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Experts Talk About Approaching Presidential Election

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>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Production support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at smithville.com. And from the Bloomington Health Foundation, partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation - improving health and well-being takes a community. More at bloomhf.org.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm Bob Zaltsberg from the WFIU WTIU newsroom. I'm hosting the show today with Sara Wittmeyer, my co-host. She's the WFIU WTIU news bureau chief. We've been recording the show remotely since March to avoid the risk of spreading the infection from COVID-19. And today we're going to be talking about the upcoming presidential and local elections and voting in the elections. We have four guests today. Marjorie Hershey is professor emeritus at the Indiana University department of public political science. Mark Fraley is an Indiana University political and civic engagement director. Karen Wheeler is a Monroe County election supervisor. And Lawrence Norden is from the Brennan Center for Justice. He is the director. He'll be here with us for the first half of the program. If you want to join us on the program you can follow us on Twitter and contact us. There we're @noonedition. We also can be contacted at news@indianapublicmedia.org. So thank you all for joining us by Zoom today. We appreciate it. And I want to start with our good friend Marjorie Hershey. She's been on the show many times before. I'd like to ask Dr. Hershey to frame some of the issues that we have that are really unique this year with COVID-19 when it comes to the idea of voting and how we're going to get people to the polls.

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Well, the biggest question of course is that given the pandemic and given the need we have to keep people safe from transmitting the pandemic, voting by mail is the obvious choice. This - the decisions as to whether or not you can vote by mail, what you have to do in order to vote by mail are all made by the various states. This is not normally a federal process. It's a state-by-state process. And there are a number of states including Indiana that do not have the option of universal voting by mail. Now President Trump has been making some incorrect assumptions about how it is that voting by mail works. I think it's really ironic because they could cost him the election. So let me talk briefly about that. And I'm sure Larry will have something important to say about that as well. First of all, President Trump has suggested that voting by mail is characterized by fraud to a great extent. This is not the first time we've had voting by mail in the United States. We've been doing this for a very long time. We've had enormous numbers of studies about voting by mail. And as I'm sure Larry can tell you, the studies show that there is very little evidence of fraud in by-mail voting. And there are good reasons why that we can go into later. But in addition, the president seems to be assuming that if we expand vote by mail, Democrats will benefit. And as a result he has gone so far as to essentially reduce the functioning of the post office in order to make sure that that can't happen. Again, we've had so many studies of this and there is no evidence in those studies that at least voting by mail to this point has had any partisan advantage. And the irony of this is that I've heard from a variety of Republican state chairs that they're pulling out their hair about President Trump's statements about this because as they send out applications for voting by mail to their Republican constituents they're getting back a lot of people saying vote by mail. The president said that's fraudulent. I won't do that. And as a result if God forbid these people happen to get sick on election day, that's going to cost some Republican votes. So that's why we've seen some recent tweets by the president saying, well, voting by mail isn't a problem if you're voting by mail in a state that's led by Republicans, but it is if you're in a state that's led by Democrats. And the other thing that President Trump is getting wrong about this is that if we assume that two to three times more voters will be voting by mail this time than usual, we get close to a scenario where the proportion of people who are voting by mail approaches the proportion that has voted in person in earlier elections. We know that turnout is most affected by people's level of education, that the most educated people are the most likely to vote. Now, 50 years ago, those people trended Republican. They tended to be business leaders and land developers and various other folks. So at that time, if you reduced voter turnout, you would probably reduce it at the lower end of the education scale, people who were more likely to be Democrats. Now that's no longer true. We find that the people with the highest levels of education are disproportionately Democratic, and that people with less than a college degree are becoming disproportionately Republican. So I'm afraid for the president that his efforts to help himself through opposing vote by mail are going in exactly the opposite direction.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thank you for that analysis. Larry Norden, the director of the election reform program for the Brennan Center. Can you talk about the work that you're doing and talk about how COVID-19 and what we're going through now and what Margie said has all affected that?

