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David Daley on Unrigging the System | Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV


♪ [Opening Music] ♪>>>Hi, I’m Bob Herbert.
Welcome to OP-ED.TV. The presidential election
this year is one of the most important of our
lifetimes, but will it be a free and fair election? Will everybody who has
a right to vote you get a chance to vote? I’ll
ask my guest, David Daley. He’s the author of a new
book called “Unrigged: How Americans are Battling Back
to Save Our Democracy.” David, welcome. Thanks
for doing this. I appreciate it.>>>Pleasure. Thanks
for having me, Bob.>>>So, David, we’re
going to talk about your book in a moment. But before that you have an
article that has the provocative and very scary headline. “This is how Trump steals
this election.” What were you talking
about? What’s going on?>>>Well, we are in
unprecedented times, right? We are about to attempt a
national election in the middle of a pandemic, and
what nobody knows right now is what the fall is going to
look like in this country. What we do know is it’s going to
be extraordinarily difficult to have in person voting as usual. We just saw in Wisconsin, a
horrific display that I think ought to, you know, shock
and sadden all Americans. This image of folks lined
up to vote in person in the middle of the pandemic, ordered
to do so by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, both of which
met at home to make that order in the city of Milwaukee, 5 of
180 precincts were able to open. We need to learn some lessons
from what happened in Wisconsin. We are 180 days out
from this election. There’s a lot of work
that has to be done. Or else there’s going to be a
lot of Americans who worry that showing up to vote is going
to put their life and their loved one’s life in danger. It might be really, really
difficult for folks who were used to registering to vote
in person over the summer at county fairs or high school
graduations or football games. Where are they
going to register? If we are doing all of this
voting by mail, if states are going to go from 10% absentee
ballots up to 70 or 80%, this is, as we saw in Wisconsin,
it’s a significant hurdle for overwhelmed and underfunded
election boards to manage. They have to print
all of these ballots. They have to mail them out. They have to decide whether
folks need to first request an absentee ballot and then get
one, which adds another step and layer into this entire process. We have to be sure that
the postal service is strong and still operating.
There’s so much going on. We know that the president
cannot move the date of the election by himself. But–>>>How do we know that? Explain to viewers how we
know that he can’t move the date of the election.>>>Well, Congress has
authority over that, it is, it is a federal statute and has
been that way for a long time. Election day is, is the
Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The president can’t do
anything about that. We’re going to hold a vote. The question is what kind of
vote and whether it will be free and fair and secure and safe.>>>And you were mentioning
the postal service. If we do, if we do get to vote
by mail, and we’re going to talk a little bit more about
that pretty soon, but Trump, among many other things,
has expressed hostility toward the postal service. Do you have a sense
of what that’s about?>>>Boy. I imagine, you
know, conservatives have had trouble with the post office
for a long time, right? I mean, back in the, in the
George Bush era, they, that they attempted to settle the
post office with, with all of its pension obligations
for, you know, the next 30 years, they had to keep in
reserves, a requirement that, you know, no other company
or a government entity faces. And I imagine back then it
was probably more about, they’re trying to please their,
their donors at FedEx or UPS or what have you, and right
now, right, Trump is at war with Jeff Bezos of Amazon. So, perhaps his war on the
postal services in many ways to try to raise prices to make
Amazon pay more, who knows?>>>And of course, there’s a
lot of thinking out there that if we do go more heavily toward
vote by mail, it’s to Trump and the Republicans’ advantage,
if that becomes more difficult than it even needs to be.>>>Yeah. I think
that’s, I think that’s right. What we have to do is try
to make voting easier and to remove all of these
artificial barriers. This is not out of any
sense of partisan purpose. Every study out there
over, over years has shown that there is no partisan
advantage to vote by mail. It’s going to be just as hard
for senior citizens in Florida to vote as it is for, you
know, Democrats in New York. The poll workers who are
often at the polls who make our democracy work
on election day, they tend to be elderly volunteers. They are not people who,
who, you know, necessarily want to be out there
doing this job that day. This is about health and safety. It’s about a free and
fair election, not about gaining partisan advantage.
