The integrity of this year’s presidential election is under attack, and both Republicans and Democrats should be taking action to protect it. No one wants to see supporters of either President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden say the election was “stolen” if their preferred candidate doesn’t win. That divisive rhetoric — no matter which political party exploits it — is reckless and only further divides us as a nation.
Just in August, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton advised Biden to “not concede under any circumstances.” This type of language is dangerous and pushes the nation already reeling from shutdowns, riots, and historically low confidence in our institutions closer to the brink of chaos. Thankfully both Biden and Trump have said they will accept the results of the election, but tensions remain high among supporters of each candidate.
While Americans are split on many issues, I believe there is one thing that everyone can still agree on: We all believe in the need for free and fair elections, and that every vote cast in accordance with applicable laws must be counted.
As Americans, we have a commitment to count every vote. For over 200 years, our electoral system has stood the test of time because both the winners and losers of elections accept the results as legitimate. We have rules and procedures in place to ensure that the process is fair and that every American’s vote is counted. And that’s how it should be. Regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or independent, you should have confidence in the electoral process and trust that your vote was counted.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s election looks a bit different compared to others in recent history. We are seeing historic levels of early voting, and several states have expanded their absentee and early voting programs to make sure that all citizens can vote safely and are not forced to choose between their health and their right to vote. Some states are even moving polling locations to larger facilities and utilizing outdoor venues to help ensure the safety of all voters and election administrators.
While these measures are helpful, the increase in absentee voting also means that we may not know the outcome of the presidential election on election night. This is because critical battleground states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin cannot begin to process or count absentee ballots until Election Day itself — and both states have seen millions of their citizens cast their votes through mailed-in absentee ballots. Counting them will take time.
What this means is that all Americans — including the candidates, the political parties, and the media — will need to be patient while every vote is counted. Doing so demonstrates our patriotic duty to support the constitutional processes that govern our elections. It may not be an easy task, but it is important. That is why I joined the National Council on Election Integrity alongside other former elected officials, former Cabinet secretaries, retired military officials, and civic leaders to sponsor the Count Every Vote campaign. We are focused on protecting the integrity of this year’s election and ensuring a fair and peaceful process. And we while we support every American’s right to protest, we will condemn any and all acts of violence.
Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans understand and agree with us. A poll conducted last month revealed that 75% of Americans believe that it is more important to count every vote rather than determine the election outcome quickly.
It is our shared duty as Americans to make sure that the presidential election — and all elections this year — are free and fair. It will also be our duty to accept the election results after a complete and accurate count is conducted. After we cast our votes this year, the onus is on all of us to come together, put country over party, and defend the integrity of our election processes.
Republican Jim Renacci is a former congressman from Ohio and member of the National Council on Election Integrity.