>>LAWRENCE NORDEN: Yeah. A couple of things to say. First of all, Marjorie is right, of course. We've seen it in the primaries. There's been a dramatic increase in the use of vote by mail. And that really hasn't related to big changes in the laws. That has been the voters' choice. In most states, Indiana notwithstanding, voters have the option and had the option prior to this year to vote by by mail or to vote absentee for any reason. They didn't need to have an excuse. And not surprisingly, as a result of COVID many, many people have chosen that option. In a lot of states, we saw 10, 20, 30 times the numbers of people as in previous elections choosing to vote by mail. So that has put a tremendous strain on the election system in the United States. Election officials are facing an election that they didn't expect at the beginning of the year. There's an entire infrastructure that needs to be built to process mail ballot applications and to count them that some states in the West have long had because they've been at higher percentages of people voting by mail. But election officials have basically had to build the plane while flying and make changes to adjust. They're short on resources to do that, I have to say. But they're, you know, election officials are extremely resourceful, so they are - they have been managing so far with some hiccups that we've seen in the primaries, for sure. At the same time not everybody is going to vote by mail. And I think one of the lessons from the primaries is that we can't rely on everybody to be receiving or sending back mail ballots in part because of these infrastructure challenges a lot of people weren't getting their mail ballots in time and so they had to show up at polling places as a failsafe. And I think in the in-person voting there are a lot of huge changes that have to be made as well. So, of course, we need PPE for poll workers. We need to sanitize polling places. We need to adjust what polling places look like to ensure social distancing. We need to sometimes find new polling places because nursing homes and other places don't want to be polling places this year for understandable reasons. And, you know, we need more early voting, frankly, so that we can ensure that for the millions and millions of people that are going to show up to vote in person that we're reducing density in the polling places where we can. So this is a massive challenge on a scale that I don't know that we have seen in recent elections. It's one reason why I think it's so important. And unfortunately the Congress has gone on recess. But that Congress provide election officials with more resources that the changes that need to be made are tremendous over the next couple of months.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I'm going to jump over to Karen Wheeler and then we'll go to Mark Fraley. But Karen Wheeler is an election official, local election official. So as Monroe County election supervisor, Karen, how - you know, what do you have to say to react to what Larry said? Are things as difficult for you as he suggested?

>>KAREN WHEELER: It has been quite a year for election to say the very least. The primary to us for a total loop. We did do all the PPE. And we did take different steps for disinfecting and social distancing and just everything that as everyone is doing anyway. But it's been extremely difficult. It's been the hardest election we've ever had to run. And to get a little perspective, in 2018 in the midterm, I had a little under 1,300 mail ballot applications. In the primary of 2020, I had 23,000 mailed applications for ballots. That is a tremendous increase. And for this general election, we really don't know what's going to happen. It could be just as large. It could be larger. There is a big difference, though, from the primary to the general. In the primary, we had no excuse absentee - or no excuse mailed ballot request. So that means anybody could have it. And that's the first time in Monroe County that we've been able to have anybody request a mail ballot with no reason. Otherwise, we have 12 reasons on the application and you need to fit in one of those. And many people do. And but we did not have that for the general. The state has set it - we're back to normal in that area. And so you have to have a reason to get a mail ballot sent to you.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And what did that increase in mail ballots mean for you in terms of just processing the election vote?

>>KAREN WHEELER: It was tremendously difficult. Because, really, when we send out a ballot, it just sounds so easy. Hey, I want a ballot. Sure. I'll send it to you. Well, actually there's 17 steps for us to get that ballot out the door to you. It's a pretty complex system, and it's one that has all the things in place to be safe...

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: There we go.

>>KAREN WHEELER: ...And accurate and everything's with a Democrat and a Republican. And we have a lot of those things, and we continually do and will do them. So when we had to do that 23,000 and, of course, the county was pretty much furloughed. We were able to call in a few furloughed employees to help us. The - our saving grace was the community corrections which is next door to our same building. They were all furloughed, and we took over all of their space. We did not have early voting for the first three weeks, so we had all of that space. And to keep everything, you know, the social distancing was quite a challenge. But we did it. And we worked - you remember we had had a holiday in there? We had Memorial Day.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Oh yeah.

>>KAREN WHEELER: Yeah. So we worked, of course, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday...

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Wow.

>>KAREN WHEELER: ...Because our deadline was Tuesday and we actually - yeah, we made it (laughter). So no one got that weekend off when you worked here. Yeah. We just worked crazy.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. Well, will find out what you're going to have now. I mean, it doesn't look like it's going to be no excuse - or that all that there is no excuse needed. But we'll see. Sarah - I think Sara Wittmeyer has a question.

>>SARA WITTMEYER: So we got a follow-up that I'm pretty sure is aimed towards Marjorie and the question is, what about working class Democrats? How likely are they to vote?

