False election claims in California reveal a new normal for the GOP

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False election claims in California reveal a new normal for the GOP

The results of the California recall election will not be known until Tuesday night. But some Republicans are already predicting victory for the Democrat, Gavin Newsom, for a reason that should be familiar.

Voter fraud.

Soon after the race to recall the race was announced in early July, embers of 2020 election denial ignited new false claims on right-wing news sites and social media channels. This vote, too, would reportedly be “stolen”, ranging from ballots fraudulently crafted by corrupt postal workers to filthiness.

As a wave of recent voting indicated that Mr Newsom was likely to turn away his Republican challengers, baseless allegations accelerated. Larry Elder, a leading Republican candidate, said he was “concerned” about electoral fraud. Fox News commentators Tommy Lahren and Tucker Carlson suggested that wrongdoing was the only way Mr Newsom could win. and former President Donald J. Trump predicted it would be “a rigged election”.

This rapid embrace of false allegations of fraud in the California recall reflects a growing trend on the right to argue that any lost election, or any ongoing race that may result in a loss, should be married fraudulently. needed. The relentless lies spread by Mr Trump and his allies about the 2020 election have only fueled such fears.

“I believe very honestly that there were irregularities and fraudulent activity,” Elena Johnson, 65, a teacher in Los Angeles County who crowded into a rally for Mr. Elder in Ventura County last year, told the presidency last year. About the election. “it was stolen.”

Because of her concerns about voter fraud in the 2020 election, Ms Johnson said, she would cast her vote in person on Tuesday rather than by mail. She said she was supporting Republicans because she thought California, her adopted home from the Philippines 40 years ago, was on the verge. “California is where I came from, and California is where I want to be,” she said.

According to a review by Jignal Labs, a media tracking agency, since the start of the recall, social media in California has been flooded with allegations of election fraud, with daily mentions in the thousands.

But singular claims or conspiracy theories, such as a selectively edited video to show that people with post office “master keys” can steal ballots, have quickly ricocheted around the broader conservative ecosystem. The post office video surpassed one million views, boosted by high-profile Trump aides and members of the conservative news media.

Nationally, Republican candidates who deny the results of their elections remain outsiders. Hundreds of GOP candidates admitted their defeat in voting in 2020. But at the same time, many of them joined Mr. Trump in attacking the outcome of the presidential race, and in other recent election cycles, candidates, their allies and the conservative news media expressed doubts about the legality of the electoral process. Is.

And while false claims of wrongdoing have long surfaced in the days and weeks following the election, Republicans’ quick turn before the California recall — a race that has always been a long shot for them in a deep-blue state. Was supposed to – indicates a growing generalization of the deceit of crying.

“It’s now baked into the playbook,” said Michael Laitner, an associate professor of political science at the California Polytechnic Institute. As soon as the recall was official, he said, “You’ve already started seeing stories and individuals on social media claiming that, you know, he got five ballots or that his uncle got five ballots.”

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Some Republican leaders and strategists across the country worry that this is a lost message. While such claims may strengthen the base, politicians fear that repeatedly telling voters that the election has been rigged and that their votes will not be counted could have an oppressive effect, leaving some potential Republican voters. Will stay at home.

They point to Senate runoff elections earlier this year in Georgia, where two Republican incumbents, Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, were ousted by first-time Democratic challengers. Although the state voted Democratic in the presidential election for the first time in decades, the race to the Senate was seen as an even longer task for Democrats.

But in the months following the November general election, Mr. Trump has made countless attacks against the legitimacy of Georgia contests, floating conspiracy theories and asking the Republican secretary of state and governor not to acknowledge his desire to destroy the presidential election. provoked. When the runoff came, more than 752,000 Georgians who voted in November did not vote, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Review. More than half of those voters were from constituencies that leaned toward Republican candidates, the review found.

“The person they admired the most in their conservative beliefs was telling them that their vote didn’t count,” said Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, a Republican, referring to Trump. “And then the next day he would tell her that the election was rigged, and then the next day he would tell her, ‘Why even show up?’ And they didn’t. And that alone was enough to turn the election on the Democrat side.

“This whole notion about fraud and elections,” Mr. Duncan continued, “it’s a shiny item that is quite honestly about trying to save face and not reality itself.”

Republican officials in California have done a balancing act by trying to assuage their voters’ concerns about fraud, while ensuring that those same voters trust the state’s vote-by-mail system enough to cast ballots. Huh. Party officials encouraged mail voting on social media, and has leaned on popular members of the Republican leadership, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, of California, minority leader, for cutting videos promoting the safety of voting by mail.

But some prominent Republicans in the state have simultaneously condemned a bill passed by the state legislature this month that would permanently implement a mail voting extension that was introduced in 2020 as an emergency measure. Republicans in the Legislature continue to make baseless claims that mail voting invites fraud and that drop boxes remain vulnerable.

“I can tell you story after story in my district,” Shannon Grove, a Republican state senator from Bakersfield, said during a floor debate this month. He said the Democrats who dominated the chamber would admit they’d also heard complaints “if you guys were honest.”

The state Republican Party has also intensified the Election Integrity Campaign, which aims to recruit more turnout watchers and direct voters to hotlines to send complaints of fraud. The program, according to state party president Jessica Milne Patterson, was designed to reassure voters that the California election would be safe.

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“My whole focus,” Ms Patterson said in an interview, “is to build trust and confidence within our process and make sure people are confident.” She said she was not paying attention to the national conversation about voter fraud and was not concerned about the Republican effort because “we have Gavin Newsom as our governor every day in our No. 1 voting campaign.”

“I’ve always focused on California; everything outside of that is noisy,” Ms. Patterson said. “We have to fix our house before we worry about what’s happening at the national level.”

Mr Elder, Mr Newsom’s Republican challenger, who has claimed without evidence that there will be “shenanigans” in the voting process, has also set up a tip line for voters to present evidence of fraud.

According to CNN, Mr. Elder said last week, “We have a voter integrity board – most of them are lawyers.” “So when people hear things, they approach us. We are going to file the case in time.”

The operations run by Mr. Elder and the California Republican Party are very similar to the one the Trump campaign set up with the national GOP during the 2020 campaign, which called for an “army” of poll watchers. sought to recruit and expressed concern about intimidation of voters.

Some experts say the growing popularity of such so-called election integrity operations runs the risk of further undermining confidence in elections.

“The narrative that we need to create an electoral integrity force that is separate from the state, and separate from election officials, I think serves to undermine the credibility of professional election administrators, and to undermine it.” Designed for,” Dr. Latner said.

These groups, he said, “make it difficult for election scientists and election administrators to work together and identify real problems with electoral integrity. Because there are real problems that need attention and resources. They just aren’t the same.” about whom these people are complaining.”

Mr Elder initially contested a position for those in his party who have been focused on fraudulent claims, telling a left-leaning editorial board a month ago that President Biden had won a substantial victory last year. was achieved. But when his campaign began to gain attention, he told conservative radio interviewers last month, “No, I don’t.”

Sean Hubler contributed reporting from Sacramento, and Jeremy W Peters from Los Angeles.

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