After a failed coup attempt that led to deaths inside the U.S. Capitol and, at least so far, little to no repercussions for its Republican planners, we know precisely how Republican Party operatives and lawmakers intend to "contest" the outcome of any of the November midterm elections that do not go their way. Republican statehouses have put in new laws allowing partisan operators to overrule elections officials who report vote counts in Democratic-majority counties that Republicans declare to be somehow suspicious. Conservative media outlets have been inundating Americans with thoroughly false claims of election "fraud," hoaxes used by the seditionist coup-plotters to demand that Democratic votes be tossed that are still being trotted out long after they were proven false. And in individual precincts, Republican volunteers groomed to believe every last batshit conspiracy the party throws their way will look to challenge voters who, in their minds, look like the sort of people who would be involved in such conspiracies.
It's all out in the open—you can't exactly pass legislation giving party partisans control over which votes will be counted in secret, after all—and is proceeding largely unimpeded, though few of the party operatives shepherding the effort are eager to talk to reporters about it.
A series of new reports today gives more detail, however. And buckle in, because there’s a whole lot going on.
From Politico, we learn about Republican Party efforts to install conspiracy-minded activists not as poll watchers, but as actual poll workers. That’s a key distinction: Partisan poll watchers have very little power, but poll workers, those handling the actual ballot boxes and voter rolls, have considerably more. Video recordings obtained by Politico show Republican National Committee "election integrity director for Michigan" Matthew Seifried emphasizing to Republican activists the importance of gaining spots as official poll workers, rather than observers, and promises "an army" of lawyers and friendly district attorneys ready to back them up when challenging precinct procedures or individual voters.
Elie Mystal is on Daily Kos' The Brief podcast today
Because poll workers are nonpartisan officials, elections officials cannot refuse to hire Republicans for the roles. With that in mind, Seifried has already provided a list of over 850 Republican-trained volunteers for heavily Democratic Detroit-area precincts. Why Detroit? Because those are the votes the Republican Party believes to be most suspicious, because reasons. The Republicans will be trained on how to legally challenge individual voters, and the Republican plan is to insert those activists into Democratic precincts, then fish for alleged wrongdoing that can be used to challenge precinct results.
If fervent partisan activists working as poll workers just happen to voice enough objections to measurably impair precinct operations, slowing down the voting and making voting lines longer, that might be considered a happy little bonus. The main priority, however, is to fish for any excuse that Republican lawyers attached to the effort can use to dispute vote totals in Democratic precincts.
If you're wondering whether the party will even make token efforts to direct the same watchful eyes to Republican-majority precincts, you haven't gotten around much. The sedition-backing Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama recently piped up to insist that fraud doesn't happen in Republican primaries and is confined to "predominantly Democrat parts of the state."
The Republican Party's official efforts are aimed squarely at screwing with Democratic precincts while leaving Republican precincts unmolested, and the very public rationale the party is using to justify this would-be sabotage is the same hoax the party used to promote an attempted coup. "Bamboo"-tainted ballots, supposed "trucks" or "suitcases" of ballots, Italian satellites, dead Venezuelan leaders—hoax after hoax after hoax, all proven false but all still being referred to by Republican operatives to delegitimize elections and create justifications for throwing out the votes and declaring Republican candidates to be the "true" winners.
If you're wondering why this isn't legally considered a thinly veiled attempt at voter suppression: It probably will be, anywhere it actually works. But it doesn’t matter. Politico notes that a decades-long consent decree barring the Republican National Committee from engaging in the polling place "election integrity" shenanigans finally expired in 2018, freeing the party to again dip their toes into schemes to make polling places partisan havens. It may well be that a future Republican Party will be again barred from doing such things, based on their speedy return to the same vote suppression efforts that got federal judges involved the last time around, but that won't happen in time to do anyone any good.
Oh—and if you're wondering whether the Democratic elections clerk in Detroit has been made aware of the ratf--king operation involving 850 Republican-trained partisans, the answer is yes, and she's not impressed. "Apparently they think I'm stupid," she told Politico.
A second window into Republican Party efforts to toss the results of the next elections comes from The New York Times, which helpfully informs us that while the Republican National Committee may be focused on getting conspiracy-minded partisans hired on as poll workers on election day, the usual effort to recruit conspiracy-addled base members as election monitors is still going on alongside it, and because this is the Republican Party and the Republican Party has turned full-on fascist in their use of constructed hoaxes to delegitimize democracy itself, that effort still features Trump hoax-promoting "lawyer" Cleta Mitchell, one of the worst purveyors of false conspiracy theories the party used to justify what quickly spiraled into an attempted coup.
