Editorials, Opinion

Sec. Warner spreading conspiracies

It’s shameful that West Virginia’s top election official is repeating debunked conspiracy theories and circulating misinformation.

We will address the misinformation in Secretary of State Mac Warner’s recent essay, which you can read in the far-right column on this page, point by point. Please see the superscripts (e.g.1) in the essay to correspond with the numbers below. Please read Warner’s essay first, or read it and the editorial together.

1. In Detroit, Trump-supporting poll challengers (a.k.a. “poll watchers,” see #4) swarmed outside the election center and were taking unauthorized videos and pictures of poll workers and paperwork — including of ballots. Officials covered the windows for workers’ safety after the challengers ignored multiple warnings and began to shout and bang on the windows.

2. Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and a top voting official, said investigators with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office reviewed the security tape and concluded the video “shows normal ballot processing.” The boxes were official ballot containers, and a miscommunication caused vote counters to think they were done for the night, only to be corrected and begin working again.

3. “Mid-election rule changes” is subjective. Virtually every state made adjustments between the primaries and the General Election because of COVID-19 — including West Virginia, which permitted absentee ballots for all residents because of health concerns.

4. Witnesses were not prohibited from watching vote counts. In Detroit, each party was permitted 134 poll challengers. There ended up being more than 200 for each party in the election center, plus more outside. In Philadelphia, lawyers tried to claim in court that poll watchers had been banned. When questioned, the Trump campaign lawyer admitted there was a “nonzero number of people in the room” where mail-in ballots were being processed.

5. The Philadelphia judge threw out the case. Judges repeatedly dismissed cases brought by Trump-supporting lawyers because there was no evidentiary basis for their claims.

6. The only way to show there was not significant fraud is to fail to produce evidence of significant fraud.  Partisan and nonpartisan investigators — including pro-Trump Cyber Ninjas in Arizona — found no evidence of significant fraud. So there is, quite literally, nothing to see here.

7. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled   ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 could be accepted    until 5 p.m. Nov. 6, in line with the state’s constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision.

8. In Michigan, if an unsigned mail-in ballot was received, the clerk contacted the person and gave them an opportunity to rectify the situation before deadline. As for accepting mail-in ballots with incomplete addresses — we don’t know out of which orifice Warner pulled that.

Warner constantly bangs the gong of “states’ rights.” However, it is the height of hypocrisy to proclaim states should be able to conduct elections however they see fit, then to insist other states’ procedures are wrong. Ironically, federally regulated elections would prevent state-to-state “irregularities” like the ones Warner describes.

It is not just shameful for West Virginia’s top election official to promote conspiracies and misinformation — it is dangerous. The fantasy of Trump’s “stolen election” is just that — imaginary. But when loyalists like Warner join in his delusion, it has real-world consequences for us all.