U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., says he doesn't agree with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's accusations that the upcoming election is "rigged."
Cole said he's been involved in elections his whole life, including the 2000 contest between then-Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. Cole served as the Chief of Staff to the Republican National Committee.
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) October 18, 2016
He told CNN's Erin Burnett on the program OutFront Tuesday night while there were mechanical malfunctions 16 years ago, there was no evidence of voter fraud.
“I'm not going to be naive enough to tell you that it never occurs, but it doesn't occur on a scale vast enough to change the outcome of a presidential election,” Cole said. “So this system broadly renders the opinion of the American people. It's done so consistently for literally hundreds of years. I think it will do it again in three weeks."
Cole said he's worried anytime someone tries to delegitimize the election process, and pointed out that a majority of the secretaries of state who oversee elections at the state level are Republicans. He also said Trump's successful primary run indicates the general election results won't be manipulated either.
“At the end of the day, the people at the precincts are usually volunteers. They're your friends and neighbors. I don't know a single secretary of state in the United States, Republican or Democrat, that does not do everything possible to make sure the election is open, fair, and transparent,” Cole said. “And again, I say that as a guy that used to be a secretary of state. I know these folks. They’re the last people in the world who want to see anything go wrong with an election."
Cole served as Oklahoma's secretary of state from 1995 to 1999 under Gov. Frank Keating.
Oklahoma’s election board spokesman Bryan Dean touted the state’s system during an interview with eCapitol Tuesday. He told eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley the state’s use of paper ballots is “the ultimate backup,” since officials can go back and manually recount votes if there’s a dispute:
In outlining the voting process, Dean noted it relies not solely on people or technology but a combination of the two. While the state's election system is centrally administered, it is implemented at the county level. Each county election board is made up of three people, one Republican and one Democrat and the county election board secretary, so that both major political parties are represented. There is a minimum of three poll workers in each precinct, and they, too, represent each of the major political parties.
The State Election Board, he said, includes two Republicans and one Democrat, plus Paul Ziriax, the state election board secretary who is a non-voting member.
"At each level, we have people from both parties watching and if anything is amiss, they are going to bring that up," Dean said.
On the technology side, Dean said voters mark a paper ballot that then is electronically counted with the results retained polling place-by-polling place in an electronic storage device attached to each machine. The device contains an electronic signature that if tampered with will not function, he said. The counting devices are never attached to the internet, eliminating the possibility that a computer hacker could access them during the voting process.
Cole did agree with Trump’s assertions media outlets have been unfair in their criticism of the nominee, and that the country's elites have mobilized against him. Cole said he still plans to support Trump for president, CNN’s Daniella Diaz reports:
Cole also addressed the New York businessman’s recent criticism at rallies and on social media of House Speaker Paul Ryan:
Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016
Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2016
Paul Ryan, a man who doesn't know how to win (including failed run four years ago), must start focusing on the budget, military, vets etc.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2016
"Well he frankly doesn't know Paul. The reality is that Paul didn't want to be speaker. So the idea that he'd be maneuvering to be president right now strikes me as far-fetched," Cole said. "He's not trying to undermine anything. What he's trying to do is save the Republican majority in the House. That's his job honestly, that's his No. 1 job."