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Duke scholars stress confidence in voting, election security as campaign season hits a fever pitch

Never before in our nation’s history have we been faced with voting during a pandemic, real concerns about election security, and a president who won’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

If all of those things have you more than a little stressed out, two scholars at Duke University have some advice: Trust the voting system, be a critical consumer of social media, and be patient when the results are counted in November.

National security expert and Rubenstein Fellow Sue Gordon

This week, Sue Gordon, a former top official in the U.S. intelligence community, and Judith Kelley, dean of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, addressed the issue of threats to U.S. elections.

Both women agreed that President Trump has been trying to undermine confidence in the voting process in recent weeks.

Gordon, who served as principal deputy director of national intelligence from 2017-19, the nation’s second highest-ranking intelligence officer said this is exactly what foreign adversaries hope for.

“This notion of this national conversation that is centered around lack of trustworthiness, or that you can’t believe it, or there’s massive cheating, that in itself is an undermining act, particularly in the light of adversaries who are hoping we become weaker so that they can become stronger,” cautioned Gordon.

Dean Kelley also warned against the use of fear in the election.

Judith Kelley, dean of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy

“I think if there’s one thing we should be very concerned about, it is the state of our democracy itself,” said Kelley on Tuesday.

“This president is not actually trying to win this election, this president is trying to not have to concede this election.”

Kelley said that even as President Trump attempts to sew confusion and distrust in the system, Americans should be prepared to wait for a certified vote.

“This is a highly volatile situation. I am very concerned about someone claiming premature victory about the process not being allowed to play out and about how the American people and American politicians will conduct themselves in the weeks after the election.”

Gordon said  the work done since 2016 by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the intelligence community, state and local governments, and the private sector gives her confidence in our elections.

“Feel confident in voting, and this year be patient. Because it’s likely going to take more time for us to be certain of the results,” Gordon said.

In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, Gordon recommends people to be careful in the social media they digest and then share with friends and family.

“Quit forwarding, amplifying messages that you don’t understand where they came from,” advised Gordon. “It would be lovely if we would stop being sheeple and started doing some critical thinking about the information we’re receiving.”

For her part, Kelley hopes that some of the political backbiting will be toned down.

“To keep our democracy alive, it is so important that we don’t malign each other. If we start to get into this mindset that the other party is evil, we are also undermining democracy. Democracy relies on a robust debate between different viewpoints.”

Watch the full presentation here.

One Comment


  1. Chuck Salerno

    October 1, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    Is she saying democrats don’t cheat and it’s unbelievable that democrats who even consider making our election obsolete and irrelevant?
    Where has she been. They militarized numerous federal government agencies to soy on Trump and then attempted a political coup to overthrow the duly elected president! They actually chest every election. Open borders with illegal aliens voting!
    They have plans to do away with the electoral college. They threatened to pack the supreme court with extra judges. Is she serious or just on Soros payroll?

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