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'Shameful:' Trump-appointed chief election administrator says the president's voting fraud claim 'hurts the fabric of our nation.'

  • In an interview with Insider, Election Assistance Commission Chair Benjamin Hovland says he considers Joe Biden the president-elect.
  • Hovland says there is "no evidence of widespread voter fraud" and that anyone undermining the validity of the 2020 election — including President Donald Trump — is doing "exactly what our foreign adversaries" want to see.
  • "They want to see our divisions grow deeper and wider," he said of foreign adversaries. "They want people to lose faith and confidence in the election process"
  • Trump said, without evidence, that 2.7 million votes for him have been "deleted." He tweeted that he "will win" reelection despite Biden already proceeding with a presidential transition process.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Deleted votes. Stolen votes. Dead voters. Corrupt poll workers. Media conspiracies.

President Donald Trump has found ways old and new to tar the 2020 election results as "rigged" and fraudulent.

The Trump-appointed Election Assistance Commission Chairman Benjamin Hovland, the nation's top election administration official, says the president — who lost the election to Democrat Joe Biden — is wrong. 

Hovland, a Democrat who the Senate unanimously confirmed in 2019, spoke exclusively with Insider by phone this week to address questions about the 2020 election's results and integrity. 

The EAC is an independent, bipartisan federal commission that helps craft voting system guidelines and serves as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. It is separate from the Federal Election Commission, which enforces and regulates campaign finance laws.

This interview is lightly edited for length and clarity.

Insider: Is there any evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election? 

Hovland: Not that we've seen, and frankly, not that I anticipate seeing. 

You know, we've seen allegations like this before, and essentially, time and time again, when the rubber hits the road, there's no evidence — whether that's in court cases, whether that's in the presidential commission that was created in 2017 to find the alleged non-citizens fraud after the 2016 election that cost, in his mind, the president the popular vote, but found nothing and disbanded in embarrassment, or academic studies.

We never see evidence of widespread voter fraud. And there's no indicators that 2020 will be different in that regard. 

Insider: Is there any evidence of isolated election fraud in the 2020 election? And if so, where have you found evidence of it? 

Hovland: The reason that it takes a long time to analyze the results at all that set out state statute and regulation now is there are security measures in place and there are checks and safeguards that election officials are taking time to thoroughly investigate and look through. 

I haven't heard of any instances so far. I wouldn't be surprised if there are a handful around the country. And all of those should be taken seriously. And those people, you know, if appropriate, should be prosecuted. 

But when you look at it over the total of nearly 160 million Americans casting their vote, it will be the smallest of fractions. It will be a very small number across the country. What we generally see in elections is that the fraud — it does occur. But it is very rare. 

Insider: Do you expect to find anything between now and the end of this year that would change the results of the presidential contest in any individual state or the ultimate result of the presidential election? 

Hovland: This is not a Florida 2000 situation where you had a few hundred votes in one candidate separating in one state, separating the candidates. We're looking at tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of ballots in a number of the states. It's hard to imagine anything like that again. 

We've heard a lot of allegations. If any of those are true, there is no one more interested in ensuring the accuracy and the integrity of our elections than election administrators. So, if there's anything there, there should be real evidence produced and we should get to the bottom of it. 

But if there's not, we need to accept the results of the election and the will of the American voters. 

Insider: Election officials have definitely taken a good deal of heat from certain corners of the electorate. In your estimation, how well did election officials this year perform relative to past election cycles? 

Hovland: They did an amazing job this year. You cannot give the state and local election officials across this country enough credit for the work they did, particularly in light of the fact that we're in a global pandemic. 

From the early days of the pandemic, the elections community came together, shared best practices across the country. Those states that have [previously] moved to more mail-driven elections — places like Washington and Oregon and Colorado and Utah — shared tips with their colleagues across the country to help them adapt and prepare for this. At the EAC, we worked along with federal, state and local partners to help prepare for that shift, but also to try to work on making polling places as safe as possible. 

