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DEMOCRACY IN PERIL: DeSantis Pushes His Own Version Of Florida Redistricting Map; Election Officials In Rural Georgia County Consider Reducing Polling Places From Seven To One Ahead Of Midterms; Texas Rejects Hundreds Of Mail-In Ballot Applications Under New Law. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 19, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Gives us a chance to dig in some fun topics, important topics, have in-depth conversations.

You can catch it, streaming live, at 6 P.M., Eastern, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, at, or you can watch it there, and on the CNN app, any time, on-demand.

News continues here, on CNN, with Brianna Keilar, and DEMOCRACY IN PERIL.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar.

And this is DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, where we are dedicating this hour, tonight, and in the nights to come, to look at the threats, to American democracy, ongoing efforts, to erode basic fundamental American principles, like your right to vote, and that vote counting, and candidates accepting the results of elections.

Tonight, we are looking at a congressional race. It was a total blowout. The winner, receiving almost 80 percent of the vote. And yet, the loser refuses to accept the result. Won't concede even as his opponent, is sworn into Congress.

We're also on the ground, in Georgia, where those in power, are actively making it harder, for citizens, there to exercise their right to vote.


REVEREND DENISE FREEMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: This is about good old boys, their power, and their will, to stay in control.


KEILAR: And we'll go to Texas, where a new restrictive voting law, is having widespread impact.

Huge numbers of registered voters, seeing, their applications, for mail-in ballots, ballots to which they are entitled, rejected. And where, local election officials, face possible felony convictions, with jail time, if they help voters, clear simple hurdles.


HEIDER GARCIA, TARRANT COUNTY, TX ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR: You registered using your driver's license. And now, you use the form, using your Social. I don't have a way to verify that Social.


KEILAR: As we watch efforts, to ensure voting rights, flounder in Congress, obstacles to voting, are going up, before our eyes, undeterred, in States and counties, across the country, and not just in States that Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost.



And Michigan.


Take a look at Wisconsin.


They found a lot of votes, up in New Hampshire.


KEILAR: Also, in Florida, where Trump not only won in 2020, but increased his 2016 margin.

The State, of course that he calls home, the State where his biggest potential rival, for the Republican nomination, in 2024, calls home, Republicans are working, to tip the scale, to fix a voter fraud problem that does not exist.

Ron DeSantis himself, just months ago, touting how the election went, in Florida, in 2020.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think we had the best-run election in this state that we probably ever have.


KEILAR: So well-run, in fact, he wants to spend millions and millions, creating something, called the Office of Election Crimes and Security.

It's a staff of 52, to investigate, with the authority, to arrest people, in Florida, a state, where there were, on average, only two election fraud convictions, a year, for the past two decades, in a state, where 11 million people voted, in the last presidential election, where there are 14 million registered voters.

An election law enforcement squad, without the oversight that other agencies, under Florida's Department of Law Enforcement have, but would instead report to Florida's Secretary of State, who is appointed by, you guessed it, Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis also wants to redraw the State's congressional map, to give his party, a significant advantage, less than seven years, after Florida's Supreme Court threw out the State's congressional map, as too gerrymandered, in favor of Republicans.

As the GOP-led Florida Legislature debates a new map, DeSantis took the rare step, over the weekend, of drawing up his own map, which one expert calls, quote, "The most brutal gerrymander proposed by a Florida Republican yet."

DeSantis has restricted very standard press coverage, of his efforts, to restrict voting. Back in May, he booted every news organization, from being in the room, as he signed into law, an election bill that makes it harder to vote. Instead, making that event a Fox exclusive.

DeSantis has also rejected the will of Florida voters outright. In 2021, when Floridians voted, to allow ex-felons, who served their time, to vote? DeSantis led the charge, to redefine, what it means, to complete a prison sentence, in Florida.

But one of the most head-scratching rejections of a democratic, little D, outcome, in Florida, just happened in a congressional special election. The Democrat won with 79 percent of the vote. And the Republican candidate, Jason Mariner, who lost by nearly a 60-point margin, still will not concede.