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Well, there is an interesting impact of education versus income. And so how we define working class can vary. But generally working-class people have been less educated, less likely to show up at the polls then more educated people are. And now as we know President Trump has made real inroads in his support among working class people, among people with less than a college education, people with low to moderate incomes, but incomes are not necessarily directly correlated with education. So if we drop off the lowest end of the educational ladder, we're not necessarily likely to drop off Democrats anymore. We're probably more likely to drop off Republicans.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I want to bring in Mark Fraley in. Now, Mark's got two different perspectives. He's Indiana University political and civic engagement director and he is the former chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party. So from your current position, your new position, what does all this mean in terms of getting people engaged in the political races and in the election and making sure we get people to the polls?

>>MARK FRALEY: Yeah. That's an excellent question. And I think that what it really means is a number of different things. So first of all, you know, from the perspective here in my role as the associate director of the political and civic engagement program, I can really see that a lot of students are eager for civic engagement. Right. And we have people who are motivated around issues of racial justice, around issues of climate change, all over the spectrum. And we have students who are Republican, Democrat, moderate - all over the place. And what they really want is to be able to have their voice and to be able to represent that on Election Day. And so I think what that means for us is that we're going to be spending most of our time a lot of time over the next six weeks ensuring that students are registered to vote, that they know what their rights are, that they know what their obligations are and that they know what the rules are for being able to vote. And we'll encourage a lot of early voting especially since we're looking at an option which mail-in ballots are not going to be an option for most people. We really want to emphasize that people have the ability to vote, that they get in there early and make sure that their voice is heard and their vote is cast.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: What happened in the primary with students? Now they weren't here. They weren't on campus here. But do you know - do you have any data about student-aged people and how their vote was - like, how likely it was that they were going to the polls?

>>MARK FRALEY: So I don't have the specific numbers in front of me, but I know that the turnout amongst students in this primary was actually significantly lower than it was in 2016. However, we also have to be - we also have to take into account a lot of other factors. Yes, the students were gone this time as they were in town four years ago. But also there was a high-profile presidential race that was very much in play by the time that the race came to Indiana. And so that really did have a huge impact in how many people turned out. So it's really difficult to be able to judge election to election and name one factor that might really impact the likelihood of students voting.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I'm going to go back to Larry Norden now. We have Larry for another five minutes or so. Your organization, the Brennan Center, does a lot of things among them ensuring that U.S. election infrastructure is secure and accessible to every voter and protecting elections from foreign interference. So how confident can we be that when we go to the polls, whether we send them mail in a ballot or we go to a polling place, that our - the election infrastructure is secure and that it's - we're free from foreign interference.

>>LAWRENCE NORDEN: Yeah. So, I mean, this is - going into the year, I think a lot of people thought that would be the primary issue that we would be focused on in the elections. There's a lot of attention to attacks on the election infrastructure, a lot of training of election officials around election security issues. And, you know, one concern I have is, of course, there's only so much any election official or election workers can do in a day. So there's been a little bit less attention to the issue of election security because basically we've had to build an entire new election infrastructure for dealing with COVID. I would say, you know, the main solution to dealing with potential cyberattacks against early election infrastructure in the next couple of months is just making sure that we have resiliency, making sure that if whether it's by cyberattack or programming error or poll workers who aren't familiar with equipment that in the polling places, for instance, we have backup poll books. Because a lot of - in a lot of places we use electronic poll books which can go down. That we have - if we're using voting machines to record our votes on that we have backup paper that voters can fill out, that we have enough provisional ballots in the polling places. My focus is very much on making sure that we have those solutions in the polling places to act as a failsafe for any problems that we have with equipment. We also have an additional challenge that many more people are using online services, of course, during COVID. So many more people are using online voter registration, for instance, or online tools to request their ballots. And we've got to make sure that those have backup, too. That if there's a denial of service attack or some other kind of attack against the systems that we have backup systems that we can turn to ensure that nobody is going to be deprived of their right to vote. I do think, you know, we're not just seeing attacks against our elections externally. There's been a lot in the media recently about the post office, impact on changes in rules in the post office about the ability to get people their ballots in time, their absentee ballot request, their registration forms. I think that the main thing that I take away from all of that is it's going to be really important to explain to voters the actions that they can take to ensure that they are able to vote and their votes get counted. And to me the most important thing that we can be communicating to voters frankly is that they should be they should be requesting their ballots early if they're going to vote by mail, that they should be voting early if they're going to be voting in person. The earlier we do all of these things, the less likely whatever the challenges are, whether it's cyberattacks, problems with mail voting - whatever it is - that we're going to be able to count their votes. So I'm really encouraging people to act early, to know the rules, to understand them and to do things as early as possible.