Yes, she's still around. She's also still in the middle of Republican efforts to groom the base into believing that Democrats, and only Democrats, are committing invisible fraud on a nationwide scale in ways so clever that nobody anywhere can come up with a damn bit of proof of it. Mitchell is working to recruit a "volunteer army" of poll watchers culled from the bubbling fever swamps of anyone sucker enough to believe her, and is part of an effort not just to collect those volunteers but to "research the backgrounds of local and state officials to determine whether each is a 'friend or foe' of the movement," says the Times.
The plan remains the same, then. Spread hoaxes. Target elections officials who refute the hoaxes, singling them out so that the conspiracy-minded right can target them and either vote them out of office or hound them out of office. Use an "army" of Republicans pre-selected for their belief in the hoaxes to monitor individual precincts and voters, looking for anything that can be used as the foundation for new hoaxes. Use the paranoia to justify doing what Republicans attempted to do in 2020, demanding votes be thrown away until the vote totals bent back in Donald Trump's favors, while making sure the officials who thwarted those demands are no longer around.
Oh, and just to cap things off: A CNN report reminds us of nationwide Republican efforts to ban the use of ballot-counting machines, mandating that ballots be hand-counted even in massive counties where such a count would take weeks to complete—even though elections experts agree that hand-counting ballots is far more prone to error than machine counting the ballots while using limited manual counts to verify that the machines are working correctly.
Much of the press seems to be blowing Republican demands for hand counting as an offshoot of generic Republican Party contempt for experts and expertise, a natural outcome of the party's insistence that election fraud is rampant and the voters, the machines, the government, and Italian satellites are all in on it. That's not it. It's part of it, but it's not the actual scheme at play here.
Donald Trump, a traitorous lying git, has attempted to lead the party into the belief that any votes counted after the very first vote totals are released are somehow fraudulent or unfair, instead insisting (because, again, the man really is one of the stupidest Americans you can find, and that is saying something) that at midnight or some other time on election night, elections officials should just declare the winner and if they haven't gotten all the votes counted by then than it sucks to be you, every single American with a ballot that wasn't. This is an extremely profoundly stupid belief, one that you would have to be a human tree stump to even entertain, but he's had some success among the group of Republicans who realize that "don't count any vote that our elections officials didn't get around to" is in fact one of the best voter suppression schemes anyone could ever come up with.
How could you make sure the vast majority of votes are never counted? Slow down the count as much as you can. How can you slow down counts? Well, a demand that a team of elections officials lays eyes on every last sodding box of every last sodding ballot would effectively sabotage the whole system.
How would you use this to throw elections to Republicans nearly every single time? Underfund high-population areas with millions and millions of votes, the ones that reliably vote Democratic, so that they can count only a sliver of their votes in the hours after polls close. Give Republican areas more precincts, per capita, and the resources to count a much higher percentage of their own votes. There ya go.
It's the same segregationist funding ploy already in widespread use around the country to make sure that Democratic precincts face long, long lines on voting day while Republican districts are a quick in-and-out stop; this just adds a new way to toss out even the votes that voters do manage to turn in after those long waits. There's no way the Republican officials now demanding full manual counts for large population centers will tolerate hearing that, weeks after election day, new vote totals have come in that upend the previously Republican-leaning count turned in previously. They wouldn't abide it. They'd declare the hand-counted ballots to be fraudulent, or illegal, or whatever it took, and the current Supreme Court would gladly decide that waiting a few weeks before knowing an election's outcome was so intolerable that officials must go with the election night counts and nothing else. You know they would, Republicans know they would, the Supreme Court justices themselves know they would. It's a scam.
There. Now you're caught up on most of the behind-the-scenes plans the Republican Party is officially pursuing as means of promoting new hoaxes that will justify nullifying November elections that the party's candidates do not win. Keep in mind that each of these methods only needs to produce fodder to produce a new hoax—none actually have to produce actual evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone. The goal is to put conspiracy-minded people in positions where they can use their brains to invent new conspiracy theories, which will be delivered to the lawyers to be thrown out of new courtrooms just like the last time around, but will this time have new Republican laws that allow Republicans to commandeer election counting after the hoaxes have created "controversy" as to the reliability of vote totals in, as Mo Brooks told us, the "predominantly Democrat parts of the state."
Nobody's trying to hide it, and they're largely relying on the proven reluctance of the press to identify the hoaxes as an orchestrated Republican Party means of erasing elections. All that matters is that they create enough "uncertainty" about elections that their own base demands nullifying them, and if the political press wants to impotently point out that it was all a hoax from the beginning, so what? No repercussions have so far appeared that would make attempted insurrection a poor political move. It can be tried as many times as is necessary until the party gets its desired result.
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