He told a local station, quote, "Now they called the race. I did not win, so they say, but that does not mean that they lost either, it does not mean that we lost." Total gobbledygook there, right?

And he added, in a somewhat Trumpian fashion, quote, "We'll also have some stuff coming out that we've recently discovered."

Florida congresswoman, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, is with us now. She's actually the winner of that race. She was just sworn in, to the House of Representatives. And she's with us now.

I want to thank you, for being with us tonight. And can you just tell us, what is going on, with this race?

REP. SHEILA CHERFILUS-MCCORMICK (D-FL): What we saw, during the election, was that the Republican candidate, he had a lot of different white supremacist groups, at the polls. He called the Police, on especially a lot of the Black voters, or the Black people, who were there, trying to push for the democratic process. And now that there is this loss, he's refusing to concede, only to kind of do the Trump - Trumponian thing, which is to kind of make people question the election. But the election was very clear. And despite all their tactics, of voter suppression and voter intimidation, we were able to win the election, close to a landslide.

KEILAR: So look, some people might look at this, and say, "Well, hey? Ultimately, you won. You were sworn in. Why then does it matter that he still will not accept the outcome?"

CHERFILUS-MCCORMICK: Well, it's a precursor to what's going to happen, or what they're trying to do, for the 2022 election. And that's what causes like us to see these red flags.

In the areas, in which we saw that they had the white supremacists there, the Proud Boys, those were in historically Black areas, where we've never seen that kind of activity. And the election, coming up in 2022, is so vital, to our democracy.

And so, seeing someone, testing the waters, in that area, is very scary for us. Because we see that there's a whole bunch of voter suppression bills. And even seeing the Voting Rights bill that's struggling to actually pass? It gives us real concerns, about the Black vote, the minority vote, especially in Florida.

KEILAR: Let's talk about this Election Security Police Force that Governor DeSantis is proposing. He says it's about combating voter fraud.

What's your concern that it's about?

CHERFILUS-MCCORMICK: Well, we question what the real concern is, especially when we saw the recent map that was submitted, that totally dilutes any Black area, or any Black congressional seat, or minority seat.

So now, we're starting to put two and two together, and question, what are the real outcomes, or what is the real reason, behind these tactics, moving forward? We've never seen a governor put forth a map before ever. And now, we're coupling it with this group, or this voter suppression - this organization that he's putting together.

So, the concerns are there. And when you add everything, the cumulus of this, it's very concerning for our district. And it's very concerning for our State of Florida, because it seems like our minority votes, are under attack. Our minority representation is under attack. And our democracy is under attack.

KEILAR: On this Election Integrity Force, it's interesting, because when you look at state lawmakers, Republicans, in Florida, they don't seem to be fully jumping, on this bandwagon, of this idea.

Do you think ultimately that they will go along with this?

CHERFILUS-MCCORMICK: Well, I would hope to say they wouldn't. But if we look at the trend, and what's going on, it seems like Republicans are jumping on to these rules, and these voter suppression tactics, and even these laws that really erode the ability, for people to vote.

So, I would like to say - I don't think they will. But I'm frightened. I am actually frightened that they might. And if we look at the totality, of what can happen to our country, our nation, at this time, it's a really frightening place. As we see today, trying to even pass the Voting Rights bill, in the Senate, was a difficult task for us.

And these are the same six - we have 16 Republicans, who voted in 2006, under a Republican president, to preserve the voting rights. But now, they're turning their backs on it, and actually participating in obstruction.

So, we have to ask ourselves, as a country, what is really going on? What is the GOP's real strategy, going into this midterm election, for them to actually gain control, of the House, and the Senate?

KEILAR: What happens to your district if Governor DeSantis' redistricting map is approved?

CHERFILUS-MCCORMICK: Our district more likely than not would not have a chance of having a minority, who's actually leading the district.

The district now is going to be watered down with - we only have a minority - a minority number of 40 percent. And we're going from a district right now, which is 60 percent African American, and anywhere between 18 percent Hispanic. And so, that would totally erode any kind of power that we have.

But my concern, also, are for the other congressional seats. We see that Al Lawson's seat would no longer be there. We see also in Val Demings' seat, that wouldn't be there also.

