Republican confidence in the election is up a bit. But the next two years will be crucial

If we are to save democracy in this country – and make no mistake, this fight is being fought right now – voters must have confidence in the electoral system. And there’s a little good news on that front.

A poll published On Thursday, the Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR) showed that more GOP voters have confidence in the US election than a year ago. Has there been a sudden surge of common sense, a realization that voter fraud is extremely rare in the USA?

Wait. The poll also shows that many GOP voters continue to cling to unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud, and — not surprisingly — those who supported Donald Trump hold these mistaken beliefs the most.

This creates a schism within the Republican Party. It appears other GOP voters — those who aren’t Trump — are now more in tune with independents and Democrats when asked to consider how the 2022 midterm elections were organized and administered in their community and their state. And even when asked about the national election, Republican confidence in the election was nearly double that of the 2020 election — rising from 32% in 2021 to 57% in this latest poll.

Fifty-seven percent isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than 32 percent.

The Trump Factor

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that Trump continues to fuel a division in the United States that doesn’t seem to be going away. And time is running out for the 2024 presidential election.

The poll noted that Republicans in Florida were particularly confident in the 2022 election — more so than Republicans nationwide, and that there was substantial bias created by the results. In other words, if your candidate won — as Governor Ron DeSantis did in Florida — you were more likely to have high faith in the system.

David Becker, executive director and founder of CEIR, called the poll’s overall findings “significant progress” in voter confidence. But he also warned that progress is fragile.

“It’s crucial to the health of American democracy that citizens believe our nation’s voting systems are strong and that their votes will be counted,” he said. “We know that when voters are fed lies about our elections, that trust wanes and, as we saw on January 6, 2021, the consequences can be disastrous.”

Becker has references from both sides of the aisle. He served as senior counsel in the Justice Department polling division in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. And CEIR is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works with election officials across the country, regardless of party affiliation.

Conditional trust

Interestingly, the poll indicated that GOP voters were particularly likely to believe in the prevalence of fraud and miscounted votes in states other than their own. This follows the results on Florida.

But what to do now? Ignoring the nagging problem of resentful Trump voters won’t work. But voter education may be the answer – or at least an answer. A number of respondents indicated that their confidence in the electoral system would improve with measures such as voter ID verification, even when they lived in states that already had such measures. Election officials, whose work is based on the notion of fair elections, and other pro-democracy groups need to give this some serious thought.

Becker called the next two years “pivotal” when it comes to continuing to build trust with voters. Those on the front lines of democratic elections must lead the way.

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