ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A poll from NPR and Marist College out today suggests elections officials are right to worry about voters' confidence. About 1 out of every 3 respondents thinks a foreign country is likely to change vote tallies and results in the upcoming midterm elections. Joining us now is Miles Parks, who covers voting for NPR. Hi, Miles.
MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What do you make of this figure - 1 in 3 afraid that this will happen even though there's no evidence that it's happened in the past?
PARKS: Right. I'm going to be honest with you. I was completely shocked by seeing this number. There is no evidence in the history of American politics that a country has ever affected vote tallies. What was really interesting to me is that it did give credence to something I've been hearing over and over again from election officials that I've been talking to this year who are worried about this Russian interference story in the ether that voters aren't really getting the nuance here when they hear about a voter registration system being hacked. They're concerned that voters aren't fully understanding that that's not affecting tallying. That's not affecting the results of who actually won the election. And that's really, really bad for voter confidence long-term.
SHAPIRO: Who are the 1 in 3 that are most concerned about this?
PARKS: So it breaks down to mostly Democrats and mostly non-white voters. And that non-white voter number is really interesting as a demographic in a lot of places in this poll. More than 50 percent of non-white voters think there's going to be some votes in the November midterms that are just not going to get counted. And then other data in this poll also suggests that voting is harder for minorities, that they're waiting in line longer and that they're traveling farther to get to their polling place. So it is interesting that this skepticism about Russia changing votes also comes along with a group who's historically been disenfranchised when it comes to voting.
On the other end of the spectrum, only about 13 percent of Republicans think a foreign country is going to manipulate results, and more than 70 percent of Republicans think the U.S. is prepared for the midterm elections.
SHAPIRO: Could all of that have an impact on voter turnout in November?
PARKS: I was really interested in that question, so I went and talked to David Becker, who founded the Center for Election Innovation and Research. What he basically told me is, no, he doesn't think it's going to have any effect in November. You look at the primaries we've seen already this year, and there's been historic turnout in a lot of Democratic primaries. What he said is he thinks that the Trump effect is going to be stronger than any negative effect that this story is having on elections this year. But long-term, he has a lot of worries about this partisan divide that's coming with elections. Here he is.
DAVID BECKER: I'm not optimistic. I worry that we're in a point in time right now where most can only view facts through partisan lenses. And this is not only one party that's doing this. This is both parties. We are giving voters so many reasons not to vote.
SHAPIRO: Does this poll have any good news about election security?
PARKS: I think the good news is that the majority of people still think elections are fair here. A small majority - about 53 percent - think the U.S. is prepared for midterms. But I think the real good news is that people are paying attention to a lot of this story, a lot of the election interference issue in a way they weren't before this year. You look at paper ballots, for instance. We asked respondents how they felt about paper ballots versus electronic voting. And you're seeing across-the-board support for paper ballots, which is something cybersecurities experts really highly recommend.
Also, when you talk to local election officials, you're just hearing a difference in the way they're talking about this issue. Cybersecurity is a part of the job description in a way it wasn't in, say, 2015. That's really become apparent, and it's something that's been actionable since 2016.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Miles Parks. Thanks, Miles.
PARKS: Thank you.
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