But it’s a heavy lift. It’s not easy to ramp up and
do a vote by mail election. There’s a lot that we
have to be thinking about. There’s a lot of public
education that has to be done. It costs money, and that money
has to be allocated and spent. And I worry right now that
we are running out of time. I also worry that, you know,
part of the political strategy of the right here is to delay
and slow it down in some states. And if that happens, we just saw
in Wisconsin and then in Ohio, before that governors in court,
the day before an election trying to hit the pause button. I don’t think we want to face
the same kind of situation in this country, in 50 states.>>>That we faced in Wisconsin. You know, interesting,
interestingly enough though you were mentioning that
the Wisconsin thing, and of course, it was the Republican
legislature that wanted that election to be held, the
Democrats in Wisconsin wanted to postpone the election.
It was a health hazard. It’s in the middle of this
pandemic, as you pointed out and we were trying to get
people to practice social distancing and so if you could
avoid for the time being, having people crowded into
polling places, that would be the wise thing to do. The Republicans decided,
no, that’s no good. And they went to
court and fought it. But ultimately that
backfired, didn’t it?>>>It did. What had happened in Wisconsin,
you know, to get up into the weeds a little bit, it was
the day of the Democrat– of the Democratic presidential
primary, but there was another election on the ballot that day
as well, like crucial a seat on Wisconsin State Supreme Court. And the thinking by Republicans
in Wisconsin was that a lower turnout election, especially
a lower turnout in, in cities like Milwaukee, where they
simply were only able to open up 3% of the polling stations,
would make it easier for the Republican candidate to win the
State’s Supreme Court election. In fact, the Democrat won.>>>You mentioned in your
article, again, that title I’m fascinated by it, “This is how
Trump steals the election,” but you mentioned several nightmare
scenarios in that article, and of course, one of the scenarios
has to do with this complicated and outmoded and outdated
electoral college system that we have in this country. What is your nightmare
scenario related to the electoral college?>>>This is the nuclear
nightmare scenario, but I think we have to be talking about it. And it is quite simply, we
don’t vote for the president of the United States.>>>Individual voters
themselves don’t vote for the president of
the United States.>>>Exactly. We vote for
electoral college electors. And state legislatures
have allowed us in their kindness to do so. But article two, section one
of the Constitution, does give the authority to pick
electors to state legislatures. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed this
time and again, most recently in Bush versus Gore in 2000
when the disputed election in Florida was continuing towards
the deadline for the electoral college to meet and efficiently
choose the president. Florida’s legislature
said, we’re going to go ahead and appoint electors. And that Supreme Court
said they would have been well within their rights. So, what I would, I would,
I would pause it, are some situations like this. Let’s say, let’s say that the
virus comes back in the fall and let’s say that it is really
hard to do in person voting in the panhandle of Florida. And let’s say Republicans decide
that the election has not been fair because the GOP areas in
the state were not able to vote. And perhaps Biden wins the
popular vote in Florida, but it ends up in court
and it is slowed down. And then Republican electoral
say, well, we have the authority and responsibility to appoint
electors and we’re going to push our own slate forward. This could happen in Wisconsin. It could happen in Pennsylvania. It could happen in Arizona. There are all of these sort of
gerrymandered state legislatures that Republicans control. And they could, if they
desire, find a way to attempt to appoint electors. Now there’s, you know, to get
a little more technical on it, it’s unclear whether a governor
would also have to be involved.>>>Right. So, it
gets complicated. You could have a Republican
controlled legislature with a Democratic governor. If the governor is involved,
presumably the governor could be tow or take
whatever steps–>>>And the Supreme Court
perhaps, where we have seen–>>>Right.>>>John Roberts’ definition
of legislature is, John Robert” definition of legislature is
not the legislative process that includes the governor.
