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Election officials fight Trump scheme to undermine midterms

This is peak season for those running the country’s elections, with less than 60 days left for the November 8 midterm elections.

There are polling places to be located. Poll workers to hire and train. Ballots to review and mail.

And, increasingly, there is an avalanche of lies and misinformation to combat, along with an apparent attempt by Trump supporters to undermine the electoral system with a deliberate campaign of sabotage.

In recent weeks, election offices across the country have been buried with public records requests related to the 2020 vote, part of an effort led by election deniers, including former President Trump’s serially indicted strategist Stephen K. Bannon, and the crazy CEO of MyPillow. Mike Lindell case.

The requests, many worded, cut and pasted identically, should not be confused with an honest attempt to hold public officials accountable. Rather, it is a devious attempt to disrupt the country’s electoral machinery at the worst possible time.

Resources that should be devoted to ensuring the smooth execution of the November vote are being diverted to respond to malicious mischief. (Many of the requests seek access to “record of votes cast,” which is data produced by devices like ballot scanners, in the apparent hope of “proving” the widely discredited notion that voting machines were tampered with.)

“Paper terrorism” is how Tommy Gong, chief of elections in the Bay Area’s Contra Costa County, described it. His office has received 64 public records requests, more than in the previous three years combined, despite the fact that the results there were hardly questioned: Joe Biden beat Trump 72% to 26%.

By law, each request requires an expedited response, providing the information or a detailed explanation of what can and cannot be disclosed because it is protected by law. That means time and energy taken from more urgent and important responsibilities.

To be clear: There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Numerous audits, dozens of lawsuits, and Trump’s own Justice Department have determined this.

Nor is there a widespread epidemic of voter fraud. The New York Times reviewed hundreds of criminal cases dating back to 2017 and found that, on average, fewer than two people were charged per state per year. In a nation with nearly 214 million registered voters, that’s an infinitesimally small number.

To the extent that there is a crisis affecting our electoral system, it is largely one created by Trump and his deluded supporters, some of whom are running for office to hijack and subvert the voting process, and others who seek to undermine its integrity by deliberately spreading falsehoods

Sort of like an arsonist lighting a match and then pointing to the flames as evidence of a fire hazard.

During the last years, the National Association. of Secretaries of State has worked to combat misinformation through a public education campaign, #ConfidenceInfo2022directing voters to state websites and social media pages.

“We’re trying to make sure that the respective voters have a better understanding of the measures that go into the electoral process” to dispel myths and build trust in the system, said Tahesha Way, New Jersey’s secretary of state and president of the organization. .

That doesn’t mean fact-checking politicians or policing political speech.

“Our efforts are focused on distributing accurate information on how to vote and register to vote as widely and frequently as possible,” said Joe Kocurek, a spokesman for California Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

“We are in a new environment where there are people using propaganda to dissuade voters from exercising their right to vote,” Kocurek said. “It’s our responsibility to help voters and to help the counties that administer the elections to inform voters about what their voting options are, deadlines, eligibility requirements and all of that.”

In the Bay Area, Gong has worked with election officials in 11 Northern California counties to dispel misinformation and demystify the voting process by holding information sessions and inviting the public to watch as they prepare for the midterm vote. period.

“Twenty years ago, a successful election was one where you didn’t make the news,” Gong said. “Now we really have to put ourselves out there to advocate for the validity of elections and for the profession of election officials.”

(Faithful readers may recall Gong from a previous column being the target of racist and unwarranted attacks after he oversaw the 2020 vote in San Luis Obispo County.)

Transparency is a good thing. Subterfuge is not.

Gong said one small county had an election staff member trained and ready to venture into the community as part of an education and outreach effort, but that person is now busy responding to malevolent public records requests.

Flooding election offices with cumbersome paperwork will not guarantee the likelihood of the November election. Quite the contrary. It’s a cynical attempt to undermine the results, so critics can point to any errors to justify their bogus claims of fraud and embezzlement.

Don’t let it succeed. Be sure to vote. Act as if the future of American democracy depended on it.

Why does he do this.

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