Episode 15 with Ken Blackwell

Show Notes

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell joins Liberty & Justice to discuss Election Integrity and efforts around the United States to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.  

This week’s episode is sponsored by SAVE MISSOURI VALUES PAC.

Ken Blackwell is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and serves as the Chair of the Center for Election Integrity at AFPI. Blackwell has an extensive career in public service and is widely regarded as a leading expert on elections and election security. Prior to joining AFPI, Blackwell served as the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, and was also elected to serve as the Treasurer and Secretary of State for the State of Ohio. Blackwell also currently serves as a Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at the Family Research Council. He is the Co-Chairman of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and serves on the Board of Directors for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the Near East News Agency, and the Institute for Pension Fund Integrity. Blackwell was formerly the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. After receiving both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Xavier University, Blackwell became a professor there for many years. He enjoys Hermeneutics, hunting, and traveling the world with his wife of 53 years.

This week’s episode is sponsored by SAVE MISSOURI VALUES PAC.

Matthew G. Whitaker was acting Attorney General of the United States (2018-2019).  Prior to becoming acting Attorney General, Mr. Whitaker served as Chief of Staff to the Attorney General. He was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by President George W. Bush, serving from 2004-2009. Whitaker was the managing partner of Des Moines based law firm, Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff LLP from 2009 until rejoining DOJ in 2017. He was also the Executive Director for FACT, The Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust, an ethics and accountability watchdog, between 2014 and 2017.   Mr. Whitaker is Author of the book--Above the Law, The Inside Story of How the Justice Department Tried to Subvert President Trump.

Mr. Whitaker graduated with a Master of Business Administration, Juris Doctor, and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa.  While at Iowa, Mr. Whitaker was a three-year letterman on the football team where he received the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor.

Mr. Whitaker is now a Co-Chair of the Center for Law and Justice at America First Policy Institute and  a Senior Fellow at the American Conservative Union Foundation. Matt is on the Board of Directors for America First Legal Foundation and is a Senior Advisor to IronGate Capital Advisors. He is also Of Counsel with the Graves Garrett law firm.  Whitaker appears regularly to discuss legal and political issues on Fox News, Newsmax and other news outlets.  He splits his time between Iowa, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Eposode Transcript

Speaker 1Intro [00:00:00] Matt Whitaker, former US acting attorney general. Such a great conversation about America, our future, what's going to save our republic. We have a great football player. Matt Whitaker is here, Matt. They tried to bury me. They didn't realize I was a seed. Whitaker, former acting U.S. attorney. General under President Trump and going to be an unwavering supporter of law enforcement. Welcome to Liberty and Justice. With your host, Matt Whitaker. Today's episode is sponsored by Save Missouri Values PAC. 

Matt Whitaker [00:00:35] Welcome to Liberty and Justice with Matt Whitaker with my friend Ken Blackwell. Ken, glad you're here. 

Ken Blackwell [00:00:42] Good to be with you always. 

Matt Whitaker [00:00:43] I just we're here at the FPI Policy Summit and we've been just spending less, you know, really two days now listening to just wonderful panels, talk about all the different things that are going on at FBI and other centers. And I know that you're running the Center for Election Integrity. I believe it's title. That's right. And you're working with Hogan Gidley, who's another good friend of mine. And you guys have done some amazing work, but a lot of your work has been out in the states. I want to talk a little bit about, you know, since you're a former secretary of state in Ohio, you have a lot of experience with elections. Talk to me what you found, because I know a lot of people just glom the whole issue together. But you really have to almost go state by state. And I don't think we have enough time to do that. But just could you highlight a few things you found and some of the things you've been able to make a difference in? 

Ken Blackwell [00:01:35] Let me start by giving you a sense of the complexity of dealing with a decentralized system. What we've tried to do in the last two years is to stop the federal takeover of elections. The brilliance of our system is that we have bought into a notion that Aristotle made very clear, he said, that there's a dynamic tension between the organized power and muscularity of the state and individual liberty, the more burdensome and intrusive the state, the less individual liberty we have. So the founders of our constitutional republic decentralized a lot of the power, pushing it to not only state governments, but then to local government, using the principle of subsidiarity that that government that is closest to the people is the best which buys into what you and I have always worked on. The theory is that the family is the incubator of liberty, and that's the most primary system of governance in our in our experience. And so what we've tried to do as as we've gone back out into the States is to start with the fact that there are over 3000 counties in the in the country. You have 50 states and territories, and they have their rules and regulations that determine the time, place and manner of of of elections. But there are some basic tracks that are very important to maintaining the integrity of elections at the local level. One is a tight chain of custody. You don't want too many hands touching the ballot once it leaves the the voter. And then the second is verification. Verification is simply simply put, is making the determination that a voter is who he or she claims to be. And so we we know that that's easier to do if election administration is at the precinct level. And so we have, in fact, tried to start by working at the precinct level, level and building up. And so, you know, we have a saying, if you're not in the room, you're not in the game. And one of the things that we've realized is that a lot of precincts at the county level go uncovered. And therefore, as a consequence of that, there isn't a transparency. There isn't that bipartisan participation in the administration of elections that build voter confidence in the results. So that's what we want to do. We want to build confidence in the results. Whether you win or lose, we want you to be able to say it was fair and square good will. 

