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One-Third Of Americans Believe A Foreign Country Could Impact Elections


And now back to our midterm election coverage. Two years ago, Russia interfered in the U.S. election. On social media, there were deliberate campaigns of misinformation. And even after the president won, Trump suggested with no evidence that there had been widespread voter fraud. Democrats complained about widespread voter suppression. NPR polling earlier this fall suggested that people have major concerns about how fair this election will be. Joining us now is Miles Parks. He covers voting for NPR. And he's been very busy. Hey, Miles.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So where are we in terms of voter confidence heading into this year's midterms?

PARKS: So in general, people seem to have faith in - that the system is going to work. Our polling suggests about 53 percent of the American population think the U.S. is prepared and ready to keep the 2018 midterms safe. But there are a lot of red flags in that polling, as well. About 47 percent of people think it's likely that some votes just won't be counted. And then almost a third of the American population thinks a foreign country is going to actually affect vote tallies and affect results.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That seems really high.

PARKS: It is really high, especially when you consider the fact that that's something that has never - there's no evidence that that is something that has ever happened in the history of American democracy. We know that in 2016, there was this effort by Russia to influence voters. They were able to break into a registration - a voter registration system in at least one state, Illinois. But there's no evidence that votes were actually changed as part of that. The problem is, even though there's been these hundreds of millions of dollars spent over the last two years to improve the election system, there's still a handful of states that are going to use voting equipment that doesn't provide a paper backup record, which is really important because it makes it impossible. Cyber experts say it makes it impossible for us to be able to say with complete certainty that a foreign country doesn't actually affect the vote tallies even though there's no evidence it's ever happened.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. Because if you have a paper ballot, then you can go back and look and see exactly what...

PARKS: Exactly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...People voted for.

PARKS: You wouldn't - without that, there's a way - theoretically, a way, technically speaking, that votes could be changed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What about voter suppression? How concerned are voters about efforts to decrease turnout?

PARKS: People are really concerned about that, as well. About a quarter of respondents in our poll said it's the thing that is the biggest threat to safe elections this year. I think election officials are really worried, though, about the volume that we're talking about this election season that it doesn't necessarily reflect the reality of most voters. In our poll, 90 percent of respondents said they waited in line, on average less, than half an hour to vote. Eighty-nine percent said they traveled less than a half an hour to get to their polling place. So when we're talking at this loud volume about how hard voting is for some people, it doesn't necessarily reflect the reality for most voters. And I think election officials are concerned that talking about the issues for the small amount of people is going to affect the grander scale of people who aren't going to usually have problems.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the perceptions of how good our voting system is. How are Republicans and Democrats different when it comes to their thoughts about election security?

PARKS: In general, what we've seen is that Republicans are more confident than Democrats this season, which doesn't surprise anybody. Polling suggests that whoever had the most success in the most recent election is going to be less skeptical of the election system in general. I think what we're going to want to watch for is how the pendulum swings because, as you mentioned, President Trump has made an effort to raise doubts in the election system. And so if Democrats are successful in the midterms or in 2020, you could see the pendulum swinging back the other way.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Miles Parks, thank you so much.

PARKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.

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