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Poll on seizure of voting machines points in 'worrying' direction

Military leaders said the armed forces would steer clear of potential election disputes. A poll suggests much of the public wouldn't have cared either way.


In the months leading up to Election Day 2020, U.S. military leaders went out of their way to make one thing perfectly clear: The armed forces would have nothing to do with the election process or resolving any potential election disputes.

Military leaders, including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made these comments over and over and over again in the summer and fall of 2020. It's an open question as to why they felt the need to keep stating the obvious, though it almost certainly had something to do with Donald Trump's interest in rejecting election results he disapproved of — and his willingness to abuse his presidential powers as he saw fit.

It was against this backdrop that we learned two weeks ago of a draft executive order from December 2020 in which Trump would've authorized the secretary of defense to send National Guard troops to seize voting machines.

We now know, of course, that the draft order was never signed, and no such effort was made, at least at the federal level. But the new Politico/Morning Consult poll included a question about this in its latest national survey. The question read:

"If, following a presidential election, voting machines in swing states were seized by the United States military for analysis, would you say this was an abuse of power? An effort to undermine the election outcome?"

The good news is, most Americans were uncomfortable with the idea. The bad news is, the results were not lopsided.

A combined 55 percent majority said using the military to seize voting machines would be an abuse of power, while 29 percent disagreed. A smaller 51 percent majority saw this as a potential effort to undermine the election outcome, while 31 percent disagreed.

It led Politico to note, "The fact that three in ten voters seem unperturbed by the prospect of the military interfering with an election is deeply worrying."

It is, indeed, though more worrying still was the partisan divide in the results: While under a quarter of Democratic voters were comfortable with such an idea, 40 percent of Republican said using the military to seize voting machines would not constitute an abuse of power.

In other words, after months in which military leaders assured Americans that the armed forces would steer clear of potential election disputes, an unnervingly large percentage of the population wouldn't have much cared if the opposite had happened.