It is just the legislature. It is the meaning of the word. This was the 2015,
a case from Arizona involving the independent
redistricting commission. Roberts was on the losing
side of that argument, but the court has changed since 2015.>>>You brought up John
Roberts as if you were anticipating my next question. You have written about the
chief justice that John Roberts has done a significant,
perhaps permanent damage to the health of our democracy. Now, what we’ve been
talking about, of course, is the combination of voter
suppression and extreme gerrymandering primarily by
Republicans over the past several years, including
crucial Supreme Court decision. So, talk about John Roberts’
role and why you think that what he’s done has been so egregious?>>>And I would say,
you know, time and again, whether this is closing the
federal courts to partisan gerrymandering claims or gutting
the heart of the key enforcement mechanisms of the voting rights
act and Shelby County versus Holder, you know, now forcing
citizens to risk their lives and vote during a pandemic, in
the Ohio case, Husted versus A. Philip Randolph Institute
that, you know, made it possible for states to
conduct, you know, egregious purges of voting roles. The Supreme Court is time
and again cited against the voting rights and in favor of
efforts that make it harder for citizens to make their voice
count and their voice heard. I mean, Roberts likes to talk
about, he is, he’s an umpire. He’s simply calling
balls and strikes. But he’s always calling
balls and strikes differently for different sides.>>>He is a partisan
balls and strikes.>>>Whenever the collective
weight of a decade of these five, four party line court
decisions on voting rights, you know, has been to warp our
democracy in really dangerous ways and to push political
power towards the right. There’s a political
project underway, right? That we have a political party
in this country that has decided that instead of trying to talk
to all Americans that they are going to double down on an
older aging white base of the party, and they’re able to get
away with this in part, thanks to the geography of the nation
and the way that the Senate is set up, and then they’re
able to do it with extreme partisan gerrymandering and by
having, you know, Federalists Society appointees on the
bench, who are willing to uphold all of these egregious
assaults on our democracy.>>>Why, why do you think
and now I want to step back and see if we can take or
see if you can take a wider picture of what’s been going
on for the past several years. Because we’ve been looking
at it for a long time now. We have a country of over
300 million people, and it’s supposed to be a republic. It’s supposed to be a form of
democracy in which voters have the final say on policy and
what goes on in the country. If you really hold democratic
values, you would want as many people as possible to
participate, which means as many people as possible to vote. And yet what we have is
this incredible breakdown. We have one side, which for
the most part is trying very hard, sometimes desperately,
to get as many people to vote as possible to make it
easier to vote in the U.S. and then the other side who is
doing everything imaginable, they’ve even been, they’ve
been very creative, to get as few people as possible to
vote, to prevent people from exercising their right to vote. Why do we have this breakdown
and why is it that the opponents of democracy have
seemed to have been prevailing?>>>When your political
strategy is based on making it harder for the other side to
vote, you know, it’s time to take a good hard look at what
you believe in as a party. I would say this, a lot of this
starts with the extreme partisan gerrymandering that was set
loose on the nation in 2011. As you said, we’re a nation
of 300 million, 59 million of us live in a state right now
in which one or both chambers of the state legislature is
controlled by the party that won fewer votes in 2018.>>>Isn’t that something?>>>Almost one in five of us
and by the way, all 59 million of those people live in states
where Democrats got more votes and Republicans hold the power.>>>And I don’t think a lot
of Americans understand that. That is democracy turned
on its head when the party that gets fewer votes is the
party that holds the power.>>>Consistently
again and again, and then they use that power. I mean, if you, if you look
across the south especially, the first thing that
gerrymandered legislatures do is go after voting rights. You look at North Carolina
where they enact a brutal voter ID bill, that Federal
Court said was surgically targeted to keep minority
voters from going to the polls. Republicans researched the
exact forms of ID that African Americans in North Carolina
were least likely to have, and then they eliminated those. They researched the days
that African Americans in North Carolina were most
likely to vote early, and then they eliminated those. If you look in in Georgia, the
crosscheck, the policies that then the secretary of state
now governor, Brian Kemp and the way that, you know, those
knocked tens of thousands of democratic voters and voters
of color off of voting roles. You look at precinct closures