Matt Whitaker [00:04:27] And those that watched this show know that I get really excited when Greek and Roman philosophers are mentioned. So that quote from Aristotle that you mentioned reminds me of what Reagan also said, which is as government expands liberty contracts, it's good you say this is true as a physics equation. That's right. It's the same thing that you know, that, you know, it's so important that that that an all powerful state does infringe on individual liberty and unlimited individual liberty obviously infringes on state power. Yeah. And some would argue in a pretty good way. 

Ken Blackwell [00:05:02] And that's why, you know, this is not just just philosophy. This is this is practical human experience. And that is look, one of the things that we know in American and the American history is that there was a time when we had to be concerned about access to the ballot. There were. Unfair restrictions. I know as a kid growing up before I even was able to vote, given that I was not 21, I did work in Clarksville, Mississippi, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, and in other places with the civil rights movement. I would do. I would drive up. When I was 16, I would run errands to make sure that the civil rights workers who were registering people got the job done. Well, I remember back then, you know, there were restrictions to access to the ballot. I mean, there were times in precincts when people were going to vote and before they could vote, they had to tell the registrar how many jellybeans were in a jar. And if they couldn't tell them how many jellybeans were in a jar, they didn't get to vote. They had to go home. And so the civil rights movement focused in early on on access to the ballot. But as we began to to win case after case, and we built capacity for people to have access to the ballot box, starting about maybe 14, 15, 16 years ago, I started to focus on the other voting. Right. And that is the right not to have your vote negated by an illegal ballot. Right. And so we started to we started to say, look, within the context of American citizenship, there are rights and there are duties. And duties can be overly burdensome. But a simple duty is when you're expected to show some sort of proof that you are who you claim to be. So people don't have to worry about your ballot negating theirs because it's illegal. And so we have started we started to push, particularly after the Supreme Court decision in 2018, to have local precinct workers require photo ID. And I'll just tell you, Matt, that's so simple because it is not overly burdensome. Photo I.D. is such a rapid part of our of our culture that it's a it's a reasonable step to take to make sure that people can feel comfortable that their ballot, which was a legal ballot, was not negated. 

Matt Whitaker [00:07:57] And you're so it's so true. If you think about all the things in our society that require a photo I.D. to buy beer, to get on an airplane, and we could just go through the list of all the various to cash a check. I mean, it's just it's like it's a basic security feature of modern living that you have a photo I.D. that says who you are and they compare that to the voter rolls. And and I know that you often say and I'll I'll say for you, we want to make voting easier and cheating harder. 

Ken Blackwell [00:08:29] Absolutely. And give year another example, cause we're here for this podcast in in Atlanta, Georgia, had major reforms last year in the election law. And one of those reforms was the requirement of a photo I.D.. You know, the left went crazy and you had Major League Baseball go woke and they decided to move the All-Star Game, which was which was which was. 

Matt Whitaker [00:09:02] Supposed to be here in Atlanta. 

Ken Blackwell [00:09:03] And Atlanta and move it to Denver, Colorado. Now, just think about this one. If I'm a shareholder of Cincinnati Reds and if I would leave you. 

Matt Whitaker [00:09:16] Well, I feel better with my Cardinals. 

Ken Blackwell [00:09:19] Yeah.

Matt Whitaker [00:09:21] We're talking senior circuit. 

Ken Blackwell [00:09:23] You know, if. If I would leave you tickets at the will call window to come see the Reds and Cardinals play. 

Matt Whitaker [00:09:29] Which you will I am excited about that. 

Ken Blackwell [00:09:31] You had to show a photo ID you know can you imagine going up to that will call window and showing them your utility bill it wouldn't stand. So, you know, I challenge the commissioner to the disgruntlement of a lot of my my my buddies. I said, give me a break. You're going to take an All-Star Game, which was going to generate, by all reasonable estimates, $110 million. Yeah. You know, for the city of Atlanta, a city that is well over 50% black. Yeah. Send it to Denver, Colorado, you know, which was 9% black. And Colorado has more restrictive laws than the reform laws in Georgia. Yeah, it you know, it was one of those things to say. Make you say, huh? 