So, there's a lot of concern, throughout the state, because we only have a certain amount of minority seats. And his map will erode all of the Black representation.

KEILAR: Some of these efforts, he may not succeed at. That's very clear. Some of them, if he does, are ripe for lawsuits.

So, what do you think he's doing? What's his motive, do you think, for doing this?


CHERFILUS-MCCORMICK: I think he's really trying to push the envelope, and see what he can actually get away with. This is the first time, we've seen any governor, who actually put out a map.

The map was put out the day before MLK Day. On MLK, we actually had a statement, from his attorney, about how serious he was, about this map. It's frightening that he felt like it was OK, to do something like that, as we celebrate freedom, and Martin Luther King. And that's what concerns me.

And I think that every step that's going on, moving forward, is intended to erode our right to vote, intended to erode our accessibility to vote, and intended, really, to put the GOP, at a place, where they can win the election, and totally disenfranchise the population.

KEILAR: Congresswoman, thank you, for being with us, Congresswoman Cherfilus-McCormick. And congratulations, on officially becoming a member of the House of Representatives.


KEILAR: So next, we're going to head to Georgia, a Republican- controlled state that notably went for Joe Biden, in 2020, and also put two Democrats, in the Senate, representing the Peach State.

We're in one county, where voting locations, are at risk, of disappearing, election officials aiming to shut down six out of seven polling places.





KEILAR: We're looking, in-depth, this week, at democracy in peril.

We also do have some breaking news tonight. Senate Republicans have just blocked voting legislation, put forward by the Democrats that combines key provisions, of two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

An attempt to override a GOP filibuster failed by a vote of 49 to 51. 10 Republicans would have been needed to break that filibuster. Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, changing his vote to no, before the vote was gaveled, to a close, so that he can offer a motion to reconsider.

He is planning to hold a vote, to change Senate rules, to allow for a talking filibuster, on the voting legislation, and lower the threshold, to break the filibuster, from 60 votes, to 51 votes. That is expected, later tonight. It is also expected to fail.

To Georgia now, where voting could be getting harder soon, in a little-known county. Unless you live there, of course!

The Board of Elections, in Lincoln County, is considering reducing the number of polling locations, from seven to just one, ahead of the midterm elections, later this year. And this would particularly affect Black communities.

There was supposed to be a final vote, on this, tonight. That has now changed.

CNN National Correspondent, Dianne Gallagher, is there for us.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reverend Denise Freeman is on a mission.

FREEMAN: How you all doing?

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Going door to door.

FREEMAN: I didn't know you stayed here.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Gathering signatures, from voters.

FREEMAN: Have you signed the petitions?

GALLAGHER (voice-over): In an effort to stop the new Lincoln County Board of Elections, from replacing all seven, of the county's voting precincts, with just one voting center. The Curry Colvin Recreation Complex, in Lincolnton, for the entire rural county.

FREEMAN (on camera): This is a huge county. People live so far away. We don't have public transportation. We don't have access, of calling Lyft, or Uber, or a taxi cab. We have nothing.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Just about 7,700 people live in the East Georgia County, where Donald Trump won more than 68 percent, of the vote, in 2020.

Now, notices, for a public hearings, went out last September, advertising a move to make voting, quote, "Easier and more accessible."

LILVENDER BOLTON, DIRECTOR OF VOTER REGISTRATION & ELECTIONS, LINCOLN COUNTY COMMISSION: Well, we probably had about 15 to 20 people, at each public hearing.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Election Director, Lilvender Bolton, says the Board pitched the Rec Center as being big enough, to support social distancing, and voting equipment, while also allowing the county, to reduce staffing and travel needs.

BOLTON: I mean, I don't see how making things better is such a bad thing.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But Freeman, a former school board member, says most of the people she meets, knocking on doors, didn't know about the proposal, until last month.

She and other voting rights activists believe eliminating all but one precinct in a 250 square mile county, that's nearly 30 percent Black, in an election year, is just another example, of voter suppression, in Georgia.

FREEMAN (on camera): I think it's meant to disenfranchise people of color. I think it's meant to disenfranchise the poor.

