In order to combat those sowing chaos and backing conspiracy theories about possible results, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter Wednesday to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to create a bipartisan committee to “guarantee the integrity of our election process” ahead of November voting.
The letter (pdf), which was written in response to what Sanders (I-Vt.) called “the disturbing rise in attacks on the fundamental security and legitimacy of our elections,” pressures McConnell (R-Ky.) to form the committee “to hear testimony from state and local officials, election experts, and others to reassure the American people that the election will go smoothly and reliably.”
“Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the integrity of our elections,” Sens. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sanders wrote. “Sadly, there are some who are systematically undermining public confidence in the voting process, and irresponsibly fanning suspicions and conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of election results.”
“With the election less than two months away the Senate should immediately establish a special bipartisan committee, with equal representation from both parties,” the senators continued. “The function of that committee must be to hold hearings about what is being done around the country to make certain that our public institutions are prepared to conduct a smooth and reliable election which will be free from voter suppression and intimidation, that every vote will be counted, and that there will be confidence in the ultimate outcome.”
We must reassure the American people that vote-by-mail is safe, every ballot will be counted, and our election will be free and fair.@SenSchumer and I are calling on Sen. McConnell to act in a bipartisan way to restore public confidence in our democracy. https://t.co/Q8Q897eukc— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 16, 2020
The senators praise McConnell in the letter for being clear that voting by mail in our country is “well-established, reliable,” and that “many parts of our country vote by mail.”
“This is precisely the kind of reassurance that American voters need going into this election, especially at a time when mail-in ballots will be at a record high because of safety concerns amid the pandemic,” they wrote.
Sanders and Schumer assert that the proposed committee must hold hearings that include state and local officials who would share how they plan to proceed on Election Day and beyond. These hearings would focus on confirming the security of—and confidence in—vote-by-mail systems, ensuring every vote is counted and accurately reported, and preparing for possible post-election scenarios, some of which could potentially “result in unrest and even violence.”
Earlier this month, Sanders sounded the alarm about a possible “nightmare scenario” in which President Donald Trump misleads Americans about the legitimacy of election results or refuses to voluntarily leave office if he is voted out.
.@SenSanders warns of a “nightmare scenario” if Biden wins and Trump refuses to leave office. Sanders says it would be the “worst constitutional crisis in the history of this country”—one he hopes would prompt “a coming together of progressives, moderates, of conservatives.” pic.twitter.com/eJ1JqDRG2M— Firing Line with Margaret Hoover (@FiringLineShow) September 11, 2020
“Trump is now using his lies and misinformation to sow confusion and chaos in the election process and undermine American democracy,” the former Democratic presidential candidate stated in an email to his supporters. “In other words, he does not intend to accept the results of the election if he loses and leave office voluntarily. This is not just a ‘constitutional crisis.’ This is a threat to everything this country stands for.”
Sanders isn’t alone in his concern. As Common Dreams recently reported, researchers at the Democratic data firm Hawkfish have warned of a so-called “red mirage” in which Trump appears to win by a landslide on November 3 only to lose ground—and the election—as millions of mail-in ballots are counted in the ensuing days.
Trump and his Republican supporters have already done much to cast doubt upon the legitimacy of the 2020 election while seeking to make voting more difficult for people likely to oppose him, including:
- Hamstringing the U.S. Postal Service by reducing and eliminating mail delivery;
- Engaging in voter suppression and disenfranchisement by restricting ballot access, purging voter rolls, and closing polling places or limiting their operation;
- Casting aspersions upon the legitimacy of mail-in voting in order to undermine voter confidence;
- Spreading anti-democratic rhetoric, including talk of postponing the election;
- Attempting to invalidate laws meant to make voting during the pandemic easier;
- Encouraging supporters to commit voter fraud by voting for him twice—a felony; and
- Dismissing actual threats to electoral security, chiefly foreign interference.
“We believe this issue is above partisan politics,” Sanders and Schumer wrote in their letter. “It is about the very essence of American democracy.”