Republicans in several states are making party-political reviews of the 2020 election results, emphasizing how deeply the GOP has embraced the myth of a stolen election since 2020.
Investigations in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Texas are moving forward, even after an extensive similar effort in Arizona, which Donald Trump and allies fought for, has not provided evidence of fraud. All three inquiries come as Trump has named the best Republicans in each state and pressured them to review the 2020 race. He also backs several candidates who have taken up the myth in their run for government offices, where they would oversee elections.
Republicans leading the effort in all three states have said little about the scope and details of their unusual post-election polls. But experts are concerned that they are signaling a dangerous new normality in US politics, with the losers of elections refusing to accept the result and continuing to undermine the results of election contests months after they have been decided.
“They have small differences tactically, but they all share the same strategic goals, which are primarily to continue to cast doubt on the integrity of the U.S. election in general,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, and an election administration expert who has condemned the reviews. “I do not know there is a word to describe how worrying it is.”
In Wisconsin, a state where Joe Biden narrowly defeated Trump by 20,000 votes, there are three different efforts to review the election results. In February, Republicans in the state legislature approved the non-partisan legislative audit firm to review the election. Representative Janel Brandtjen, a Republican who chairs the state House election committee and traveled to Phoenix to observe the Arizona survey, tried unsuccessfully to convene voting equipment and polls earlier this summer.
Wisconsin Republicans also hired Michael Gabelman, a retired state Supreme Court justice, to serve as a special adviser to investigate the election, which will be funded with $ 680,000 in taxpayers’ money. Gabelman took his most significant step last Friday when he issued summonses to at least five cities in the state and the administrator of the state body overseeing elections. The subpoenas request a large number of documents regarding the 2020 election. Gabelman requested that election officials attend a hearing on October 15 that will focus in part on “potential irregularities and / or illegalities in the election”, according to a subpoena , as The Guardian saw.
There are no signs of fraud or any other form of misconduct in Wisconsin. Although Trump’s campaign had the opportunity to request a report on the entire state, it did so only in Milwaukee and Dane counties last year, two of the state’s most populous and liberal counties. Both accounts confirmed Biden’s victory.
Gabelman has said little publicly about the details of his efforts, but last month released a video that promised it would be fair and that it was not designed to overturn the 2020 vote. “This is not an election competition. We are not challenging the results of the 2020 election; rather, we hold government officials accountable to the public for their actions around the election, ”he said in the video.
But Gabelman has already expressed support for the idea that the election was stolen, saying to a pro-Trump crowd last November: “Our elected leaders — your elected leaders — have allowed unelected bureaucrats in the Wisconsin Election Commission to steal. our voice. ” Gabelman has since defended these comments, saying in an interview in July: “I did not say it was a stolen election. I can not – and I defy you – think of anything more unfair than a corrupt or illegal election in a democracy. Whether this has happened here is very much a question to be investigated. ”
On Tuesday, Gabelman said he was not an election expert. “Most people, including myself, do not have a comprehensive understanding or even any understanding of how elections work,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In August, he traveled to a forum on election irregularities hosted by Mike Lindell, an ally of Trump and MyPillow CEO who has expressed some of the most baseless conspiracy theories about the election. Gabelman has reportedly also consulted with Shiva Ayyadurai, a failed U.S. Senate candidate who has spread false information about the 2020 election and the Covid-19 vaccine, including a wildly misleading and inaccurate report on polls in Maricopa county.
Gabelman’s efforts have already been hampered by a number of mistakes. A subpoena on Friday was sent to the city clerk in Milwaukee, who is not overseeing the election, according to the Washington Post. A cover letter for a subpoena sent to Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Electoral Commission, requested documents about Green Bay. Gabelman’s review also sent an email to local election officials from a Gmail account named “John Delta”. The message landed in the spam folders of several county printers. And it included a document asking local officials to keep records of the 2020 election, written by Andrew Kloster, a former Trump administration official. Kloster published a blog post in April that said “the presidential election of 2020 was stolen, fair and square,” according to the Associated Press.
Kathy Bernier, a Republican who chairs the election committee of the Wisconsin state Senate, has resisted efforts to spread misinformation about elections, and even held a training session last month to train lawmakers on how elections work. But in an interview, she said she supported the review in her state, saying the idea that it would undermine confidence in the election was “pish-posh”.
She said Democrats were to blame for uncertainty surrounding the election because some refused to accept Trump’s 2016 election victory, claiming Russian interference. (Trump sat in Congress in 2016 with no serious objections, and there were no similar party-political reviews after the election.)
“If there are things that are in doubt and there is no full confidence in the electoral process that provides audits and research and evidence that these processes and procedures and the election results can actually be trusted, only support the position where you can have confidence and that is why, ”she said.
Bernier added that she was concerned that undermining elections could harm Republicans in the future.
“At some point, we have to accept the election results and move on,” she said. “If the center thinks the left wing is junk and the right wing is skating, they stay home. I’m worried about the middle. ”
The details of the review in Pennsylvania, where Biden defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes, are still cloudy. Last month, Senate Republicans voted to summon information about each registered voter in the state, including sensitive details such as the last four digits of their civil registration number.
Cris Dush, the Republican senator overseeing the effort, said last month that the legislative committee overseeing the inquiry said that “there have been questions about the validity of people … who have voted, whether or not they exist. or not, “according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. He added that the committee sought to determine whether the allegations were factual. Dush also traveled to Arizona to observe the Maricopa review. (A Republican spokesman in the Senate said Dush was not available for an interview.)
Pennsylvania Senate Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, are suing to block the lawsuits. Senate Democrats argue that the request constitutes an attempt to contest the election, and Shapiro has said it would violate voters’ rights.
Perhaps the most confusing review comes after the Texas election. Hours after Trump requested a revision of the 2020 election results, government officials announced that they had already begun one in the counties of Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin, the two largest Democratic skewed and Republican skewed counties, respectively.
When the Secretary of State’s office released details of review days after the announcement, the first phase included several measures that counties already had to take after the election, the Texas Tribune reported. The second phase of the review, scheduled for spring 2022, includes an examination of several election records, including voter registration lists, chain of custody logs and rejected preliminary votes.
The Republicans of Texas are also promoting a separate piece of legislation that will allow party officials to request a revision of the 2020 election in their county as well as future election results.
Becker, the election administration expert, said those who supported the revision made a “scandalous insinuation” that elections do not matter.
“It’s delegitimizing democracy as a form of government,” he said. “The election was not close to any historic measure. And these griffins continue to sell the story to Trump supporters that one cannot trust elections, that one cannot trust democracy. ”