This is about good old boys, their power, and their will, to stay in control.

This is not what fair elections are about.

WALKER T. NORMAN, COMMISSION CHAIR, LINCOLN COUNTY, GA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: I don't want to disenfranchise anybody, nobody, from being able to vote.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): County Commission Chairman, Walker Norman, in Lincoln County politics, since he was 18, says more than half the county votes early, or by mail, though mail-in voting, now has new deadlines, and ID requirements, under the state election law.

Still, he doesn't think the change will affect most voters.

T. NORMAN: You got three little (ph) precincts on Election Day. You don't have 30 people voting.

GALLAGHER (on camera): Do you think that by closing those precincts though, those 30 people may not bother?

T. NORMAN: No. I think anybody that wants to vote is going to vote anyway.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But, for some voters, it'd take a lot longer to do it.

We made the drive ourselves, from the Northeast Lincoln County community, of Broad River, to the proposed new voting center. Midday, midweek, it took us 26 minutes, to get there.

To their original precinct? Less than 10 minutes.

FREEMAN (on camera): And the people, who are doing this, need to sit and think. Is this going to hurt us, in the long run, or if it's going to help us? And I'm here, looking at you, talking to you, telling you that it's going to hurt them.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Director Bolton, took us, around the county, from precinct to precinct. She says the main issue is old, tiny, inefficient buildings that don't adequately support the election needs. And she can't find new ones.


BOLTON: If I had the structures, yes, it would be more than one. But the structures are not there. That is the reality of Lincoln County.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Like election departments, across the country, she's struggling, to find poll workers, to staff multiple locations.

TRUMP: They left me a mess.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And claims, the toxic nature, of American politics, has prevented churches, and even fire departments, from stepping up, to offer larger spaces.

BOLTON: They don't want to be associated with anything political.

GALLAGHER (on camera): Including the democratic--

BOLTON: And voting.

GALLAGHER (on camera): --act of voting?

BOLTON: That's right.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But, adding to the suspicion, for many, is the Board itself.

Last year, after Georgia's controversial election overhaul law, was signed by the Governor, the Republican-controlled State Legislature passed laws, reorganizing six county election boards. Lincoln County was one of them.

AUNNA DENNIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMON CAUSE GEORGIA: Particularly, in Georgia, we know that folks wanted to believe the Big Lie.

But we do know there's a coordinated effort, to close the margin of the 11,000 votes, across the state. And how this is happening is that they want to cherry-pick these smaller rural counties that definitely don't have the same advocacy, the same agency, the same empowerment tools, as other bigger counties, to really get this strategy done.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): State Senator Lee Anderson, who sponsored bills that dissolved and reappointed the Board, didn't respond to our interview requests.

Norman says the Republican and Democratic Party used to each nominate a Board member. But the State told them last year that wasn't allowed.

T. NORMAN: That's when they abolished the old board, and just started all over.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Now, Norman's all-Republican commission nominates three of the five Board members.

Bolton says the State played no role in the consolidation proposal.

BOLTON: We had no influence from anybody.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Before, a Supreme Court ruling, gutted, the Voting Rights Act, in 2013, closing polling places in Georgia, would have required federal approval to ensure it would not hurt minority voters.

Now, the five-person Lincoln County Board of Elections can make the decision with a simple majority vote.

FREEMAN: The petition we are submitting meets the 20 percent threshold.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But due to Reverend Freeman's efforts, the vote's been tabled, at least for now. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not vote tonight.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Reverend Freeman says she's not giving up.

FREEMAN: Get off the fence!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. All right. All right.

FREEMAN: Do the right thing!

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And warns that people should pay attention, to election-related decisions, in small counties.

GALLAGHER (on camera): Do you think that this is a test run for bigger counties?

FREEMAN (on camera): I think this is a test run for the entire country.


KEILAR: And Dianne Gallagher is with us now.

Dianne, thank you, for that report. And also, tell us about what happened here, with this Board of Elections meeting tonight. Sounds like it got pretty heated, and came to an abrupt end.

GALLAGHER: Yes, Brianna. So, this was supposed to be the meeting, where they voted, on this consolidation proposal.

