Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 2, 2022
While election attention this week will be on public votes over revising abortion rights in Kansas and Indiana and races where Donald Trump’s endorsements are deemed important, today’s lineup also feature the battle over the meaning of the ballot altogether.
Far from the Jan. 6 hearings, the substance of all that talk about plotting and scheming about one party dictating the results of elections is beginning to take root through perfectly legal means. In fact, we’re choosing it through primaries and elections, as well as seeing courts hand down legal decisions that advance the cause.
Today, Arizona stands to become the sixth state this year on whether they want to nominate one of the two Republican election deniers running for secretary of state.
Already this year, Republican voters in Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, Nevada, and New Mexico have selected as candidates for Secretary of State, the person who oversees election rules, people who, despite any evidence, outwardly proclaim repeatedly that the 2020 election was rigged. Election deniers have lost a few other primaries to oversee elections, and, of course, there those who win will face general election voters in November.
The Arizona Republican primary includes Donald Trump-endorsed Mark Finchem, who introduced state resolutions to decertify the 2020 election results, and Shawnna Bolick, who offered a bill to give legislators the power to overturn elections, and who voted not to certify Arizona’s vote totals.
Wider Attack on the Vote
Of course, this is part of a continuing story that is at once a much wider attack on the sanctity of individual ballots and a set of much narrower questions about specific aspects governing the vote.
Whatever else one might conclude about the rational behavior of choosing people who are against elections to run them, together with the trend in court decisions and the emergence of Trump-fashioned candidates up and down the ballot, there’s plenty for defenders of democracy to be protesting.
Obviously, protecting the vote forever has been the prime job of democracies, though we allow the influence of money, celebrity, television advertising, racism, misogyny, falsehoods and disinformation campaigns to interfere. Generally, over more than 200 years, the very bumpy trend had been to make it easier to vote, not harder; that is changed again because of Republican legislatures passing dozens of bills in the name of election integrity.
Now, we’re moving on to the counting of votes, and who oversees that. Having partisans as referees is problematic but having people who don’t recognize outcomes they don’t like is next to impossible.
It goes beyond secretaries of state to poll workers, an increased number of poll watchers and armed security forces, rules that end up practically increasing vote times in districts where Democrats are predominant or where minority voters live.
The Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, a perennial battleground state, is Doug Mastriano, a self-proclaimed white, Christian nationalist, vocal 2020 election denier and participant in the Capitol riot, who vows himself to overturn election results he opposes.
Fairness, the Rules and the Count
We’re seeing the predicted chaos play out in the primaries themselves. Republican election officials in at least three states have refused to certify primary votes because they don’t like the outcome, and those races have remained in legal doubt.
It’s a clear sign of what’s on the horizon for this year, for the next presidential election and beyond.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a North Carolina case in the fall that seeks to take certification of elections away from the governor or courts to leave it in the hands of the Republican state legislature. Given the solid right-wing majority and the recent trend of the court to back away from election disputes, the outcome seems probable to go the challengers’ way.
The North Carolina state legislature was author of gerrymandering that had been adjudged as among the most egregiously partisan in the nation.
We just saw the Wisconsin Supreme Court toss out mail ballot drop boxes because there was no specific law that allowed for them. It’s important because reliance on those drop boxes made it possible to collect votes in a time of covid. And, of course, it is a holding of the election denial crowd that had there been no drop boxes, there would have been a Trump victory in 2020.
Clearly there is no assurance that because someone who hated the outcome of the last election over strictly partisan complaints cannot serve as a fair election referee. But the vote relies on our public acceptance that once vote rules are set, the election count is believable.
Through all the plotting and scheming, through all the maneuvering over certification of votes and fake elector slates, MAGA Republicans have undercut belief in elections — paving the way for a more authoritarian government, presumably in the body of one Donald Trump.
We’re seeing it play out in these primaries for secretary of state.