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Larry, can I jump in here while we still have you and ask, just in a few minutes since the Brennan Center is such a wonderful facility to have about research on voting, if you could say just a bit about your work on voter fraud and the extent of voter fraud and the extent to which people are concerned about it?

>>LAWRENCE NORDEN: Yeah. That's a great question. And it is exceptionally rare. You said this, Marjorie. In fact, you know, I mean, especially because there's been so much focus on mail voting, I'll talk to that point. We've been doing mail voting since the Civil War. We've learned a lot about how to make it secure. And we - you know, whether it's the Heritage Foundation, a very conservative organization, or the Washington Post that have done studies when you look at the numbers of incidents of alleged fraud, it is rarer for somebody to commit fraud than to get struck by lightning. It is exceptionally rare. And where it happens especially when we're talking about mail voting, it is almost always going to get caught. And now I want to provide three reasons for that, although there are several because there are a lot of layers of security around mail voting. But one is that in every state you have to return your mail ballot in a secrecy envelope. That secrecy envelope requires information that only the voter should have including a signature. In most places, more and more, there are bar codes connected to those mail ballots so people and election officials can see those ballots along the way when they go out, when they get to the voter, when they come back, where they are in the process, just like you would with any online package that you order so it can really be tracked along the way. And, of course, mail ballots are paper ballots, and so we can audit afterwards those paper ballots and make sure that the machines that are telling us what the totals are are accurate. We can look at the actual paper record and compare it. So there's a lot of security around mail voting that makes it extremely difficult to commit a successful fraud and, in fact, when we look at the numbers, what we see is that this is exceptionally rare for it to happen.

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Just a quick follow up to that, Larry. Do you know, in the past primary - do we have any data about any sort of fraud or cases where something went wrong here in Indiana?

>>LAWRENCE NORDEN: I'm not aware of any, in fact. As I said, it's extremely rare, so it's not unusual not to - to have zero in an election. And I wouldn't be surprised if that's what we're talking about in Indiana in this last election.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. I want to thank Larry Norden for being here with us today. Thanks for joining us for the first half of our program. Mr. Norden is the director of election reform program with the Brennan Center. So thank you very much and we're going to continue our program with Marjorie Hershey, a professor emeritus at Indiana University's Department of Political Science, Mark Fraley, Indiana University Political and Civic Engagement Associate Director, and Karen Wheeler, Monroe County election supervisor. You can send us your questions to news@indianapublicmedia.org. And you can also tweet us at @NoonEdition.

>>SARA WITTMEYER: This question is for Karen, and this is from Karen Levy on Twitter. Her question is will Monroe County have a drop off for ballots to avoid mail issues? And the second part of her question is can a person request ballots online or only by mail?

>>KAREN WHEELER: OK. Another good question. You can go to indianavoters.com and request an application for your ballot to be sent to you, or you can call our office, or you can also drop us a note - most people don't drop - don't request - well, yeah, usually they just call us or you go to indianavoters.com. And about the drop off - we had used a drop slot in the primary. There were a few things that we could do in the primary that the state allowed us to do that have now gone back to what we call normal election procedures, and that is - now, considering, there will not be an ability to drop them off in a box or a slot. You can bring them to election central anytime during early voting time. And the reason is that you can only bring in your own ballot or somebody that's in your household or if you have power of attorney. You cannot bring in your neighbor's ballot. It can be mailed, but you cannot bring that in. And even if you bring in your spouse's ballot, you will have to fill out a form, so it's easier if they just bring it in or mail it. But if you bring in your spouse's or your child's or whoever lives with you - their ballot, you'll have to fill out a form saying that you brought it in. It's just another layer of security. So we do not have and will not have any drop boxes around Monroe County. But I would also say to about the mail - there's two different ways of requesting or getting an - it's called an ABS mail request form. I mean - let me just back that up. There's two different things about mail. One is when you request it, and that's what Indiana has always done and Monroe County is always done that, and I don't think anyone's against that. The things that they're against is if you mail to everybody that is on the registration - everybody that has registered and is on the current books, which is 97,000 voters right now - they would all get a ballot whether they asked for it or not. And that would cause a lot of confusion and I would say a lot of concern because a lot would go to IU, and those students could have left six years ago, but they're still registered because they didn't cancel us out - cancel, they don't let us know, and then we would have all these ballots that would be sitting in mailboxes or in dormitories or apartments because - you know, for whatever reason. That is going to be overwhelming. But the mailed ballots by request are great. We greatly encourage that. And I agree with Larry, the sooner the better. Ask for them now. When you get your ballot, send it back. You won't get your ballot until September 19th or so if you request now, but earlier is better.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So if you request now, is that list of 12 things on the request and you have to mark, you know, which one qualifies you to get a ballot so you can vote by mail?

