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Super Tuesday was the biggest test yet to this year's voting systems

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's talk for a few minutes about the mechanics of voting. Super Tuesday was the biggest test this year of America's voting systems, and all indications are that things generally went smoothly. It seems like some rare good news in an election year that has experts worried about the state of democracy. NPR's Miles Parks covers voting, and he's with us now to tell us more about this. Good morning, Miles.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So how do election officials view primary nights like last night?

PARKS: Honestly, as a kind of time to work out the kinks. You know, these elections are typically much lower turnout than the general election, which does present other political problems. But it also means a little less pressure on voting officials, who are sometimes trying to implement new rules that have been implemented by state lawmakers or county officials. In North Carolina, for instance, yesterday, there are new voter ID requirements, and election officials spent a lot of time leading up to this election trying to educate voters, and they seemed really optimistic that not too many voters were impeded by these new requirements. The state had something like 600,000 early voters in this election, and they said only 200 voters had to cast a special kind of ballot, known as a provisional ballot, due to issues with their voter IDs.

MARTIN: Now, I wasn't up as late as you were...

PARKS: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...Obviously, but it seemed that things were going pretty smoothly. Is that right?

PARKS: Yeah, that's what it seemed like. We had no high-profile issues, like, you know, that very famous AI-generated robocall in New Hampshire that told people not to vote. The top federal cybersecurity agency also said they didn't see anything out of the ordinary - no credible threats. And honestly, I have to say I was a little surprised yesterday to not see more election administration errors, considering what we know about how many people are new to the job of voting administrator. There has been a kind of unprecedented sea change since 2020, where a lot of election officials have said, no, I do not want to do this job anymore. A lot of inexperienced people have come into those jobs. And yet we didn't see a huge effect yesterday - not a lot of reports of, you know, the typical election administration issues.

MARTIN: So what about how people voted? Have you started looking at the numbers, and is there anything interesting there?

PARKS: Yeah, my obsession this year is looking at mail voting trends - you know, seeing if the trends we saw in 2020 continue this year. In that last presidential election, Donald Trump obviously came out very hard against mail voting. And Republicans tended to take that call, right? They voted in mail - by mail and early in much smaller numbers than Democrats did generally. So far this election cycle, it does look like that trend is holding. I was watching North Carolina really closely, and about half of Joe Biden's votes in his primary came earlier by mail, whereas more than 65% of Donald Trump's votes in his primary came on Election Day. Now that change in voting behavior could become a real storyline in November, because a lot of states have made those sort of accessible voting options more available to voters since the pandemic.

MARTIN: So this is kind of the underlying sort of story here. So far in the primary season, have we seen any sort of delegitimization of election results similar to what we saw with the former President Donald Trump after his election loss in 2020?

PARKS: We haven't, really. And frankly, there was a lot of hand-wringing after 2020 that we would see a lot of candidates across the board do this sort of behavior. We haven't really seen that materialized so far. It's worth noting that even Trump, in his victory speech yesterday, did not mention any of the 2020 election conspiracy theories that he's, you know, done so frequently over the last few years. But no one is under any illusion that this is kind of water under the bridge. Just last week, Trump said he - claimed that he won Minnesota in 2020, which is a state he lost by over 200,000 votes. So this is definitely still something election officials are watching, especially as elections get closer and race calls come a little later, which is when these sorts of claims come out of the woodwork.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Miles Parks. Miles, thank you so much.

PARKS: Thanks, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.