SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined other Democratic governors in issuing a joint statement on Wednesday defending American democracy, vowing that every valid ballot will be counted in the election after President Donald Trump sowed distrust during the first presidential debate.

“We do not take for granted the sacred right of every American to cast a vote, and to have that vote counted, in the presidential election held every four years. It is a right that is foundational to our democracy,” the 11 governors wrote.

Trump claimed without evidence Tuesday night that mail voting is ripe for fraud, and he refused to say whether he would accept the results. He also called on his backers to scrutinize voting procedures at the polls, which critics said could cross into voter intimidation.

Without mentioning Trump by name, the governors noted his refusal last week to commit to a peaceful transition of power.

“Any efforts to throw out ballots or refuse a peaceful transfer of power are nothing less than an assault on democracy,” the governors wrote. “There is absolutely no excuse for promoting the intimidation or harassment of voters. These are all blatant attempts to deny our constituents the right to have their voices heard, as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, and to know the will of the people will be carried out.”

Newsom signed the statement along with Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Ralph Northam of Virginia, Jay Inslee of Washington, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Kate Brown of Oregon, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and John Carney of Delaware.

The governors said if Trump loses, “he must leave office — period.”

They wrote that elections are not “an exercise in controlling power” and that disenfranchising voters “strikes at the very heart” of democracy.

“We call on elected leaders at all levels, from both parties, to speak out loudly against such efforts in the weeks ahead,” they said.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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