>>KAREN WHEELER: Yes. Yes. And the excuses are, like, if you're 65 or older, if you're handicapped, or if you're - have a reasonable expectation of being out of the county for that day or you work and you can't get to the poll in that 12 hours or you are a caregiver - there's a number of things. And if you qualify for that, you can just mark it. And people just need to know too that you're signing a legal affidavit. So we will not tell you what to mark because we can't legally do that. If something fits for you, mark it down and send it in and we'll send you the ballot.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. I want to ask Mark Fraley to put on your other hat now here - historic hat of being involved in local politics. You don't have to be partisan about it, but if you were a party chair right now trying to get members of your party to go out and vote, what would you be telling them?

>>MARK FRALEY: Well, I mean, I think right now I would be able to emphasize - whether I was a chair for any party - that, you know, the most important thing that we can actually do is make sure that we get everybody out to vote - that we can cast the voice and that you cast your vote from the White House to the courthouse, you know? And so that we can't ignore local elections that are on the ballot. We've got several excellent candidates for a judge on both sides of the aisle as well as county council, county commissioner, and we need to be able to take a look at elections in their entirety and see the ways in which elections intersect with our daily lives. And so I would - you know, and so both my - in my current role, as a nonpartisan associate director of the Political and Civic Engagement Program, I would encourage people to be able to look all the way up and down the ballot when casting their votes. And that's also, you know, the same thing that I would do whether I was the chair of any party.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And Margie Hershey, what is the - what's the difference in a presidential election year, typically, and what do you think is going to be the difference in terms of turnout in this presidential election year, assuming if everything was equal - you know, if the opportunities were the same as they always were?

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Normally, comparing turnout in different types of elections, presidential elections have the highest turnout. Nationally, that turnout rate in the past 20 years or so has been between about 55 and 60%. That means it's not very high. And compared to most other industrial democracies, we're really very down - farther down the list than we should be. Our turnout is really remarkably low. In off-year congressional elections, which we had in 2018, it's down further. Then, turnout is typically between about 36 and 40% of those who are eligible to vote. Now, remember, in 2018, we had a very different situation. We had a 50% turnout. And although that is only one in two people who are eligible to vote, it was a dickens of an increase over previous midterm elections. And I think that's probably a good indication of what's going to happen in 2020. I don't think Mark is going to have to worry too much about convincing people that it's important to vote. I think the interest in this election is unusually high. And as a result, an awful lot of people are going to take advantage of that opportunity, as they should. You know, when people start to worry about voting by mail - I mean, goodness, the federal government has had very little difficulty tracking us down by mail with respect to our income tax forms and lots and lots of other things. There's no reason why we can't do this by mail. The problem is, first of all, the impact on election administration - as Karen mentioned, this is really a challenge. And second, the possibility that, because of all these mail ballots having to be counted by hand in most cases, we won't know on election night who it is who won the presidency and other offices. The concern there is that there are some, including the president, who have already made a big point about the fact that, if we don't hear the results on election night, that what happens after that will constitute fraud - that there will be lots of people churning up non-existent votes. It just takes a while to count ballots. And it certainly doesn't say in the Constitution that we need to have election results on election night. They would've been totally astounded if that had been the case when the Constitution was written because it took weeks after that to count the votes. So another main concern I have is not so much whether there will be high turnout, but whether or not people, in an interested way, will try to raise questions about the legitimacy of the voting process that are probably not deservedly raised.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: You know - and when you think back about - you know, there's been - you know, we have a tendency to think about, you know, the last election or the last three elections or the last four elections, but has there been - have there been other times in our history where there was this much sort of concern or question or doubt about what could happen on election day?

