Will election be ‘one for the ages?’

When he looks ahead to the 2020 Presidential Election, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley predicts, “that’s going to be one for the ages.”

For one thing, there are already attorneys being lined up in Florida, on both sides of the aisle, for next year, Corley said, during a luncheon meeting last week of the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, at  St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz.

But, the elections supervisor added: “We’re used to the scrutiny.

“Florida is always going to be in the perennial spotlight. It’s the largest battleground state in the country, and it’s always close.

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley expects the 2020 Presidential Election ‘to be one for the ages.’ (B.C. Manion)

“Why is that? There’s a good sampling of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Voters tend to choose their own way,” Corley said.

On top of that, “Florida is now the nation’s third largest state,” he said.

The elections official also touched on the Mueller Report, officially known as the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Corley said he has read the entire report.

He also noted that depending on which news channel people watch, they tend to call the report “fake news,” or tend to say “It definitely happened. The president needs to be impeached.” Corley did not offer his personal opinion.

But, he did say, “When you read the report, it lays out, in explicit detail, what happened. “

He also cited these words, from Mueller: “There were multiple systematic attempts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Corley said citizens do need to be concerned about any attempts by foreign governments to meddle in our elections.

He also raised concerns about the misuse of social media.

“We are unknowingly aiding those who want to destroy us from within,” Corley said.

“In 2016, over 72,000 Americans RSVP’d to a political event on Facebook, that truly was fake news. It was created by some knucklehead in another country.

“That’s troubling, when you think about it,” he added.

There were fake Twitter accounts set up, such as @TenneseeGOP, Corley said.

“Using social media, they did millions of dollars of ads to pit us against each other. In the morning, it would be a Pro Black Lives Matter. In the afternoon, it would be pictures of Rebel flags, saying anti-Black Lives Matter messages. Pro Hillary, anti-Hillary. Pro Trump.

“It was trying to polarize us against each other,” Corley said.

“What was their goal in 2016? Their goal was to erode voter confidence, delegitimize the winner, and polarize America. Hmm. Sound like they were pretty successful?”

He also talked about the damage that polarization is causing in personal relationships.

“I actually know somebody — a father and a son — who were bickering about who to vote for on Facebook,” he said.

One unfriended the other, he noted.

“These are blood. (They) Stopped talking. To this day, they don’t talk,” he said.

The forum doesn’t lend itself to thoughtful discussions, Corley added.

“Have you ever seen something on Facebook, and  you’ve written to somebody about a political issue? And the person has written back, ‘Wow, that’s an excellent point. I have never thought of that point of view, thank you.’

“No, they write back, ‘You’re an idiot,’ or some clever little meme describing you,” Corley said.

He has even noticed a change in the atmosphere at local polling places during the past three general elections.

“I look back, during early voting, the presidential general in 2012, Land O’ Lakes Library, (on the) last day. There was a line.

“But, it was like a block party atmosphere. People of different races, ethnicities, genders, political backgrounds. They were talking to their neighbors. They don’t know each other. Just chatting. No one cared who was going to vote for whom. You were either going to vote for Mitt Romney or President Obama,” he said.

But, he noted, in 2016, “It wasn’t that way.

“It was palpable. You could see people in the polling places and in early voting, they were there on a mission. They were either there to vote for (Donald) Trump, or vote for Hillary (Clinton) — and don’t talk to me.

“It was just like robotic. It was troubling, to be honest with you,” Corley said.

And, in 2018, he added, “I’m comfortable saying, I saw a little more return to civility.

“We need civility. Civility is not a dirty word.

“Have your discussions, your debates, your disagreements. But, at the end of the day, we’re all Americans. We’re united as Americans,” Corley said.

Corley also addressed the importance to protecting election results against cyber threats.

Security will be enhanced, but those steps must remain confidential, Corley said.

He also pointed out that the system recently was tested because of the need for three recounts in the 2018 election.

“We had lawyers from Washington, Tallahassee, representatives locally of the different campaigns, the different local parties. Different sides of the aisle, clearly. But, they were there for the whole thing, several days. They got to witness the transparency.

“It instilled confidence in the system. That’s what we need, in this day and age,” Corley said.

Published June 19, 2019

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