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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Benjamin L. Ginsberg: Don’t be afraid of the election audits - they may be our only ticket out of this mess

By Benjamin L. Ginsberg Special to the Washington Post

Really. As a Republican election lawyer who has participated in more than 30 post-election recounts, contests and audits, I am extremely confident: They won’t find anything. The massive fraud that former president Donald Trump claims tarnished the 2020 election has been and will remain illusory – because it didn’t exist.

But audits, I believe, can be the friend of sanity, helping everyone in the political process, especially the Republicans who understand that convincing their voters that elections are hopelessly rigged is no way to win elections.

Denying reality is not a successful electoral strategy. My argument to Republicans is simple: In the end, Trump’s elections-are-rigged message is going to hurt not only our democracy but also Republicans more than it hurts Democrats.

So to the extent that some of those who have bought into Trump’s delusional claims of a stolen election can be dislodged from this view by the repeated conclusions of the audits he himself has called for, my advice is: Bring it on. Welcome them with open arms. The furies have already been unleashed. And if there’s a better plan to dispel the “big lie” out there, no one’s described it.

The status quo is not sustainable. Trump is corroding American democracy with his unproven charges of fraudulent elections. Almost 30% of the electorate – and an astonishing 66% of Republicans – say they buy into Trump’s “big lie.” Constant fact-checking and reprobation by mainstream media outlets and good-government groups have not budged that number.

It’s time to call Trump’s bluff. Let’s stop decrying the wasteful idiocy of the Arizona audit (or “fraudit,” as it became universally known due to its sloppy procedures). That was conducted by Cyber Ninjas loyal to Trump yet unable to come up with anything more than 360 additional votes for Joe Biden and easily refutable charges about illegal voters. Let’s have more: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania – even states Trump won comfortably such as Ohio and Texas (especially puzzling since Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton already spent more than 22,000 staff hours fruitlessly searching for fraud).

The hope here isn’t to convince the entire 30% that they’re being bamboozled. As a realistic matter, that isn’t going to happen, but it’s a mistake to see them as a monolithic group.

Belief in the myth of the rigged election has persisted for months – for years, actually. But every time Trump has had the opportunity to prove fraud, he’s failed.

Trump failed through his 2017 Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which could document no fraud and dissolved in early 2018 without even issuing a report. Through the more than 60 court cases that Trump supporters lost after the election. Through the Michigan Senate committee, led by Trump supporters, that comprehensively rejected Trump’s allegations of election fraud. Through the FBI and Justice Department post-election investigation.

If the audits that Trump himself has demanded keep coming up empty, maybe, just maybe, some true believers in Trump’s falsehood will recognize he’s been feeding them snake oil.

These proceedings run by Trump supporters at least present that opportunity. Reducing that 30% number will be good for everyone, Republicans included.

Challenging election outcomes when one party doesn’t like the results is a door Republicans need to realize swings both ways. Having two-thirds of your voters not trusting election results will over time injure Republicans more than Democrats. Why should Republican voters turn out? It’s a lethal path for a party that has already seen depressed turnout in some elections, such as the Georgia Senate runoffs and California governor’s recall.

Moreover, if a state’s elections are so flawed that Democratic victories should be reversed, that will also be fodder for Democrats to challenge the certifications of Republicans who ran on the same ballots.

Something has to change, and the key to that change is to convince some portion of the 30% that Trump has failed to deliver on his bombast. Trump is hoisting himself on his petard. Let him.

Benjamin L. Ginsberg practiced election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration.