Asked by moderator Susan Page during the debate with Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris what he would do if Trump doesn’t accept transferring the power of the White House to Biden, Pence spent much of his time saying, “we’re going to win this election” without acknowledging the substance of Page’s question.
He then pivoted into accusing Harris and Democrats of “trying to overturn the results of the last election” through the Russia investigation and Trump’s impeachment over attempting to coerce Ukraine into damaging Biden politically.
Pence finally addressed Page’s question near the end of his time.
“President Trump and I are fighting every day in courthouses to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating this universal mail-in voting that will create a massive opportunity for voter fraud,” he said, continuing the misinformation about mail-in ballots that Trump and Republicans have been spreading for months.
“We have a free and fair election, we know that we’re going to have confidence in it, and I believe in all my heart that President Donald Trump is going to be re-elected for four more years.”
Harris, whose answer came before Pence’s, said while Trump has openly cast doubt on whether he would accept an election result where he loses, she and Biden are simply urging everyone to vote.
“We believe in the American people, we believe in our democracy, and here’s what I want to say to everybody: vote,” she said, turning to the camera to direct Americans towards voting information resources.
“If we use our vote and we use our voice, we will win. And we will not let anyone subvert our democracy with what Donald Trump has been doing, as he did on the debate stage last week, when in front of 70 million people he openly attempted to suppress the vote.”
During the first presidential debate last week, Trump urged his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully” for suspected fraud. That was in response to a question on whether he would tell those supporters to stay calm in the case of a contested election, particularly when hundreds of thousands of anticipated mail-in ballots will likely take days to count.
“I hope it’s going to be a fair election. If it’s a fair election, I am 100 per cent on board,” Trump said. “But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.”
“What does that mean?” moderator Chris Wallace asked. “Does that mean you’re going to urge your people to take to the streets?”
“It means you have a fraudulent election,” Trump replied.
For months, the president, Attorney General Bill Barr and other fellow Republicans have argued that mail-in ballots — which is being expanded or introduced in nearly every state due to the novel coronavirus pandemic — will lead to widespread fraud, while providing little concrete evidence. They have voiced support for solicited absentee ballots, which Trump himself has used to vote.
Experts have said mail-in voting is not only safe, but also that overall voter fraud happens “extremely rarely” and would not be substantially increased by widespread mailed ballots.
—With files from Hannah Jackson