Republicans in the Arizona State Senate presented the results of a so-called audit of more than two million ballots cast in Maricopa County late last month, forty-six weeks after voting in the 2020 Presidential election had completed.
The recount, which they had contracted from the Florida-based firm Cyber Ninjas, concluded that President Joe Biden had not only won the county by 366 votes more than previously thought.
Both Democratic and Republican officials in Maricopa County had criticised the recount, saying it would be used to cast further doubt on the most carefully examined and legal election in recent history.
The fact that Cyber Ninjas had never done an election audit and was directed by Doug Logan, who openly pushed suspicions of voter fraud, added to their anxiety.
Those officials will undoubtedly be relieved by the outcome. However, as expected, Donald Trump, for whom all facts are relative, dismissed the findings.
He told a crowd at a Save America rally in Georgia, “We won on the Arizona forensic audit yesterday at a level that you wouldn’t believe.”
A more smart mind than Trump’s would recognize the futility of having a dubious firm conduct an unnecessary recount just to produce results that are contrary to his immediate interests.
The goal of the exercise, and others like it going place around the country, is not so much to delegitimize the previous election as it is to legitimize speculative assessments of future ones—including, maybe, a 2024 election in which Trump’s name appears on the ballot.
We’ve seen far too many examples of this type of mainstreaming of the absurd in recent years to list them all, but its beginnings are most likely tied to Trump’s obsession with Barack Obama’s birth certificate. In that case, once the birther beliefs were debunked, Trump congratulated himself for forcing people to investigate the matter.
In effect, he reinterpreted a conspiracy thesis as a genuine investigation that was settled by legitimate means. The risk is that some illegitimate future investigation may be deployed to pursue illegitimate aims. The groundwork for this is further along than we care to think about.
Trump’s defeat by more than seven million votes was interpreted as a hint that the most anti-democratic elements he represented would be defeated as well. The failed January 6th insurgency, which he promoted and sent his own Vice-President fleeing from a mob threatening to lynch him, seemed a suitable epitaph for his Presidency, as well as the hate and chaos that it produced. His own stupidity had been a boon to American democracy. However, since his loss, other capable performers have risen up to accomplish his bidding.
After Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, declined to toss the state’s vote in Trump’s favor, the G.O.P.-controlled state legislature approved legislation weakening his office’s authority and giving itself greater control over how elections are conducted. The legislature now has the authority to challenge election officials, among other things.
This year, bills restricting voting access have been passed in at least seventeen other states. Meanwhile, Republicans in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have launched probes similar to the Arizona recount, with lawmakers from both states visiting Maricopa County. (Similar efforts in Georgia and Michigan yielded no improvements in election results.)
Surprisingly, the Texas secretary of state’s office indicated that it will launch a review of the 2020 results in Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Collin counties, despite the fact that Trump won the state by over 600,000 votes. Last week, county recounts in Idaho conducted after Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, claimed fraud revealed that Trump received significantly fewer votes than previously recorded.
The 2000 Presidential election came down to disputed results in Florida, which were resolved by a Supreme Court ruling, in Bush v. Gore, whose partisan implications were regarded by many as a judicial coup, but whose prescriptions were nonetheless followed by the Democrat who had won the popular vote but lost the Presidency.
Consider the following scenario: A Democrat wins the election, and Republican-controlled legislatures contest the results in their respective states. The risks are evident, and given the precedent of January 6th, there is the possibility of violence. One of the lessons of the Republican-led opposition to vaccination mandates and other public-health initiatives is that, in times of crisis, even the logic of self-preservation cannot be relied on.
All of this Trumpist passion emphasises the significance of Democrats in the House and Senate fully utilizing their control of those chambers. In response to voter suppression tactics, more than twenty-five states have approved legislation enhancing access to the ballot.
These provisions urgently need to be supplemented by federal voting-rights legislation, which is now being held hostage by the filibuster reform debate.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, explained her support for the filibuster in a June op-ed for the Washington Post, claiming that it forces legislative minorities and majorities to find compromises on legislation.
However, Senate Republicans have exploited it to prohibit the For the People Act, which Sinema co-sponsored, from even being debated on the floor. The state of Sinema is the finest example of what is at stake. We may yet be able to avoid a full-fledged constitutional crisis, but if one does occur, we can’t say we didn’t see it coming.
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