All of that came together, and what we saw this year was one of the smoothest election days, certainly that I've seen in my career. You just have to give credit to the hard work that election officials put in. 

These accusations [that election workers committed fraud] thus far seem to be baseless. These people are professionals. They are public servants. They did an amazing job running this election. And we need to let them finish doing their job and go through the safety measures and safeguards that are in place to finalize, canvass and certify the ultimate results of the election. 

Insider: But you have millions of Americans, if not tens of millions of Americans, who are actively questioning the validity of this election and questioning the results. What would you say to them? 

Hovland: When you look at the facts of this situation, when you look at what the people who run our elections … Republican and Democratic election officials across the country will tell you that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. What you're seeing right now — this undermining of confidence in our elections and our democracy — that's exactly what our foreign adversaries want to see. They want to see our divisions grow deeper and wider. They want people to lose faith and confidence in the election process. And as people spread conspiracy theories online, whether that's intentional or not, that is doing the work of our adversaries. I would just caution people on their information sources and encourage them to listen to the professionals that run our elections. 

Insider: President Trump himself has repeatedly questioned the results of the election. Do you believe that the president is actively undermining the democratic process? 

Hovland: I think he is. If there's evidence, I would welcome that. I know that election officials would. But we've seen this before. You can go back to 2017 when the president was claiming you lost the popular vote due to non-citizens voting and produced no evidence. A presidential commission created for that purpose found no evidence. Experts who are supporting the president on this, or do traditionally about fraud, have basically been laughed out of court.

Making these claims without real evidence hurts our democracy. This hurts the fabric of our nation as people lose faith in the process, lose trust in our democracy. It is really just shameful, particularly in light of the fact that the story we should be talking about is how this country came together, and we had an amazing election with a record number of Americans participating and making their voices heard. 

Insider: Do you consider Joe Biden to be the president-elect? 

Hovland: I do. 

Insider: For people who believe that Donald Trump will be sworn in for a second term on January 20th, do you agree or disagree with that assertion? 

Hovland: I don't see any way for that to happen. I don't see any way that happens that respects the will of the American people and the voters who cast their ballots on or before November 3rd  

Insider: On the issue of erosion of confidence in the democratic process, are we at a low point relative to, say, 10, 20, 50 years ago? 

Hovland: In the last several years, we've seen increasing politicization of our election administration, and it's really unfortunate. There's a difference between politics and the people who run our elections. When you're running elections, when you're administering elections — and the public servants, the professionals that do that — doing that well looks like good governance, customer service. And that is what you, by and large, see across the country: people trying to serve their voters, trying to get people to engage. When we call that into question, we really do a disservice to our country. 

Insider: What should people know about this moment of time when it comes to counting ballots and dealing with any of the legal challenges that might be coming about? 

Hovland: A couple of things. One, each state has its own laws and regulations around the timeline and procedures for counting ballots. A lot of that is building in safeguards and safety measures to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the election. 

The other thing I would add is, you know what we should really be talking about this year is the success story that was the administration of the 2020 election. You saw election officials did a tremendous job, but voters did an amazing job as well, hearing that we needed to spread the vote out. 

What you saw this year was a record amount of mail and absentee voting, a record amount of early in-person voting. Then overall, we had around one hundred and sixty million Americans participate, which is the most Americans to ever vote in an election. And they were able to spread that vote out, which helped which helped make the election run more smoothly. 

We had two-thirds of Americans vote this year before Election Day and a third on Election Day. That's the reverse of a normal year. Had that been flipped, the story might have been different. 

Additionally, you saw a new generation of poll workers volunteer this year, and that was unbelievable and made such a big difference. If you don't have poll workers, you can't have polling places. If we would have had half the polling places that we had, the story of Election Day may have been different, but new people who had never been coworkers before, a new generation of poll workers stepped up, volunteered, and served their communities. It made a tremendous difference in how well this election was run.

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