Well, a lot of members of the community, over the past couple of weeks, because of that petition, people going around, and also because of local news coverage, are now familiar with the plan. And they showed up to the meeting, to voice their frustrations.

They ended up tabling that because of the petition that was delivered by Reverend Freeman, and the other activists. But the community still really wanted to speak out about it.

This was not a public hearing. The Board kept trying to say that. People kept speaking anyway. They got a few of their comments in. The Board started talking back.

And then, it kind of just escalated into people, yelling suggestions, yelling ideas at them. And they abruptly ended the meeting, saying that they would have another meeting that the public could attend, in the near future.

KEILAR: Yes, look, it's important that this is aired. So, what is going to happen next, with the vote being tabled?

GALLAGHER: So again, this isn't necessarily over, right? It's just on pause, right now. And, according to the Election Director, starting tomorrow morning, she'll start going through the 600 individual signatures, delivered in that petition, from these three different precincts.

Now, and technically, this could have the power, to stop, at least this original plan, right here. But the Director said, she's going to go through. She's going to match each one, see if they are, in fact, registered voters.

And then, the county board, the Election Board is going to kind of talk to each other. They said they're going to review some of the suggestions that were made tonight, by community members. They're going to come up with a plan, idea that may be the same plan.

And then, they will have another meeting, let the community come to that, and present a proposal. Again, it could be the exact same proposal. But this petition definitely throws a wrench in that plan.

And this was something that was organic. It happened throughout the community. It's been going on since mid-December. They are going literally door-to-door, trying to get their own community members, involved.

And look, the Reverend told me that she'll do it again, if she has to, if they feel like any other plans that are proposed, are inadequate.


Of course, the County says that they feel like their hands are tied, because the Election Director says she just simply, again, does not have the building, or the resources, to properly conduct elections, right now.

KEILAR: Dianne Gallagher, live for us, from Georgia, with essential reporting, tonight. Thank you.

So, we're not done, tracking some little-known efforts, to undermine democracy. Up next, why Texas election officials, are now rejecting hundreds of mail-in ballot applications, and who it will impact the most?

The clerk, of one county there, arguing that this is what voter suppression looks like. She'll join us ahead.



KEILAR: In Texas, we are starting to see the repercussions, of the voting law that Republicans passed, and Republican governor, Greg Abbott, signed into law, last summer, after it was delayed, by Democrats, leaving the State, to try to prevent passage of the bill.

It's called SB 1, or Senate Bill 1. And, because of it, hundreds of Texans, who are requesting mail-in ballots, are seeing those applications denied, because of new ID requirements in the bill that are downright confusing.

I want to bring in someone, who knows firsthand, what's happening, on the ground. Her county includes Austin, Texas.

The Travis County Clerk, Democrat, Dana DeBeauvoir, is joining us now, to discuss what is going on, in her county, as well as other counties.

Dana, thank you so much, for being with us. Can you tell us how many applicants, you have rejected, so far, ahead of the March primary?

DANA DEBEAUVOIR, (D) TRAVIS COUNTY, TX CLERK: We started out with a 50 percent rejection rate. And that was very disturbing. That's much, much higher than we should have.

And we tried to go back, and see if we could clarify that. It may be much lower. It may, in reality, turn out to be more like a 27 percent rejection rate. Even that is way too high.

So, I started contacting the Secretary of State's office, to tell them that their new vote-by-mail tracker system was not working. Their response, back to me was, "Well, all you have to do is call us."

The tracker system is blank. There's no data in it. And when you try to call the Secretary of State's office, you have to try 30 times, or 40 times, to get through. And oftentimes, it's a complete failure. There's no help here.

KEILAR: I do want to ask you about that.

But first, I just want to explain to people, who are not applying, in Texas, for a mail-in ballot.


KEILAR: If you are going to? This application, it asks for a driver's license, or a Texas, basically, State ID number. And then, it says, if you don't have that, the last four digits of your Social Security number.

So, what if the voters used another form of ID, when they initially registered to vote? What happens?

DEBEAUVOIR: Well, you've asked the right question. The trick to this whole thing is that whenever a voter, first registered, perhaps decades ago, they gave either a Social Security number, or probably a driver's license number.

