many people out there who have the backs of these good election officials and who will protect the safety and integrity of the system.

Jenna Spinelle 
So what's your message? When you go to a group like that? How do you frame these issues for them?

Joanna Lydgate 
Well, we talk about democracy is a completely nonpartisan effort, which it is we talk about democracy as something we all need to work together to safeguard. You know, I think that this is an issue that law enforcement hasn't typically faced in the past. And so there's been a need for education, there's been a need for training, there's been a need for resources. But I'll give you an example. And 2020, we did a lot of work around voter intimidation, because there were threats of intimidation, and particularly threats of militia presence at polls. And, you know, we helped to get information out to police chiefs and state attorneys general across the country. And they got the word out, you know, they went on TV and on the radio and in print media, and they issued guidance and bulletins and notices. And what we saw was that that militia groups started to self report that they weren't going to go out to the polls on election day, because they had gotten the message that they might get arrested, that it was illegal to engage in voter intimidation. And voters knew that they would be safe accessing their rights and accessing the franchise. So this work really matters. It makes a difference. And the conference, we were just add, there are just so many really engaged law enforcement leaders ready to do this work.

Jenna Spinelle 
So as you've said, there are lots of election deniers, and this faction is growing this anti democracy faction. So as much as we are all going to fight like hell to keep them from getting into office in the midterms, it is, you know, unfortunately, you know, one of them, are you several of them are gonna make their way through. So, you know, what happens, then what, how does the State United playbook shift? You know, if and when something like that happens,

Christine Todd Whitman 
We keep working. I mean, it's that simple. We have to keep at what we've been doing. This is not something unfortunately, it's not something that's going to go away with this election cycle. And it'll last beyond 2024, I'm afraid. And so it's really up to us to continuing to try to educate people on the importance, particularly the local offices, there's always another election and an opportunity to right the wrongs that might have been done, but it obviously makes the struggle much harder.

Joanna Lydgate 
Yeah, through our 501c4, States United Action, we track these races, we know that heading into November, more than half the country has an election denier on their ballot to lead elections in their state. And that's true across all the offices, governor, state attorney general secretary of state, there are election deniers on the ballot in November in all of our most critical states. So this is a major issue right now. But the system, of course, does have checks and balances. And we saw those inaction in 2020. We saw Trump appointed judges defend the results and defend the rule of law. We saw good election officials from both sides of the aisle stand up and do the same. And so really, what keeps me going every day is the knowledge that the vast majority of Americans support a system where the will of the people is what you know, is what we rely on at the end of the day, and they want that system more than they want their own candidate to win. And so we have to just keep plugging away as Christie said at the work and that's what we'll do.

Norm Eisen 
We're not going to deny it. It is a challenge. And the difficulty is that in my view, the attempted coup really didn't end on January 6 on January 7, as Christie said Many of the same people, dusted themselves off and started focusing on future elections. I do have faith that as so often, not just 2020, where we talked about the bipartisan coalition that came together, of 10s of millions, it's not just those officials, it's the 10s of millions, the vast majority of Americans all but a tiny handful who embrace the transfer of power. I look at that. And I look at our history of overcoming adversity in the United States, in the name of democracy, sometimes it happens more quickly, sometimes it's a little slower. And so I'm confident that we'll get there. But let's not deny that we need to rise to the occasion. And that's why States United exists to unite all of us, irrespective of party around those state leaders who are on the cutting edge of defending and I think winning the battle for this democracy,

Christine Todd Whitman 
They need to know someone has their back. And that's essentially what we provide us both Joanna and Norm have said, we're there to tell them no, there are people here who will support you, when you stand up for this, there are people there who will let you know that you're doing the right thing, because so often, unfortunately, it's only the naysayers who they're the loudest. They're the ones who will be out there and be in your face. And those who support those, the ones who are doing from both sides of the aisle who are doing the right thing, say, Oh, God, they're doing the right thing, and to go out and play golf around a golf. While you can't do that, you got to be there constantly for them, you got to be re emphasizing stand up for democracy. That's what's important, and we understand what you're doing. And we will help and support you in any way we can.

Jenna Spinelle 
I think that is a fantastic place to end it. Governor Whitman, Joanna, Norm, thank you all so much for joining us today.

Christine Todd Whitman 
Pleasure. Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Chris Beem 
So terrific interview. And I think the quality of these three people really comes through passionate and smart, but they are hopeful. And Michael, I'm not sure that you share the same sense of hope about the election that's coming up tomorrow. As far as when this podcast is released. Do you think people are going to be voting for democracy in this midterm?

