Voters stand in line to get their ballots at the Robert J. Drewel Administration Building on the Snohomsish County Campus on Election Day, Nov. 3, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Voters stand in line to get their ballots at the Robert J. Drewel Administration Building on the Snohomsish County Campus on Election Day, Nov. 3, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Editorial: Baseless vote fraud allegations insult democracy

Unsubstatiated charges of voter fraud risk damage to public confidence in our election systems.

By The Herald Editorial Board

“When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on you side, pound the table.”

variously attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Carl Sandburg and others

In the days following last week’s election, there’s been a lot of table pounding as President Trump and other Republicans at the state and national level — unable to pound the facts or the law — have ignored the math of the Nov. 4 election count or have failed to produce evidence in court that supports allegations of voter fraud and irregularities.

It’s one thing to want to see all ballots counted, but another to deny the inevitable math of election returns. And it’s yet another — more disturbing — thing, to allege that the election itself and those charged with overseeing it cannot be trusted and are guilty of either ineptitude or conspiracy.

And that is the charge leveled against election officials, employees and volunteers — from Snohomish County and throughout the state and nation — when baseless claims of voter fraud, ballot tampering and election irregularities are made.

As of Thursday morning, more than 77.6 million votes had been tallied for President-elect Joe Biden, against 72.4 million votes for Trump, a difference of more than 5.2 million voters; just as importantly, Biden leads in Electoral College votes, 279-219, with elections remaining to be called in Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina. If those states’ vote trends hold, Biden will win 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, the same margin by which Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Biden needed only 270 votes to win the Electoral College; winning Arizona and Georgia only adds to his mandate.

Various regional Republicans have balked at recognizing Biden as the president-elect, holding out hope that ballots remaining to be counted might somehow flip the result.

“The process has not played out,” state Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, told The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield. “I want every legitimate vote counted and will accept the results when they are,” he said. “I would be thrilled if it would be Donald Trump.”

That trickle of legitimate ballots not yet tallied continues here in Snohomish County and the rest of the state and nation, just as it always has in every election. But it would be next to impossible for those counts — as well as recounts where the results have warranted, such as Biden’s 14,000-vote lead in Georgia — to change the projected outcome.

Yet, Republicans still wait for elephants to fly.

Another, Doug Roulstone, vice chairman of the Snohomish County GOP, acknowledged that the election had been called by various media outlets, but that “We don’t believe anything the press says anymore.”

The Associated Press, The Washington Post, the New York Times and even Fox News have called the election for Biden, yet those calls have been made by reporting the election tallies provided by election officials in each state and comparing them against ballots yet to be counted to determine if the end result remains in doubt.

These numbers come from election officials and are not pulled out of thin air. Or from elsewhere. What has been pulled from dubious places are the allegations of voter fraud and irregularities with which Republicans have called the election into question.

“We believe there are definitely some shenanigans going on,” said Debra Blodgett, chairwoman of the county Republican Party.

OK; Kim Wyman, Washington’s Republican Secretary of State, the state’s chief election official, is waiting to see some evidence of those shenanigans.

Wyman, speaking with The Herald Editorial Board on Tuesday, said she’s heard the allegations from Trump and from Washington state Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp about voter fraud but has yet to be shown tangible evidence.

“It’s hard to respond when they’re just making blanket statements about voter fraud,” said Wyman, who won reelection last week. “I’m still waiting on specifics.”

Numerous lawsuits have been filed in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Michigan, challenging how and which ballots were being counted as well as the provisions for party observers. But so far, judges have been less than impressed with the evidence presented or with the arguments made. One lawyer for the Trump presidential campaign, when asked by a judge if Republican party observers were present as ballots were counted, had to admit that there had been a “nonzero number of people in the room,” the Associated Press reported.

Further, The New York Times contacted election officials in all 50 states, and none has reported significant incidents of voter fraud. Wyman told The New York Times: “It’s just throwing grass at the fence at this point (to) see what sticks.”

There are differing levels of danger in Trump’s and Culp’s allegations. Trump’s refusal to concede has delayed the transition to a Biden administration; the White House has denied access to the General Service Administration’s transition office, administration officials and the president’s daily briefing on worldwide security matters that have routinely been shared in the past with presidents-elect, including Trump.

But the allegations from Trump and Culp pose a far greater danger by calling into question the reliability of the state’s and the nation’s election systems.

“This has been my concern since (Trump’s) tweets in March and April on mail-in voting and the potential for fraud,” Wyman said. “And I stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute, you’re making wild accusations about how the process works.’”

Wyman and others have been clear about the security measures built into to Washington state’s mail-in voting procedures, including the check of signatures on ballot envelopes, routine reviews of election rolls for people who have moved or died; and a statewide database that can confirm when a voter’s ballot has been received, preventing a second ballot from being counted if a voter mistakenly receives more than one.

The accusations of fraud, unless they are challenged and refuted, can harm voters’ confidence in election security and procedures.

Election workers, officials and volunteers in Snohomish County, in Washington state and throughout the nation have — during what is expected to be record voter turnout in the middle of a devastating pandemic — have performed more than admirably is ensuring that every registered voter has the opportunity to vote and that every legitimate ballot is counted.

Baseless allegations of voter fraud — for whatever reasons — can only sap the morale of those who run our elections and risks undermining the confidence voters have in their most direct act of our democracy.

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