By The Herald Editorial Board
“I don’t want to say the election is over.”
Whether that statement — an outtake from a three-minute address then-President Donald Trump recorded the day after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — infers his acknowledgement that he had indeed lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, Trump would not admit to his defeat.
Not even two months after the election, and the certification of its results by all 50 states that he had lost the election by 7 million popular votes and 306-232 in the electoral college.
Not even after scores of failed lawsuits further confirmed his loss and refuted his and others’ claims of voter and election fraud, many of them laughable conspiracies.
Not even in the face of the insurrection less than 24 hours before that left the Capitol in tatters; members of its police force dead, wounded or demoralized; a protestor led to her death; elected members of Congress, Vice President Pence and Capitol staff and security staff terrorized; and Americans, themselves, shocked and sickened.
Trump’s continued insistence of election fraud — that he had actually won the election in a “landslide” — has allowed his supporters to persist in the fantasy that President Biden was not legitimately elected, that Trump won and was denied a second term.
Now nearly two years after the election, it’s a belief that has not ebbed among a significant number of Republicans, even in Washington state.
A recent statewide poll of registered voters — commissioned by The Seattle Times, KING-TV, the University of Washington Center for an Informed Public and Washington State University’s Murrow College of Communication — found that 33 percent of self-described Republicans believe that the 2020 election was compromised by “major fraud” and that Trump had won the election; another 39 percent of Republicans said there had been “some fraud” and that Biden may or may not have truly won. By comparison, 87 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of all poll respondents said they believed there had been no fraud and that Biden was legitimately elected.
That’s 7 in 10 Republicans in Washington state who are either convinced of major fraud or have some doubt about the integrity of the election and its outcome. Similarly, about 63 percent of Republicans in the state — with no available evidence to inform these opinions — believe ballot-counting equipment had been hacked; 68 percent that fraudulent ballots for Biden were counted; and 70 percent that thousands of dead people had voted in swing states. More than half — 53 percent — believed election officials had destroyed ballots for Trump.
With no convincing evidence or unrefuted claims to justify such beliefs, the explanation for those numbers almost defies explanation. Certainly, loyalty — reluctance to question and oppose a leader they support — plays a part. And Trump — for reasons political and financial — has refused to let his supporters even consider acceptance of his loss and allow them to move on.
That’s unfair to them, and its unfair to the rest of us. And it is dangerous.
Instead, we are living with acts that reflect those beliefs and suspicions that cast doubt on our elections; little insurrections that attack the democratic process of choosing local, state and federal representatives.
Last week, the Associated Press reported a Republican activist group had placed signs near ballot drop boxes in several Seattle-area locations with red lettering that warned the boxes were “Under Surveillance,” with a warning against accepting money for submitting other voters’ ballots and a scannable code that connected to the King County Republican Party website and a form for reporting an “election incident.”
State law allows for voters to return the ballots of others; so for what purpose — what supposed allegation — are voters “under surveillance”?
Such acts of intimidation, justified as “election integrity” efforts, have also recently involved a door-to-door campaign inquiring about ballots sent to registered voters’ homes.
Two Sundays ago, a campaign worker for state Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, was accosted by a neighborhood resident near Mill Creek where the campaign worker, Julian Jackson, was door-belling and talking with voters.
Jackson, who is Black — as is Berg — was approached by a man on a bicycle who demanded he leave, got off his bike, then approached in a manner Jackson interpreted as a threat. “He was making like he wanted to fight me,” Jackson told The Herald.
The man, who is white, insisted Jackson needed a permit to canvass in the neighborhood. No such requirement exists; such campaigning is a First Amendment right and a time-honored practice used by many candidates and their campaigns.
Jackson then contacted Berg, who advised him to leave the area for his safety. A report was not filed with the county sheriff’s department. The confrontation followed an earlier incident in which Berg’s campaign signs were defaced with swastikas.
Similarly, Carey Anderson, a Black candidate, running as a Democrat for the state House in south King County, was shot twice with a BB gun by a white man in a vehicle as Anderson and a volunteer were placing campaign signs near Auburn on Thursday, KUOW-FM radio reported. Anderson, a church pastor, filed a report. The King County Sheriff’s Office has not released the name of a suspect.
The theft and vandalism of campaign signs was a problem long before the 2020 election, of course. These incidents, however, reflect a darker motivation and a rejection of democratic norms and the rights of those running for office and rights of all voters.
Allowed to go unchallenged the refusal to accept the certified results of elections and the intimidation tactics that follow threaten to assure that good candidates will not run, that voters will be further discouraged from participating and that no election will ever be over.