Michael Berkman 
Well, I'm skeptical that people are going to be voting on the basis of democracy. But why would they? I don't know that the elections really been covered as though democracy is really on the ballot. And so, you know, certainly Democrats, some Democrats have talked about this at various times. I noticed in this last week of the campaign, that they're coming back to this democracy theme quite a bit. Brock Obama out on the trail has been passionate about it. Joe Biden has been talking about it. Certainly in this stage, Josh Shapiro has been talking about it. But you know, for lower inflammation voters for the people that are really just now the people that don't have the strong partisan attachment and the people who

Chris Beem 
Are going to make corrections, people are

Michael Berkman 
Who, you know, in part are going to make a real difference. You know, I don't know, does the media really cover this as though this is a potentially, you know, existential democracy election for our democracy? I don't know that the mainstream media believes it that way. Maybe existential is too strong. But the election of a lot of people who are very clear, or that they're not going to be impartial, when it comes to counting the votes for the next election. What I think the is serious crisis for democracy, but I'm not sure they're gonna vote on the basis of it. And a poll in the New York Times a few weeks ago didn't give a whole lot of evidence that they would experimental evidence that I've seen doesn't give a whole lot of a reason to believe that they will. But you know, on the other hand, you've talked to a lot of Democrats are very concerned about

Chris Beem 
Another reason is, you know, you have a byline every couple of days, and you got to come up with something and here's this event that's new, and you can talk about it, right. I mean, I'm not saying journalists are lazy, but they are constrained to you know, to talk about things that are new and talking about like, democracy being on the ballot is just a harder story to write

Michael Berkman 
Well, he actually at a time when people are, you know, hurting. I mean, this is a very challenging time for people coming out of COVID with frightening international events with

Chris Beem 
Well, and inflation is higher, right? I mean, gas does cost more, there's no two ways about it. And if you're on a, if you're on a limited budget, you know, a difference between $3 and $4 a gallon makes a big difference,

Michael Berkman 
Right? People feel price changes, anyway.

Chris Beem 
But I mean, but I also, you know, it is important to, you know, first of all the elections tomorrow, there's one thing that all of us can do. And that's vote as if democracy matters, because it does, and it's on the ballot. But States United is very sophisticated and very multi-pronged in their approach to this. Right. They went and they just had gone to a conference of police officials. Yeah, yes. And there was over 1000 there. And they just made the case that a this is what you need to be worried about. And they just told them, here's what the law says, Here's what these people can and cannot do. Yeah. So

Michael Berkman 
I mean, I'm glad they're talking to that audience, Chris, because you know, many of them may well believe the big lie themselves.

Chris Beem 

I have no doubt that that's true. On the law enforcement community, right. But even if they do there is prudent and legitimate to remind them of their responsibilities to enforce the law.

Michael Berkman 
Well, and you know, so we're a week out from the election, Chris, and there have already been these reports of heavily armed camouflage, or, you know, in those kind of pseudo military kinds of outfits

Chris Beem 
Cosplay

Michael Berkman 
That we're increasingly seeing among sort of militia types, who have been intimidating voters, the courts today, actually, a federal judge in Arizona ruled that they had to move far away from the drop boxes. But you know, as we get closer and closer to the election, I know this is coming out the day before, I hope tomorrow is as smooth as could be. Yeah. And but but law enforcement is going to be, you know, invaluable here. And people have to know, you know, if they feel intimidated at the polls in any way, that's a violation of the Voting Rights Act. I, as I understand it, and which still exists. Yep. And so no need to call law enforcement.

Chris Beem 
No. And the other thing is that, you know, people, this is your, you know, call to just not accept any of that intimidation, and just go and exercise your right to vote. You mentioned the courts. That's the other thing that especially normalize, and, you know, he was the lead of Trump's first impeachment. And, you know, he's a distinguished lawyer, and he is most engaged in the other prong of state united approach, which is to demand accountability. So when somebody breaks the law, they need to be held accountable. And when they break a law that undermines election integrity, then that becomes a State United thing.

Michael Berkman 
And I think the work that this group is doing, and its subsidiaries is, you know, to try to be ahead of the curve on the things and I hope that we can be, too and I know, we've been trying to because we've been talking about some of these issues for quite a while

Chris Beem 
I mean, it's absolutely true that whatever happens in 2020, in that election, that's going to happen tomorrow, you know, it is a certainty that some election deniers are going to win office. And so you know, it is not going away. These problems are not going away. If anything, they are as you say, metastasizing and getting worse. I just, I think it's a good kind of note to close on. Because Jenna asked Christine Todd Whitman kind of a very similar thing, and it will what happens, you know, what happens if this doesn't work? What happens if election deniers get into power, etc. And, you know, she said, Christine, Todd Whitman said, we keep working. It's that simple. And I thought that was a very good answer. Because really a there's no alternative. But be it's about accepting that that's where we are, and accepting that, you know, if we're going to defend democracy, we have to be in for the long haul. And it's not going to be easy to so

Michael Berkman 
I mean, we'll just keep on it. A democracy works and on all of these issues. So for democracy work on Michael Berkman.

Chris Beem 
I'm Chris Beem. Thanks for listening.