A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Headed toward next presidential election, conspiracy movement shows no signs of slowing down

The Rural Blog

“As the nation barrels toward the next presidential election, the election conspiracy movement that mushroomed after the last one shows no signs of slowing down,” reports Christina Cassidy of The Associated Press. “Millions have been convinced that any election in which their preferred candidate loses has been somehow rigged against them, a belief that has fed efforts among conservatives to ditch voting machines and to halt or delay certification of election results.”

Cassidy’s story reports on groups and individuals spreading doubt and disinformation. The delusion seems to have spread to election officials, who are withdrawing their states from a bipartisan group that was created to ensure that voter lists are accurate. Two more say they will leave since the group “decided Friday against making rule changes that had been pushed by Republicans amid conspiracy theories targeting the group,” Cassidy and AP’s Julie Smyth Carr report in another story.

The Electronic Registration Information Center, supported by 32 states, “has a record of combating voter fraud by identifying those who have died or moved between states. Yet it also has drawn suspicion among some Republican state leaders after a series of online stories surfaced last year questioning the center’s funding and purpose,” AP reports. “Earlier this month, Republican election officials from Florida, Missouri and West Virginia said they planned to withdraw from the group, joining Louisiana and Alabama. Former President Trump, on social media, has called on every Republican-led state to leave, characterizing it, without evidence, as a ‘terrible voter registration system that “pumps the rolls” for Democrats and does nothing to clean them up’.”

David Becker

Republicans want ERIC to drop a rule that member states “mail notices to people who are eligible but not registered to vote,” AP reports. When election officials in the group declined, “Republican secretaries of state in Iowa and Ohio became the latest to say they would pull out. . . . The states’ departures threaten to undermine a voluntary effort that has stood for more than a decade as the only national system that helps states identify voters who are not eligible to cast a ballot.”

Another change Republicans sought “was removing what they characterize as partisan influences within ERIC,” AP reports. “They had targeted David Becker, a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer who served in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Becker, who was involved in developing the ERIC system . . .  has held one of two nonvoting seats on the board,” both of which the board decided Friday to eliminate. “The other has been vacant.

A group of Republicans, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, defended Becker in a public letter, decrying attacks on him as disinformation.

AP notes, “There has been no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines in the U.S., and multiple reviews in the battleground states where Trump disputed his loss confirmed the election results were accurate. State and local election officials have spent more than two years explaining the many layers of protection that surround voting systems, and last year’s midterm election was largely uneventful.”

Institute of Rural Journalism and Communication/University of Kentucky

(Editor’s Note: Kentucky’s voting reforms continue to get bipartisan support as Governor Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams have worked on them.

In a recent statement, Secretary of State Michael Adams commended the Kentucky House for sending the bipartisan election reform measure House Bill 302, as amended by the Senate, to the Governor’s desk. Adams has worked with legislators of both parties to successfully pass bipartisan election reform legislation.
Among other things, House Bill 302 grants Adams’ request to tighten the law that lets county clerks consolidate the number of voting locations available on election day. The bill also applies to early voting days the ban on electioneering within 100 feet of an election-day voting location.)

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