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Well, I think that there has not been before this as organized an attempt to raise questions about the legitimacy of the vote as there had been now. I mean, that - you know, voting took place in a presidential election during the Civil War. That's how Abraham Lincoln was reelected. We've been at this for quite some time. But this year there's been a much more concentrated effort to say, if we don't have the results on election night and if there is a lot of voting by mail, there is reason to suspect that the election is rigged. And we didn't really hear that so much in 2008 or 2012. We heard a little bit actually from the winner in 2016 but not as much as we have in recent months now.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And Karen from, you know, your standpoint as a local election supervisor I mean have you been - have you heard these kinds of things from local voters or are you hearing on the front lines of voting any concerns about whether people's votes are going to be legitimate and going be counted properly?

>>KAREN WHEELER: I would like to think that the citizens of Monroe County have confidence in how this - how we've handled elections in the past. I think everyone is aware of so much. And so I'm sure there's concerns. We're definitely getting more requests than we normally do at this point. We probably have about 2,000 requests or mail ballots to be sent out. And I mentioned earlier in 2018 in that general election which was really pretty intense also we had 1,300. So we have surpassed that amount and we're pretty far out from the election in regards to mail ballots. Also in 2018 we had some precincts that actually voted 80%. So it was a really big high turnout. The average could have been 50%. I don't really remember that. But it was a lot. But they are concerned. But I'd like to say too that things that Larry had mentioned, you know, you want to make sure on polling day - polling sites on election day that we have the paper and that when we have people voting on machines that we have an ability to give them their ballot. Monroe County really doesn't have to worry about that so much because we're basically a paper ballot County. Every person pretty much all gets a paper ballot with the exception of someone who wants an electronic ballot or has requested it because of an ADA situation. So we are paper ballot. We have an easier ability to do a recount. And we do also have another backup - that we print all the poll books. You, like - you remember years ago we'd go to the poll site and they'd take these big books and they'd look for your name. It's all alphabetical.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Oh, yeah. I remember that.

>>KAREN WHEELER: Well, we print those. We have - we had them printed for the primary. We're going to print them again for the general. Just in case something happens that astronomical, that we cannot get to our e-poll books, we will have that backup and I think that should encourage the voters of Monroe County also.

>>SARA WITTMEYER: With limited vote by mail, can you just talk about really what is your capacity to, you know, socially distance for a large number of people to come and come vote in person. How can folks who are really worried about the virus know that it's going to be safe for them to come vote?

>>KAREN WHEELER: If somebody called me and said, is it safe to come and vote early? I would say - or if they said they don't want to because of their concern, I would probably ask them, do you go to Kroger? And probably their answer is yes. We are so much higher - on a higher level of everything for disinfecting and everything than any place that most people do go now, for instance Kroger or Sam's or Menards. When you walk in, you will get a disinfected pen, and you will keep that pen all the way through the process. We will have everyone spread out. We have our tables so (inaudible) is just a voter or a worker on each table, and they're 8 foot tables or so. And we did away with our Franklin booths. You remember - maybe you remember those. They were pretty. They were red white and blue. Four people can vote in one of them. They're kind of a circle with a curtain around them. Well, they're too hard to disinfect, so we just have tables in the height that you can just walk up to. And if you need assistance because you're in a wheelchair, we have lower tables. They are disinfected after each voter. And they will - voters will be restricted on how many can come into the building. And we have somebody at the door so that we just have enough people that each station has a person there. And when they move, then we add another person. It went really much better than I thought in the primary. And now we've had experience. So I think we'll do just as good if not a better job of it.

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Karen let me suggest as well that one thing that the people who are listening can think about is that of course it's our responsibility as well as the election officials to make sure that elections go smoothly. One of the challenges that election administrators have is that the folks who work at the polls are often people who are older and who therefore might have more reason to worry about working on election day because of the pandemic. So anybody here who is not so much at risk for COVID-19 or who has already had it and recovered might want to consider stepping up and volunteering to work at the polls in place of those people who otherwise feel that it's too much of a risk for them to do that.

>>KAREN WHEELER: Thank you. That is a great input there. And I forgot to mention that all the workers will be wearing masks or face shields. And we do have hand sanitizer when you walk in the door. We have hand sanitizer when you walk out the door. And we have workers that can wear gloves. It's their option. There's a lot of controversy on gloves too. Are they really better or are they not? Is it better just to keep your hands sanitized after each person? And that's (inaudible). Those are things that we're still - they're both available. So we have gloves and we have lots of hand sanitizer.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Sara, do you have another question?

