KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Allan J. Katz is a distinguished visiting professor of political science at William Jewell College, and when asked to assess the current state of the 2020 general election, he offered this advice to voters.
"I think the message is everybody just needs to like take a big step back, take a deep breath. And let the process work with the people who are responsible for doing this do their job because they were faced with unprecedented challenges," Katz said. "Let people finish counting the votes. If there's questions about which vote should have been counted or whether they were counted improperly, whether they were received within the context of the law. That can all be dealt with."
Katz added that the days and weeks to come will be a test for multiple American systems.
"Each time we thought, we've tested our democracy to its outer limits. We get one more test. And I will say this is the test and we have to count the votes and we have to then, some states have automatic recount provisions, if the margin is too small, all that's going to happen," he said. "And ultimately, someone's going to claim that certain votes were counted that shouldn't have been counted or weren't counted that should have been counted. And that's going to wind up in court when you have margins this small."
Katz, a former United States ambassador to Portugal, is the founder of American Public Square, a local organization that focuses on bringing everyone from all political backgrounds together to engage in civil conversations on the issues important to voters.
He said their programming has gone virtual during the pandemic and is even more important in the post-election period.
"You can be on the other side. You can disagree. You can be a rival or an opponent, but you don't have to be an enemy. And I think that you don't have to because you disagree with someone, you don't have to discuss their motives, you can think their judgments terrible. You can disagree with the conclusion that they reach," Katz said. "The goal of American Public Square is to change the tone and the tenor of the conversation in the community and in some ways, we like to think we've had some success in many ways, of course, we haven't had success at all because the tone and tenor still pretty lousy. I think what our goal is going to be. It's going to be to sort of expand throughout the community."
Dr. Bill Horner, a teaching professor and director of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri, pointed out each state handles elections and tabulations a little differently. He said just because Arizona or Pennsylvania’s process looks different than the one in Missouri, doesn’t make it fraudulent.
“I’m not sure we do a great job educating everybody about that,” Horner said. “I think everyone thinks Election Day is Election Day and by the end of the night we know how it goes. There’s so many differences between states.”
He’s worried the divisiveness surrounding the election process will hurt the country in the long run. But Dr. Beth Vonnahme, an associate dean in the College of Arts and Science and associate professor in the Political Science Department at University of Missouri - Kansas City, said there are reasons to be positive and hopeful throughout this process.
“We can get bogged down in the partisan debates, but what we should hold on to is people were passionate about their candidates and showed up to vote for the senate and the house and the president. I think that’s really important to keep in mind,” Vonnahme said.
All three experts agree its best for a state to take its time sorting and counting votes in order to get the legitimate result the first time and not have to make a correction later.
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