and voter roll purges and ending absentee balloting in states. And all of this begins to
have an effect, especially in super close elections, right? I mean, Donald Trump loses
the popular vote by 2.8 million votes in 2016 but he
wins the electoral college by 80,000 votes in three deeply
gerrymandered states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The margin in Wisconsin
is 22,000 votes. And the voter ID bill that the
gerrymandered legislature in Wisconsin enacted, a federal
court said that that kept 300,000 people from having
the ID necessary to vote. These suppression methods
matter and to tie it back to the chief justice, so much of
them were made possible in 2013 by his five, four decision in
Shelby County versus Holder, that essentially gutted the
enforcement mechanisms of the voting rights act that would
have required all of these states with a history of racist
voting patterns and actions by state legislatures to get there
and new provisions approved at the justice department.>>>What’s interesting is
that John Roberts understands that issue, understands
the implications as well as anyone in this country.>>>Well, John Roberts
showed up in Washington in the early 1980s as a young
aide and the justice department, and immediately
got to work on trying to undo–>>>Right, right. This is
happenstance.>>>Oh, no, no.>>>So, you have said, getting
back to the issue of we’re having to vote in the midst
of this pandemic and we hope that there’s not a resurgence
in the fall, but of course we know that that’s also possible. You have said that what we
need to do and what we should understand that we need to
do is just have widespread voting by mail, this year in
the presidential election. So, explain, if you
could imagine the best scenario possible in terms
of the voting process. How would this
voting by mail work?>>>The best scenario
possible would be that every registered voter in
the nation gets a ballot. And that they are able to
vote absentee and that they do not have to do it, using
any excuse and what so ever. What we have in this country,
you know, and it goes back to what we were just talking
about is this patchwork of electoral laws all across the
country and there are some states where it’s easier to
vote than it is in others. So, in two thirds of all
states, you can vote absentee right now without an excuse. But in one third you’ve got
to have a specific excuse and believe it or not, Texas
and Missouri and a lot of these states are saying a
pandemic is not one of them.>>>That’s not a good excuse.>>>Not enough. You know, there are states where
you have to have an absentee ballot notarized like Oklahoma.
It was constant elsewhere. Well, it’s really hard
to get to a notary in the middle of a pandemic.>>>It’s really so absurd. What’s happening in this
country is tragic in terms of the pandemic itself,
but also what’s happening to the democratic process
is tragic in its own way. Now, it’s been tough to
get any good news recently about on any front. But your book “Unrigged”
does talk about people fighting back against all of these abuses
that we’ve been talking about for the past several minutes. So, tell us a little
bit about the ways in which people are fighting
back and who’s doing it.>>>I think there’s
so much to be hopeful and optimistic about on this front. I think people are aware of
the big structural electoral problems in this country,
and they are working hard to solve them and it’s happening. If you look in Michigan,
Michigan was one of five states in 2018 that enacted
a redistricting reform that will make it much harder for
politicians to gerrymander districts after the 2020 census. And it all started with a
27-year-old woman who puts up a post on Facebook two
days after the presidential election in 2016, that she
wanted to do something about partisan gerrymandering in
the state, and then she adds an emoji at the end of it. It builds this amazing coalition
of hundreds of thousands of people across Michigan who
signed petitions and got this on the ballot, and they won with
the more than 60% of the vote. You had the amazing case in
Florida of Desmond Meade and the fight to restore voting
rights to 1.4 million former felons in the state who had lost
their right to vote permanently because of a conviction,
oftentimes a really minor conviction would cost people
their right to vote forever. Florida restored those rights.
64% people in the state voted.>>>So, there are some
good things going on.>>>Absolutely.>>>And there is even
in these dark times some reason for optimism. We’re going to have
to stop it there. My guest has been David
Daley and his new book, which is an important book. And, and also, a book that
can give you a little bit of a jolt of optimism. It’s called “Unrigged:
How Americans are Battling Back to Save Democracy.”
David, thank you.>>>Thank you, Bob.
I really appreciate it. Dr. King talked about the moral
arc of the universe being long but bending towards justice. And I think all of us
have got to get our hands on that arc and pull.>>>I’m with you on that. To
our viewers, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching
and we’ll see you next time. ♪ [Closing Music] ♪


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