>>SARA WITTMEYER: I'm sorry. No.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. All right. So then I'll move on and ask Mark Fraley again about, you know, what you see with civic engagement and of younger people and, you know, with the Black Lives Matter movement and with it - it seems like there's a lot of activism today. I mean, what do you anticipate in terms of voter turnout for people would be you know maybe in that 18 to 22-year-old age group?

>>MARK FRALEY: Well, I actually - I anticipate that voter turnout will actually defy compared to previous elections. And this is one of those things that we continue to be inspired by is the degree to which students really see expressing themselves as part of their commitment in daily life. And I think that's something that's really important. What we emphasize here is that voting is an important step, and it's only a first step - right? And so voting is a crucial part of a democracy. So is being engaged, so is being informed, so is meeting with your city council members and trying to be able to really develop citizenship as a regular practice in people's affairs. And so I've actually been quite encouraged with the extent that people on all sides of the aisle have really been able to take up the gavel of civic engagement and run forward with it. So I'm really optimistic that we're going to see a lot of enthusiasm among the students in this year's election, and I am really looking forward to seeing how that turns out.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. If you have questions or comments for us, we have about 10 minutes to go as all. You can send your questions or comments to news@indianapublicmedia.org. You can also contact us through Twitter @noonedition. I want to ask Marjorie Hershey about the vice presidential selection of Kamala Harris by Joe Biden. What do you think that brings to the Democratic ticket?

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: I think it was a very safe choice by Vice President Biden. I think that Kamala Harris was the person who many of us would have predicted he would have chosen. She has a lot of advantages for him. One is that, some commentators to the contrary, she identifies as African American. The fact that she is a person of color pays respect by the Democratic Party to the important role that women of color have played in Democratic politics over time. She has had experience as a prosecutor which although some people have different views about how she conducted her time as a prosecutor means that she may appeal to people who are not quite so left wing. The democratic party, at least the party and the electorate, the party among voters, is certainly about half liberal and half moderate. And that moderate end has made a real difference in Democratic politics in recent years. And that's a group to whom she will definitely appeal. She's also a prosecutor in the sense that she's just a very effective debater, a very effective speaker. That should certainly make a difference. I think that she will be very articulate in the debate against Vice President Pence and that she will speak very well for Vice President Biden.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Do you have any sense that President Trump might decide that he wants someone other than Mike Pence to be his vice president?

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: It's always possible. The president is not so easy to predict. He has said just in the last couple of days that he's not considering anybody else. And some people suggested well, that's a clear indication that he is thinking (laughter) about appointing somebody else. I think that it would be very difficult for president Trump given his constituency to move an evangelical Christian conservative person who has been extremely loyal to him off of the ticket. But President Trump has not had that much difficulty removing people who have been loyal to him under other circumstances. So I wouldn't put a lot of money on it.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And one other quick question for you, we haven't talked about the idea that the president floated the idea that maybe we should delay the election until after COVID. Could you talk about the sort of the realistic and, you know, not just the political but the constitutional background to him saying something like that.

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: That's a nonstarter. It's impossible because of the fact that the Constitution as amended says that the president will be inaugurated on January 20th. The Electoral College is required to meet in early December. So that's really not a feasible prospect. But I think what's most interesting about that is that the president floats a lot of things in his tweets and in his comments off the cuff. And the reaction to those comments tells him a lot about whether or not he can push this. And with respect to his postponing the election, the speaking out of a large number of prominent Republicans saying no, good try, no cigar, was a clear indication to him that this is not an option just as when he took a few military officials with him across the street to a church during the Black Lives Matter protest and was later - those officials were criticized for having joined him. And several retired generals tweeted out after that it is inappropriate for the military to take a partisan stance. I think these are indicators of whether or not President Trump would be able to get away with any further bending of the norms during and after the election.

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We had a question here for you Karen and a comment. So I'll read the comment first. Marilyn (ph) from Twitter says anyone who's ever counted absentee ballots knows there's very little room for fraud. There are many checks and balances to verify the voter's registered appropriately and have the vote being verified and counted is indeed from that voter matching the signature and the address. So it seems to go along with everything you said Karen.

>>KAREN WHEELER: Yes.

>>SARA WITTMEYER: And then we got a question from Patricia (ph) just wondering what can election officials do to ensure we don't run out of ballots like we did in 2018 at some polling places. And the other question, also do we have backup machines just in case?

>>KAREN WHEELER: We do have backup e-poll books at every location and have done that for a long time. And the issue with the lack of ballots, you didn't see it in the primary. You're not going to see it in the general. There has been changes made. And I have great confidence that that is not an issue.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right.

