Editorials, Opinion

Secretary Warner is peddling Big Lie Lite

How disappointing  to see West Virginia’s top election official, Secretary of State Mac Warner, peddling sugar-coated election fraud conspiracies.

In an op-ed Warner submitted to publications across the state (which we will not run due to its blatant disconnection from reality, but that you can find on his Facebook page), Warner chastises media and elected officials for dismissing the former president’s Big Lie and daring to reiterate that claims of fraud have not once stood up to judicial scrutiny.

He claims there were “irregularities and improprieties” throughout the 2020 election. And, of course, for conspiracists like Warner, such rampant fraud is somehow mysteriously only contained to swing states that ultimately went to President Biden and never any state that  went to Trump —  nor any election that got them elected.

A December 2021 review by the Associated Press of potential voter fraud cases in the six swing states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) found 475 cases with merit — out of more than 25 million ballots cast. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis created an entire task force to crack down on anyone who voted illegally in 2020 — and it turned up 20 indictments out of 11 million votes cast in the state. Legitimate fraud should be prosecuted — but there hasn’t been enough to change the outcome of the 2020 election, which is what people like Warner continue to insist.

Apparently the new approach is not to state outright that the election was stolen — it’s to claim that votes were cast “outside the law.”  Said Warner: “they are votes cast through a process that went beyond the intent of the states’ legislatures and counted under the guise of authority given by an election administrator’s decision, a consent decree or a judicial decision that approved action beyond what the states’ laws provide.” (Yet, Warner’s decision — made by him, as the secretary of state, not the Legislature — to allow anyone to vote absentee because of COVID was somehow perfectly acceptable. Funny how that works.)

Warner complained, “If the law provides that ballots must be signed, that ballots cannot be dropped off in excessive numbers, and to not count ballots that arrive after the statutory deadline, those laws should be followed.”

For the record, those laws were followed, especially in swing states. Warner has tried to pull the “unsigned ballots” drivel before. As part of standard procedure, many states allow a “curing” period for an unsigned ballot: Clerks make a good faith effort to reach the voter and the voter has a short amount of time to come down, provide ID and sign their ballot.

“Excessive” ballot drop offs — a.k.a ballot harvesting — is and has been illegal in virtually all states. The only proven ballot harvesting effort was from a woman in Arizona who was linked to fewer than a dozen ballots.

As for not counting ballots after the “statutory deadline,” only one of the six allowed absentee/mail-in votes to be accepted after Election Day, contrary to state law.  The Supreme Court granted Pennsylvania a three-day extension, as long as the ballot was postmarked on or before Election Day.  About 10,000 of the 2.6 million votes cast by mail were received after Nov. 3, 2020 — not enough to impact the outcome. The other five states either never changed the deadline or had the extensions revoked by the courts.

So, where exactly are these “irregularities and improprieties” again?

Warner closes with “Volunteer to be a poll worker … watch as officials count votes and observe canvassing.” Civic engagement is great and much needed — when done appropriately. But in the context of Warner’s op-ed, this is a dog whistle for MAGA-maniacs. North Carolina had to rewrite its poll-watching laws after Trump supporters caused chaos in roughly half of the precincts during the primary — including, but  not limited to, intimidating poll workers, fighting with voters, violating the guarantee to a secret ballot, trying to handle election equipment, preventing voters from feeding their ballots into the tabulators and being generally disruptive.

The 2020 election is over. There was no rampant fraud anywhere. Trying to sell the Big Lie Lite does nothing but undermine American democracy.

If officials — from both parties — and media are saying “nothing to see here, move along,” as Warner claims, it’s because there truly is nothing to see here. Except perhaps sycophantic charlatans trying to pass off smoke-and-mirror illusions as reality.