Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UW professor says rhetoric from President Trump about voting process is 'anti-democratic'

Bartender Sam Schilke watches election results on television at a bar and grill Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Portland, Ore.
Paula Bronstein
The Associated Press
Bartender Sam Schilke watches election results on television at a bar and grill Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Portland, Ore.

The predictions turned out to be true — that we would not know the result of the presidential contest on Election Night, and that there would be false claims in the meantime.

Last night, President Donald Trump incorrectly claimed victory, with no basis for doing so. At the time of his remarks from the East Room of the White House, neither candidate was close to the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency.

To understand the national picture, we turn to a voice right here in the Northwest.

Kate Starbird is a professor at the University of Washington, and one of the lead researchers behind the Election Integrity Partnership, which looks into election-related misinformation. She talked with KNKX All Things Considered host Ed Ronco. 


On Trump "pre-delegitimizing" the vote: “It was almost surprising in that it was so well aligned with what we'd been expecting and further just kind of supported these false narratives that they've been pushing for months now about the election being rigged, about mail-in ballots being, in particular, subject to voter fraud. This idea that there was some sort of systematic voter fraud that was going to deprive him of his win. And that's what we saw him kind of carry through the message last night in a way that was shocking, because it's so anti-democratic. And yet not even surprising for those of us who've been watching this happen over the last few months.”

On the damage done to the trust in our system: “They’ll take cases where mail has been disrupted or thrown away in some way: Ballots have been discarded. A voting machine didn't work correctly. Mistakes and errors that are kind of common when you have this huge enterprise… And they'll take these cases and they'll take them out of context. They'll claim that the errors are or are purposeful and part of the strategy and part of a voter fraud strategy. When they're not, they're usually accidental and then they'll exaggerate the impact of those.

“And then on top of that, most of the problems that they pointed out are things that had solutions. They were remedied. … And so the evidence, with air quotes, the evidence is actually not evidence. It's these cherry-picked cases that are put together to make this mirage a systematic voter fraud. That's not real.”

On rebuilding trust in the system: “This is going to be the million dollar question. We've got a massive turnout on a razor thin election in some ways. And we've got one group of supporters of a candidate who's trying to undermine trust in the process. So we're losing trust in each other. We're losing common ground. We're losing trust in the democratic process. We as a society are all in danger if we can't bring some of that back together. How do we start building bridges between each other? How do we start building back trust in the election processes? And how do we start building back that common ground that we need to stand upon to govern ourselves, which is what a democratic society does?”

Listen to the full conversation above.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.