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: I think it's...

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Go ahead.

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: I think that it's something that we realize how hard it is to be an elected official in charge of elections. Because if the clerk had run off huge numbers of extra ballots in 2016 and they haven't been used, she probably would've been criticized for wasting taxpayers' money. So it's not easy to be able to hit the right balance.

>>KAREN WHEELER: Right.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We have less than two minutes to go, so I just want to give each of you like 30 seconds to send kind of your last nonpartisan message to people out there listening about voting, the safety of voting, whether they need to vote. And let's just start with Mark

>>MARK FRALEY: Yeah. I'll say for everyone out there, you know, please vote it is your right. It's also a very important way to be able contribute. I also want to be able to give a shout out to Karen and the work - the excellent work that folks in election central do. I know how hard they work day and night to be able to make sure that these elections work in a fair and just way. And so you know my hat's off to you and your team.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Thank you. Karen?

>>KAREN WHEELER: Thanks Mark. We have worked together before haven't we? So yes my thing is request early, vote early. And if you're willing to come and work on Election Day or if you want to help on early voting, give us a call. 812-32 - excuse me 349-2690.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Give that number again.

>>KAREN WHEELER: 812-349-2690.

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Great. And Margie Hershey, last 30 seconds.

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: I think those people who might have assumed from what we've been talking about that there will be a huge turnout of young voters might want to temper that by realizing that people over the age of 65 are twice as likely to vote as people under the age of 25. And that for those of my students who are always complaining, why is it that Social Security is always being discussed in campaigns? I think it's important to ask them well, did you go vote. And if you didn't, then isn't it perfectly obvious why we're discussing Social Security more often than college student loans?

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Thank you very much for that insight. I want to thank our three guests, all four of our guests, but our three guests who are still with us, Marjorie Hershey professor emeritus of the IU's department of political science, Mark Fraley Indiana University political and civic engagement associate director, and Karen Wheeler Monroe County elections supervisor. Thanks for all you do, and thanks for being here with us. I want to thank my co-host Sara Wittmeyer and producers Bente Bouthier and John Bailey and Mark Chilla, engineers Matt Stonesifer and Mike Paskash. I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening to Noon Edition.

>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Noon Edition is a production of WIFU public radio. A podcast of this program is available at wifu.org. Production support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at smithville.com. And from the Bloomington Health Foundation, partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation, improving health and well-being takes a community. More at bloomhf.org.

election

(WFIU/WTIU News)

With the presidential election less than three months away, states and local election officials are preparing for the challenges COVID-19 adds to the process.

For primaries this summer, Indiana residents had the option to cast an absentee ballot without an excuse.

Indiana Governor Holcomb stated that the same option would not be available to Hoosiers come November, and that only Hoosiers who fell into approved categories would be able to vote by mail.

Many Hoosiers have called for Holcomb to support no-excuse mail-in voting as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state.

Local election officials across the county say processing the increased number of vote-by-mail applications and ballots for the primaries was a huge undertaking, but finding poll workers for November will also be difficult.

Many states have seen an increase in vote-by-mail applications for November.

According to the New York Times, at least three-quarters of Americans will be eligible to vote-by-mail in November.

President Donald Trump suggested in a series of tweets a couple of weeks ago, delaying November's election because increased mail-in voting would leave US elections susceptible to foreign interference.

Political analysts say President Trump's comments are unfounded, undermine the credibility of the election, and pose a threat to democracy.

He said yet this week he does not support any supplementary funding for the US Postal Service, which has taken a financial hit because of the pandemic. He did acknowledge this week that without supplementary funding, the U.S. Postal Service would not be able to handle the influx of mailed ballots come November.

Supplementary funding for the U.S. Postal Service is part of the HEROES Act, a second wave of coronavirus relief legislation, which has been delayed.

This week, Senator Kamala Harris became the first Black woman and Asian-American on a major party presidential ticket. Former Vice President Joe Bidden announced she would be his running mate.

This week we're talking about upcoming elections and what Hoosiers should expect as November approaches.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at news@indianapublicmedia.org.

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air.

Guests

Marjorie Hershey, professor emeritus Indiana University Department of Polictial Science

Mark Fraley, Indiana University Political And Civic Engagement Director

Karen Wheeler, Monroe County Election Supervisor

Lawrence Norden, Brennan Center for Justice director

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