PHOENIX — The last question in the first of three Presidential debates asked what both candidates would do to ensure election integrity. Their responses were vastly different.
President Trump repeatedly stated concerns he's shared in the past over mail-in-ballots, claiming the potential for fraud, and claiming some states have already found ballots that had been trashed, and that some voters were receiving more than one ballot for the 2020 general election.
“This is not going to end well," said Trump. “I hope it’s gonna be a fair election. If it is a fair election, I am one hundred percent on board, but if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.”
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs took issue with several remarks by the President Tuesday night.
"The person who is sits in the White House should be doing everything they can to sew confidence in all of our democratic institutions," she explained. "Having the right to vote is what sets us apart as a democracy. He’s deliberately undermining that, so it is frustrating.”
Her thoughts echoed across the aisle, by former Republican Recorder Helen Purcell, who served Maricopa County for nearly 30 years.
“It concerns me when people put doubts in voters mind as to what’s going to happen," said Purcell. "Whether it be the President, or the former Vice President or anyone else that puts that doubt in people's minds. That’s a concern to me, but it’s not based on a party issue, it’s based on my experience as an election official.”
Purcell re-iterated Arizona's long history with successful main-in-ballot voting, and new technology to make the process seamless for 2020.
Election administrators across the state are confident we won't see wide-spread issues.
“I mean I think it’s just highly irresponsible, you know we’ve never heard a president speak like this about elections," said Amy Chan, Commissioner for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. "I think most people who are in public office understand elections much better than President Trump has indicated he understands elections.”
“You have to be a registered voter in order to request an early ballot," added Secretary Hobbs. "We don’t send you an early ballot if you don’t request one and voters only get one ballot... Envelopes are trackable, and voters can verify when it’s received by the county. So, we have all these assurances in place to ensure that ballots indeed are not a disaster.”
The President later said he may look to the Supreme Court to settle any election result disputes over whether ballots were mishandled, or could have been tampered with, implying he may question the results if he's not declared the winner.
"That's not historically the norm," said Chan.
In fact, the last time that happened was in 2000, where a recount of ballots in Florida was demanded by the Supreme Court, after the results in race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was contested. The Supreme Court later sided with Bush, thus giving him the Electoral College votes to be sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States.
Both Trump and Biden were also heard going back and forth on the issue of whether votes would still count if they were submitted after Election Day. While the claim that voters can still vote after election day is false, some states do allow ballots that were postmarked on or before election day to count, even if they're received after election day. That does not include Arizona.