Matt Whitaker [00:10:22] Exactly.

Ken Blackwell [00:10:22] What's happened. Exactly. And so that's what we challenge. We we challenge, you know. The response to the explosion of common sense that the American voters are expecting us to apply to to elections, to build confidence. 

Matt Whitaker [00:10:41] Right. And I've said this really ever since the 2000 election. And that is is that no matter what you think happened and there's a lot I run into people all over this country that do not believe the results of the 2020 election. And, you know, and there are there are instances you can point to, including what happened in Wisconsin with the former Supreme Court justice's report that demonstrated, you know, sort of the turnout in some of these nursing homes, for example, and how and the same verification signature was on all thirty some ballots from that from nurses. You know, you can point to these examples. And so but what we can't have as a country, we can't have as a nation. It is. And it's not sustainable is that almost 50% of the country believes that the result was not what the result. 

Ken Blackwell [00:11:28] Was.

Matt Whitaker [00:11:28] Published. And that's so dangerous. 

Ken Blackwell [00:11:30] That is so dangerous. And that that's why I think the the d'Souija of film that's getting ready to come out 2000 mules, the Citizens United documentary rigged. 

Matt Whitaker [00:11:44] Which you star in. 

Ken Blackwell [00:11:47] Molly Hemingway book rigged, which she'll be speaking as she has been across the country. They've focused on illegalities, unconstitutional actions and anomalies, you know, and a host of irregularities that just erode confidence in in the election. But we've started to focus on, you know, the use of about $400 million in selected counties, money that was laundered through (C)(3) organizations and then impacting and being infused into targeted districts, counties and precincts that actually gave you some skewed, you know, results. And when you stop to just stop to think that Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, those three states combined. Only 42,000 votes gave the ballot. I gave the victory the and the electoral college votes to Biden. You flip those 42,000 and you get a different you get a different president. You get a different number at the Electoral College. And let me tell you, that is what is so important for us that we focus in on those things that eroded the even playing field and ultimately erodes confidence in the in the results. 

Matt Whitaker [00:13:32] Yeah. And each state sort of has their unique story. You point to those three. You know, I went down to Arizona right after the election. The president asked me to go down there and work with the team on the ground to to see what had happened. And, you know, the the the official count was, I think, less than 10,000 votes that Joe Biden won Arizona. And what we found was that a judge kept open the voter registrations illegally, inconsistent with Arizona state law. Right. Kept it open for an extra ten days. And they were able to register over 10,000 voters in Maricopa County. And ultimately and lo behold, that that became almost exactly the margin. And and so in each state, like I said, you could point to Wisconsin and with the with the former justice found there, you can point to Georgia Fulton County, I know there's some people that have done data analysis on sort of substantially similar counties in Ohio versus Pennsylvania. And they found some interesting, you know, can't be explained. You know, it's the same group of people vote entirely differently to really be explained just because they you know, they saw different advertisements on TV. But we could talk about this all day. And, you know, you're the expert. You've sort of had so much experience in this. And and I love the fact and I didn't appreciate your history that you had spent really a lot of your early life working on access to the ballot. And so you understand sort of sort of the games that are played at that level. And, you know, that part of our nation's history is obviously repugnant and should have never been through that and kind of the way that, you know, sort of post-Civil War reconstruction and really, you know, Jim Crow laws and all those kind of things is, you know, it's part of our American history, but it's very embarrassing part of it. And it's something that we need to make sure never happens again. But that's not what we're trying to do. And this. This election integrity fight is what we're trying to do is to your point, is to make sure that every lawful vote is counted, that it's that it's easy to cast, but we have protections that we're not foolish in and who votes in and how they vote and make sure that it's counted and tabulated in a proper manner. I think one of the more frustrating things for me is, you know, I look at my home state of Iowa, which has done elections. You know, it's you know, as long as far as the eye can see, you know, we we but we get our election results that night. We count them and they're verified. In fact, we had a recount in one of the congressional districts where the night of the election, I think it was seven votes. The Republican candidate won the congressional seat by seven. Look, they went back, did a recount and counted again, still seven votes. I mean, it's that kind of accuracy that I think gives people confidence. And we talked about that. I want to completely pivot because I think, you know, you're such an interesting American story in your your public service and you always raise your hand and said, I'm interested in serving and tell me about in the Trump administration, the president appointed you to the United Nations, but there's more to it. 