Now, you have to remember, all those years ago, which number you gave, and is in your permanent record, with the voter registration file, and guess what that number is, for you to put on your new application. And that number must match what's on the voter registration roll. And if it doesn't match, it's an automatic rejection.

Now, here's the thing, is that the common sense thing, is to tell voters, well write both numbers on your application, your Social Security number, and it's really just the last four digits, or your driver's license number.

Except, that the new State law prohibits election officials from doing anything to promote by-mail voting, at the penalty of a state jail felony. So, if I assist a voter, by saying to them, "Oh, just put both numbers on there," I am in danger of a state jail felony. And so are the rest of my colleagues, around the state.

KEILAR: So, the application--

DEBEAUVOIR: It's difficult.

KEILAR: The application is clear. It asks for the driver's license or the State ID number. And it says, if you don't have that, the last four digits of your Social.

OK. So, if someone's application, for a mail-in ballot, is rejected, what can you do, to help them out? Or do they have to proactively seek help from you? How does it work?

DEBEAUVOIR: That is correct. The ball is entirely in the voter's court.

Now, it used to be, we would just look at the information, the voters send us. Call them up on the phone. Send them a text or an email. And we could often resolve problems with a by-mail application, within hours, or days.

We cannot do that anymore, because I'm not allowed to promote by-mail voting. So, that's most unfortunate because voters don't know what's wrong. And if they've tried to use a previous form that doesn't ask for that information, then they're not prompted to provide it. It's most unfortunate.

And the thing about it is, is that this is a round trip. This is a round trip, because you have to place that correct number, on your ballot, when you send it back in, as well. So, you have to get it correct, when you ask for the application. And you have to get it correct, again, when you send your voted ballot, back in.

KEILAR: So Dana, I know you said you reached out, to the Secretary of State, who is a Republican. Their office seems to say that actually they proactively were reaching out to you.

But even by their own admission, the numbers they're saying, a 50 percent rejection rate, going down to a 27 percent rate, is the one that you mentioned, it's still incredibly high.

What is your response, to the Secretary of State, it seems, accepting that rejection rate, of 27 percent?

DEBEAUVOIR: Well, I think they would probably accept that rejection rate, except for my colleagues, around the State, are not having it. This 50 percent rejection rate is happening in a lot of counties.

[21:35:00] And so, my position, of calling the Secretary of State, to task, for not having the website ready, and not being able to answer their phones, so that we can get our questions answered, not doing the training programs, that would help us help voters? All of that is, they've been too little, too late.

And they've only just now started scurrying around, to provide us with this information. So, I am glad that my criticism of the office has caused them, to suddenly get in gear, and provide, all of us, in Texas, the information, we need, to properly process ballots.

KEILAR: Dana, is this going to stop people, who want to vote--


KEILAR: --from voting, in the primary, in March? Do you think this will discourage them, or even stop them?

DEBEAUVOIR: I see, I misunderstood your question.

No, it should not stop them. In fact, when you're facing voter suppression, and this is what, it looks like, on the ground, when you're facing voter suppression, the only thing to defeat it is to go out and vote anyway. Fight back. And so, that's what we're telling voters to do.

No matter what your question is, call your party, because you're going to be participating in a party primary. Get the party to help you. They want to help. Republican or Democrat, call them.

KEILAR: Dana DeBeauvoir, joining us from Austin, thank you for being with us tonight.

DEBEAUVOIR: Enjoyed it. Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, how significant are the threats to American democracy?

Our next guest studies what happens, when democracies backslide, and the precursors to civil wars. She says that there are trends that we're seeing, here in the U.S., that need to be reversed.

We'll be right back.



KEILAR: Three retired U.S. generals are, among those, warning about the possibility of another insurrection.

We spoke to two of them, this week, here, on DEMOCRACY IN PERIL.


MAJOR GENERAL PAUL D. EATON (RET), SENIOR ADVISER, VOTE VETS: January 6 was not a one-off. We are going to see it again.

