GOP's push for state elections reviews is mixed but sows distrust

Republicans are pushing for partisan ballot reviews like the one in Arizona last year. This effort has been embraced by other battleground states, including those where Donald Trump lost his election.

GOP's push for state elections reviews is mixed but sows distrust

It has not only had mixed legislative successes but also raised doubts about the reliability of future elections.

Although most of these bills will not become law, the public hearings and debates in GOP-controlled state legislature chambers have fueled the false claims about widespread fraud that cost Trump reelection in 2019.

Scott McDonell, the election official in Dane County, Wisconsin where the state capital is located, stated that "they're really tearing apart democracy, and they don’t think they are."

These proposals were made after flawed Republican-ordered review in Arizona, and Wisconsin. In these cases, GOP legislators gave the task of reviewing the previous election to partisan actors.

Arizona's contract was awarded to a Florida-based company that had no prior experience in auditing elections but whose CEO had supported conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 presidential election results. Wisconsin's Republican leader appointed a former justice of the state Supreme Court who declared the election stolen before he started his review.

Similar efforts are being made by Republicans in the presidential battleground state of Michigan, and Pennsylvania. These states were also won by Biden.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice which tracks such efforts, more than a dozen bills were introduced in seven states this year proposing similar reviews of elections results and election results. This is after new legislation was introduced last year in eight states to review 2020 results, and 12 states were considering bills to conduct new review processes for future election.

"It's not clear to me that any realistic, legitimate audit can be done that will satisfy some people who are calling for it," stated Mark Spreitzer, a Wisconsin state representative and member of the Assembly’s elections committee. "If there were an additional check that could be done to give voters more confidence, I would do it."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, forty-four states have already conducted some kind of postelection audit. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are the six states that do not have to follow such requirements.

These states probably have some sort of canvassing process, where election officials certifiy the results. However, there is no check on voting equipment, according to Jennifer Morrell, an ex-elections clerk from Colorado and Utah, who advises state and municipal election officials.

The failure of bills calling for partisan elections reviews is partly due to Republican legislators who have criticised 2020 conspiracy theories and defended the state's election results.

In South Dakota, the Republican-controlled House last month passed a measure to require in-depth reviews of ballots and voting equipment in close presidential elections. A number of House Republicans attended the conference that MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell held in Sioux Falls last January. Lindell attempted to prove that voting equipment was hacked. During debate, lawmakers repeated those claims.

Later, the bill was rejected by the Republicans in the state Senate. They pointed out that it was prompted by baseless claims about widespread fraud. Trump won the state with a large margin.

"Uncertainty is because we have these extremists throughout America who can with the social media get a forum and they are raising questions only to create uncertainty about our elections," stated Republican state Senator Lee Schoenbeck. "Regular, regular people don't have these fears at all." They trust the little old ladies you meet when you first vote.

Virginia's Democrats defeated a Republican measure that would have required "forensic auditors" to audit an election. This could be requested by elected officials, elections officials, or residents who petitioned. It would also have authorized a review of Virginia's 2020 general election.

Republican Senator Amanda Chase, was the sponsor of the bill. Chase is a prominent proponent of conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 presidential election and attended the rally in Washington, D.C., which preceded the Capitol Insurrection. Chase stated during a contentious hearing that she had received concerns from constituents who attempted to vote but were told that a ballot had been cast.

The public was given the opportunity to comment, and many speakers who supported the bill attacked the Democrats.

One woman stated that she considered it treason not to support the bill. Another woman warned the committee that "eternal consequences" would follow if they "legislate fairly."

Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin, chairman of the committee, stated that he was offended at the statements.

He said, "We're doing what we can and trying to evaluate each bill fairly." Ebbin told the Republican sponsor of this bill that "when public officers sow distrust during elections", it furthers unfounded fears about widespread problems.

The measure was defeated by a party-line vote. Every Republican in the committee voted in favor of it.

Arizona Republicans, who were behind the flawed state's election review, introduced a bill that would require an extensive review after every election. Two Republicans opposed the measure earlier in the month. It was unable to win majority support but could be revived over the next few months.

Pennsylvania's Senate Republicans are conducting a partisan investigation on the Trump 2020 election loss. Republicans have introduced legislation to expand post-election reviews in Pennsylvania. Last summer, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, while others are pending in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Some states are pushing for Arizona-style reviews. Others are moving in the opposite direction.

A pending Democratic bill in Maine would provide safeguards for voting machines and ballots from tampering, while keeping them out of the hands partisans. A similar bill is making its way through Colorado's Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Shenna Bellows (Democrat) is the Maine Secretary of State. She said that the bill was "a safeguard for election subversion" and would help to prevent similar problems in Arizona and other states such as Arizona.

Jena Griswold, Colorado's Democratic Secretary-of-State, issued a rule in the summer prohibiting Arizona-style third-party reviews. After every election, the secretary of state's office conducts its own risk-limiting auditor. This rigorous audit relies on statistical methods for validation of the results.

Although there have been some steps taken to improve post-election audits, this work has largely gone unnoticed according to Gowri RAMACHANDRAN, senior counsel at the Brennan Center's democracy programme.

She said, "Unfortunately it's been kinda drowned out with some of this negative legislation."


 

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