Ken Blackwell [00:16:37] Well, you know, he he used my experience in as as we worked on the transition coming in to the White House. I had worked in the State Department. I had been the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in charge of the human rights portfolio. And so I had had the privilege of crisscrossing the globe and watching how various forms of government either empowered individual freedom and and celebrated the dignity of the individual human versus those that didn't have citizens. But they had subjects. Yeah, they didn't have folks. You know, the brilliant mat of our of our constitutional republic can be found in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which says, we hold these truths to be self-evident. My dad used to say that's a highfalutin way of saying any any knucklehead should be able to get this, that our our our human rights, our fundamental rights are not grants from government, they're gifts from God. And so there's not a government on the face of the earth that can give you your human rights. They can only respect your human rights. And that's throughout my, my, my engagement as as a as an American citizen, as a freedom loving citizen. That's what I've worked on. And so we've tried to infuse that in every aspect of the Trump administration and that and Brooke and others who I work with in making sure that we framed, you know, our policies. Right. Based on that respect was was very was very helpful. And so I now co-chair the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, funded primarily by the United States Agency for International Development. And we don't do elections in the United States, but we do elections all over the globe. And so I've been able to to find systems that that that work. And I've been able to advance policies in an election administration that actually empower the individual and give them a sense of fair participation. Well, I'll tell you this. In 2020, there's something that we should always remember, because there's the old adage on the left, never let a crisis go to waste. You know, if you go back 100 years and and in 1918, we had the Spanish flu pandemic. In 1929, we had a major economic disruption. In 1968, we had waves of of urban violence. In 1974, we, in fact, had the impeachment process initiated against Nixon. Well, in 2020, we had all of the above. And so it was you just think about the complexity, the disruption of those phenomena, economic disruption, a pandemic. We in fact, the left used it to radically change our election, our election system. One of the things that has benefited me is that and in about seven, seven, eight years ago in Liberia, they had Ebola. Yep. You know, but you know what? Those folks figured out a way to conduct in-person elections and that developed developing country, you know, and what we did was abandoned those things that give us a sense of of of of integrity to our system. And ballot security as well as access. And so as I walk work across the globe, one of the things that I know that the left is now pushing an accelerated push towards all mail in balloting. That's rejected every place that I've ever worked across the globe, because that takes it takes the human engagement at the local level out of the process. It is not as transparent as people working at the precinct level, people voting in person. And that's why I was out. I would just go down fighting to make sure that we we don't move in in a way that will just destroy human engagement, citizen engagement in the process. 

Matt Whitaker [00:21:20] And I talked about it on this very first podcast show I did where the the federalization of the election, what the bill they were proposing would allow you to register online and request an absentee ballot online and then send that in ultimately with never anyone knowing that you were a real person or existed. It was it's a frightening paradigm. And, you know, to your point, anybody of of common sense knows that we need to prevent, you know, fraud. We need to make sure that legal votes are counted in their cast by legal voters. But ultimately, it's the community piece that, you know, I think we just for some reason in today's Internet world, you know, maybe we don't appreciate that it was, you know, sort of the poll workers are your neighbors and they know who you are and they know. And so it's a very, very much that's important part of our fabric. It was you know, it's that basic precinct level. That's your neighborhood building block wear. And you got that all politics are local and you know, you need to get it down to the basic kind of group. And that's your. 

Ken Blackwell [00:22:28] Precinct. You're absolutely right. And and I to your your audience, I would just encourage them to go to a 1981 book written by John Nesbitt. It was called Megatrends and that. And in that book, he has a chapter called High Tech, High Touch. And what do you and what it basically says is that as we rapidly move and develop high technology, what we have to realize is that there are systems, there are processes there. There are human needs that require the human touch. And and I think that that's what we have to do. Where can we use technology? Not at the to the exclusion of engagement, human engagement, people exercising human agency right. In the process, because it is the most important process of making sure that we are not subjects, that we are citizens. And those people who we give power to represent us in government still have a line of accountability to us, not to some algorithm. 

Matt Whitaker [00:23:43] To your point, the Constitution and we the people. 

Ken Blackwell [00:23:47] That's right. 

Matt Whitaker [00:23:48] So we need to always remember it is the people that are in charge. They work for us and not vice versa. Well, we're going to leave it at that. How can people learn more about what you're doing or get a hold of you there? 

Ken Blackwell [00:23:59] Well, we can go to KenBlackwell.com or you can go to Americafirstpolicy.com and look us up. 

Matt Whitaker [00:24:09] All right. Well, Ken Blackwell, it is my honor to have you on liberty and justice. We'll have to do this again as we progress towards 2022 and 2024. But you are a true American treasure, and I appreciate your time today. 

Ken Blackwell [00:24:22] Right back at you. 

Matt Whitaker [00:24:23] All right. Thank you my friend 


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