BRIGADIER GENERAL STEVEN M. ANDERSON (RET), SERVED IN U.S. ARMY FOR 31 YEARS: We need to imagine the unimaginable. Imagine what happens, if we get people, like Stewart Rhodes, out there, them creating havoc?


KEILAR: So, these generals say that the U.S. Military needs to prepare for another potential coup attempt. They're actually worried about a possible civil war. And they're not alone in that concern.

My next guest has studied how civil wars erupt, around the world, and the early signs that are often missed.

Barbara Walter is the Author of "How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them." She's also a member of a CIA advisory panel that assesses where future conflicts might arise. It's called the Political Instability Task Force.

Barbara, thank you so much for being with us.

I want to start, you know, if we think about this, as a recipe, for a civil war, let's talk about the ingredients that you're seeing, right now, in the U.S.

Because, in your book, you talk about three risk factors. There's transitioning on democracy, factionalism, and loss of status. What are you seeing, right now, in the U.S.?

BARBARA WALTER, AUTHOR, "HOW CIVIL WARS START," MEMBER OF CIA'S POLITICAL INSTABILITY TASK FORCE, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UC SAN DIEGO: Yes. So, I was asked to serve on this Task Force, in 2017. And I served on it until the end of last year.

And the job of the Task Force was to come up with a predictive model that would help the U.S. government, predict, where, around the world, civil wars, political instability, and political violence, was likely to break out.

We were not allowed to look at the U.S. We were not allowed to discuss the U.S. And frankly, back in 2017, it wouldn't really have occurred to us, to think about it that way.

And this model, we put in many different factors, poverty, income inequality, how ethnically-diverse the country was, how big it was, all the things that we could think of that might matter, in the lead up to a civil war. And only two factors came out highly predictive.

The first was what we called anocracy, whether a country was neither fully democratic, nor fully autocratic. It was something in between. You could think of it as a partial democracy.

And the second factor was whether, in those countries, those partial democracies, the citizens began to organize, their political parties around - not around ideology, but around ethnicity, religion, or race. And, of course, I'm on this Task Force. And I start looking at what's happening in my own country. And I start seeing both of these factors emerging.

So, the measure that the Task Force uses, for anocracy, it's a measure that comes from a non-profit, in Virginia, called the Center for Systemic Peace. In 2016, the Center downgraded the U.S., as democracy, for the first time. In 2019, it downgraded it again.

And then, by the end of the Trump administration, they downgraded it, for the very first time, since 1800, to an anocracy. It's since been upgraded, since we did have a peaceful transfer of power. But the decline in our democracy was quite precipitous.

And then, when I looked at the second factor, whether the U.S. had ethnic factions that were predatory? That was the definition the Task Force uses. And that too, has emerged.

As late as 2008, White voters, here in the United States, were fairly equally divided, between the Republican and the Democratic Party.

But that change started, starting in 2008. When Obama was elected, the White working-class voters, who had found their home, in the Democratic Party, began migrating to the Republican Party.


And today, the Republican Party is not only 90 percent White, but seems intent, on acquiring power, at all cost. And that's our definition of predatory.

KEILAR: So, look, we see, right now, and this is just a fact, the movement away, from traditional American democratic principles, is much more the realm of the Republican Party.


KEILAR: What's the most concerning thing about the trends you're seeing with the Republican Party right now?

WALTER: Again, I study the outbreak of civil wars. I focus on the factors that we know increase the risk. Racial parties increase the risk, significantly.

The thing that worries me the most about the Republican Party is that they're intent on only appealing to one segment of our population. And those - that's White Christians. And they are a minority of our population. And they're going to become increasingly more of a minority.

And if they are intent, on holding on to power? Then, their only option, at this point, is to dismantle our democracy. And when that no longer works? If you look, historically, across cases, outside the United States, when that no longer works, then, extreme elements, in those types of parties, tend to organize for war.

KEILAR: I do want to - this is a conversation I can have, all day, with you, Barbara.

Really quickly though, before I let you go. There are some people, as you know, who say, this is kind of alarmist talk. What do you say, quickly, to them?

WALTER: Yes. Before I wrote this book, I thought about this a lot. I am a careful person. I'm a researcher. I don't say things lightly. And my response to them is really twofold.

