Undermining public confidence in honest elections endangers democracy.
The similarities are impossible to miss. In 2016 the presidential election in Wisconsin was whisker thin, with the winner edging the loser by 22,748 votes, a margin of just 0.77%. In 2020, the winner edged the loser by 20,682 votes, a margin of just 0.63%.
The wild card in 2016 was third-party candidate Jill Stein, who captured 31,072 votes—theoretically, enough to tip the election. Clearly, Wisconsin is a 50-50 state capable of narrowly flipping from one election to the next.
The differences are equally impossible to miss. The 2016 winner was Donald J. Trump, and majority Republicans running the Legislature did not cry fraud or foul or belabor the election after the votes were counted. In 2020 the Wisconsin winner was Joe Biden. Even after all the votes were counted and certified, and all the lawsuits and challenges failed to change the outcome, the majority party in the Legislature continues to send the signal, by its actions, that citizens should be suspicious of the results.
Consider, just in the past week:
- Along strict party lines, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee ordered the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct yet another investigation into the vote. Never mind that the outcome was confirmed by a partial recount, at the Trump campaign’s request, and that multiple Trump lawsuits were dismissed.
- The Legislature also ordered the Wisconsin Elections Commission to restrict how voting occurs at nursing homes. In 2020 local elections officials were allowed to mail absentee ballots to nursing homes rather than deliver by hand because of coronavirus limitations. The majority objected.
Wisconsin is hardly alone. Across the country, weak and discredited fraud claims are resulting in calls to change election laws. The leading argument declares the people no longer have confidence American elections are fair and accurate. It’s a self-validating strategy because the more complaints of alleged irregularities are pushed by politicians the more people will question if counts can be trusted.
And here’s a curiosity. Election cycle after election cycle, accusations of voting irregularities tend to come from one side (Republican) against the other (Democrat), as if one side is always honest and the other always dishonest. The truth is that verified, adjudicated voter fraud is both rare and bipartisan.
Here’s our thought: Break the people’s confidence in free and fair elections and democracy is destroyed. Politicians of both parties should tone down the rhetoric. Democracy is fragile. Liberty is not partisan. It all hinges on the people’s faith, or lack thereof, their votes will be accurately counted and the results accepted.