2020 Election: Encouraging Voter Turnout
with Hon. Paul Pate of the National Association of Secretaries of State
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election.
Hon. Paul Pate of the National Association of Secretaries of State discusses efforts to ensure Americans are equipped with information related to voter registration, voting laws, and more ahead of the 2020 election.
Mar 02, 2020
Hyland: Americans voted in record numbers in the 2016 presidential election. Two years later, voter turnout was the highest of any midterm election since 1914. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Sheila Hyland. The 2020 election is quickly approaching. What efforts are being made to encourage voter turnout and keep the momentum going? Joining me is the Honorable Paul Pate. He is Iowa secretary of state and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Thank you so much, Secretary Pate, for being with us today.
Pate: It's a pleasure.
Hyland: So, a record turnout -- 137.5 million Americans turned out for the presidential election of 2016. That represents 61.4% of the voting population. What are your predictions for 2020? Another record year?
Pate: Well, I suspect so when you see how many candidates are running for president already and a lot of the activity going on in each of the states. I think you're going to see a very high number.
Hyland: What are you doing in your association in particular to get people to the polls? Aside from the fact that it's a big election year, of course. We see that 61.4% of the voting population came out last time. That's still quite a few people who aren't getting to the polls.
Pate: Certainly. Our job is something we have to do every single day, 365 days a year, when it comes to voter registration. We want to make sure that Americans know how easy it is to register to vote, where they can register to vote, and what are the requirements to be a registered voter. And that's part of what we do in our jobs and each of our states. We use everything from social media to working with various government outlets to many states even have online voter registration. So we've got a full-court press going on.
Hyland: You've got a specific campaign going on right now - the Trusted Info 2020. Tell us about that and also where voters can go to get more information.
Pate: I think the Trusted Info 2020 is an important effort because we want Americans to know they can count on us as their source. When I say "us" -- election officials, both at the state and county, local levels, because sometimes there's misinformation or disinformation being put out there far too often. And we don't want people to become disillusioned or confused about the process. And that is going to be happening more, unfortunately, and until that gets corrected, we're there as a source.
Hyland: Yeah. It's part of the political landscape now. Misinformation. Exactly. what are you doing to address that, though? And how are you getting people to come to you for that information?
Pate: Part of it is doing interviews like this and in our own localities as well as nationally reminding the public to go to their election officials' site for the information. And ask the question. If they see something that looks a little strange, they should follow up to make sure it's not being misled on that information. And we're doing a lot more public education in every form possible, whether it's TV, radio, newsprint, going to civic clubs -- you name it. We're gonna be on every street corner telling folks.
Hyland: Some folks think that maybe their vote doesn't really count. After every election, we hear about voting irregularities, ballot machines not working and so forth. How do you assure people that their vote counts?
Pate: Well, I can tell you, speaking for myself as the Iowa secretary of state, we take it very seriously. I tell people, "I can assure you that your vote will count." We use paper ballots in Iowa. But we also have your neighbors working as poll workers to make sure that that process is going. Many states have post-election audits to make sure your vote is being counted. But even ask the candidates. They know who votes, frankly, in the sense of what demographic is going to be a voter. Well, let's shake them up a little bit. If you all go and vote, it makes the candidates have to listen to everybody, so your voice truly is going to be important.
Hyland: You mentioned we still have paper ballots in many places, too. Is that changing? Will that be the case a decade on down the line?
Pate: I don't know where we'll be at in a decade. I can tell you at this time, many states use paper ballots. Others use a combination of a paper ballot and some type of computerized format. But I think as we go forward and if technology can be secured, we'll seriously look at those options. But for right now, we're in a mode where we want every American to know that vote is secure. When you cast that ballot, we have put all the safety measures in to assure you that it is being counted.
Hyland: You talked about voter security or the vote being secure. The Department of Homeland Security actually designated elections as a critical infrastructure. What exactly does that mean?
Pate: Well, it indicates that the federal government thinks it's something that has to be protected and we need to have a national focus on it. Clearly, elections are outlined to be run locally, state level. But we have appreciated the opportunity to have partners, and Homeland Security is one of those. The FBI. All these entities working with us collectively gives us that much better of a chance of making sure we're doing it right and, again, we can assure voters that we've got their back.
Hyland: Again, if people want more information, what is the website they should go to?
Pate: It's NASS -- N-A-S-S -- .org
Hyland: And we hope they will take you up on that as well.
Hyland: Secretary Paul Pate with the National Association of Secretaries of State, thank you for being with us, and thank you for watching. For more great conversations with leaders from your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Sheila Hyland.