The Pulse

Election fraud rhetoric is a troubling sign for democracy, a Duke political scientist says

By: - October 20, 2022 12:50 pm
Adriane Fresh, Duke University

Candidates repeating the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen and saying they won’t accept election results unless they win “is worrying and has implications for the stability of our democracy,” a Duke University political scientist said this week.

A New York Times investigation found that most Republicans running for Congress, governor, attorney general or secretary of state this year questioned or denied the 2020 presidential election results.

About half of U.S. adults are very confident that votes in the midterm election will be counted accurately, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, but 45% of Republicans have little or no confidence in the accuracy of the vote count.

Democracy is not simply a set of institutions, Duke political scientist Adriane Fresh told reporters this week but also “the shared belief that those institutions are functioning according to their intended rules. Research shows that democracy is fragile absent citizen belief in its legitimacy.”

Election offices have been bombarded with requests for public records from election deniers, WUNC has reported. Fresh said she was not worried that fulfilling those requests has taken officials away from election preparations because laws allow flexibility in how quickly documents must be supplied. But those massive requests may have long-term consequences if election offices don’t have enough people or money to respond, or if the inundation contributes to experienced officials leaving and keeps others from accepting those jobs.

People who talk about election integrity but work to undermine it and back candidates who support undemocratic processes reveal “a concerning apathy for democracy,” Fresh said.

“Overall, when we consider the clear evidence that our democratic institutions function freely and fairly it becomes more clear that many people are using this rhetoric of democratic integrity for partisan or otherwise undemocratic purposes,” she said.

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.