I've interviewed a lot of people, who have lived through civil wars, in Sarajevo, and Baghdad, and Kiev. And they all told me the same thing.

They said, "We didn't see it coming. We didn't see the signs. We were just going about our daily business, going to work, taking care of our kids. And then, one night, the lights go out. And we heard machine gun fire in the hills."

But we know what the warning signs are. I've worked on a Task Force that knows the warning signs. And so, if we're able to get that message out, if we're able to tell them, what these factors are, then we have time, to turn things around.

And the second thing, I would tell them is, if we keep quiet, if we say nothing, violent extremists continue to organize. They don't stop, just because we're not talking about them. In fact, that's exactly what they want. They want us to be silent. They want to be ignored. The element of surprise is really important to them.


WALTER: They don't want us, to be clear-eyed, about what they're doing.

KEILAR: Well, Barbara, I thank you very much, for this important discussion. Barbara Walter, we appreciate it.

WALTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: You hear a lot, about the two voting rights bills, backed by President Biden, and his party. You see the Republican resistance to it. Unlikely allies in Congress are working on reform that could change what we saw, inside of Congress, last January 6.

John Avlon, will have, tonight's Reality Check, for us, next.



KEILAR: The Democratic push, for voting rights, is poised to fail, in the Senate, tonight.

But there are some, who say reform isn't dead. There's still a little- known arcane law, called the Electoral Count Act, and it could factor big, in 2024. John Avlon has tonight's Reality Check.



This is this 1887 law that was the toehold that Trump and John Eastman used to argue that they could effectively overturn the election, in that infamous six-point memo.

They argued that basically, the law was so badly written that possibly, quite possibly, Vice President Pence could intercede, objection could be taken, to the floor, and the will of the people, in effect, subverted.

What that has done is hung a lantern, on the need, to refine, and refocus, and rewrite this law, to clarify that the Vice President's role, is a mere functionary, and to raise the threshold, for these sorts of challenges. And that has taken on some bipartisan urgency, members of both parties, recognizing that's in the national interest, to clarify this law.

Now, the big question is whether Mitch McConnell will remain open to it, as he has indicated. You've got bipartisan senators' meeting. That's great. But Mitch McConnell's got to sign on, because this thing has to be bipartisan, to get done.

KEILAR: Look, this isn't the same thing, as you know, full voting rights reform, to be clear.

I want to listen to what something, a Democratic member, of the January 6 committee, Pete Aguilar, said about this.


REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): What we've said is, it's no substitute, for dealing with voting rights, which is what we are focused on, this week. There will be a time and a place, to address the Electoral Count Act.

But this is also an item that could be a recommendation, out of the January 6 committee.



KEILAR: This isn't the full deal, the Democrats want at all?

AVLON: Not at all. And, to be clear, it is necessary, it is not sufficient. This is the baseline, of what Congress should be able to do, in a bipartisan fashion. We desperately need election reform. We need to counteract voter suppression and election subversion efforts that are going on. The Democrats are doing what's necessary, to defend our democracy, with these bills. But, in the absence of Republican support, reforming the Electoral Count Act, is the very least that can and should get done. And bipartisan reasons - members of both parties may have their own reasons.


Importantly, also, the January 6 commission could see this very well, as the legislative purpose that justifies at a recommendation. So, look for the January 6 commission, to endorse this, because it is necessary, to strengthen the loophole that Trump and Co. tried to exploit, to overturn our election.

But, more importantly, it's got to remain bipartisan. Mitch McConnell has to back this, for it to get done. It is what Congress, the least they can do, to stop the next constitutional crisis, before it starts.

KEILAR: Yes or no? Does it get done?


KEILAR: Yes. All right, John Avlon, thank you so much.

And we'll be right back.


KEILAR: Thank you so much, for watching.

I will be right back here, on Friday night, when DEMOCRACY IN PERIL looks at the personal toll, of election lies, on the people, who work, to make sure that elections are carried out properly.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Good evening, Brianna. And we're watching it in action. Before you go, I just want to take a look at the Senate floor, so you and I can talk a bit about, what's going on.