Kerry Drake FILE

Drake

Crazy conspiracy theories, once exclusively the domain of the tinfoil-hat crowd and societal fringe, have now wormed their way into the heart of American politics.

Of all the too-ridiculous-for-fiction fantasies making the rounds, the QAnon claim of a secret cabal of Satanic, leftist pedophiles operating a global child sex trafficking ring wins the crackpot sweepstakes, hands down.

But let’s not overlook the competition. It takes a special brand of nuttiness for some Wyoming Republicans to call for an audit of the state’s 2020 election, which their candidate, former President Donald Trump, handily won with 70% of the vote.

Wyoming officials, including the governor and secretary of state, have been inundated with emails from pro-Trump-activists about voter fraud.

I won’t even dignify the charge by calling it “alleged” voter fraud, because other than vague, evidence-free claims that they just know it happened, no one has provided a scintilla of proof to Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, any other election official or a court of law.

If this endeavor consisted of a few people carried away with thoroughly debunked, but rabid claims by right-wing media that the presidential election was stolen from Trump, it wouldn’t be worth writing about.

But there are several reasons to be alarmed, beginning with state officials who continue to perpetuate Trump’s “big lie.”

At the head of the list is state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, one of at least eight candidates challenging U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., in her 2022 re-election bid.

Gray promoted a bill to put the Department of Audit under legislative supervision and empower it to audit elections, not just finances. The Management Audit Committee killed Gray’s proposal, 8-2.

Gray said he believes the presidential election was “rigged” and rife with voter fraud. He maintains it “created a lack of confidence” in the election process. Gray even traveled to Arizona to talk to the kooky senators who turned over ballots from a blue county to an outfit called Cyber Ninjas to conduct a sham audit.

Gray fell hook, line and sinker for this unabashed clown show, saying the auditors were doing “incredible work.” That assessment alone should disqualify him from serious consideration by Wyoming Republican voters.

One of Gray’s opponents in the congressional race, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, chastised him for promoting a Wyoming election audit and disparaging the fine work of the state’s county clerks.

“I’m sick and tired of it,” Bouchard said. “Why don’t we go to your clerk and audit your election and see if you were duly elected?”

I disagree with Bouchard on just about every issue except this one: none of the officeholders who keep preaching about the need for “election integrity” question any race won by Republicans, especially themselves. Those were all on the up and up!

I was dismayed to learn that Buchanan assigned three staff members to watch Mike Lindell, who hawks his “My Pillow” on TV, conduct a laughable seminar in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on supposed national election fraud. Buchanan should personally reimburse the state for that waste of time and money.

Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, attended Lindell’s event. He said even if the charges the pillow guy made were only halfway or “a little bit” true, it’s enough to compel an election audit.

“Would it be wise for us to at least do one? It might be,” Laursen told WyoFile. “I don’t know if the secretary of state would ever be interested. To put people’s minds to ease … it’s pretty darn important, I think.”

I completely agree that we need to reassure voters about the integrity of our democracy. However, there’s a much easier, cheaper and more effective way of doing so: Stop lying to the American people about voter fraud.

Laursen, a three-term state lawmaker, should know that county-level post-election audits are required by state statute, that paper ballots are used in conjunction with digital vote-counting machines and that county clerks regularly purge voter rolls. Out of millions of votes cast in Wyoming since 2000, there have been only three fraud cases, netting a total of four convictions and zero election results affected.

State and federal judges, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, tossed suit after suit. Trump even appointed many of the jurists.

Congress certified Joe Biden’s landslide Electoral College victory. He won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes. This duly elected president isn’t going anywhere before the 2024 election.

The people behind the push to audit elections in every state, including deep red Wyoming, have their eyes on the end game: Winning back the House, Senate and Oval Office. Casting doubt on election integrity gives Republican-controlled state legislatures the cover they need to pass laws to suppress the votes of minorities and poor people.

Buchanan said in the absence of fraud evidence, he’ll start an education campaign to show voters that Wyoming elections are fair and not subject to tampering.

It’s a wishy-washy answer about a nonexistent problem. Let’s stop placating a fringe group of ideologues that just wants to stir an empty pot by filling it with lies and fabrications. Enough already.

The Drake’s Take is a weekly column by veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake, and produced by WyoFile.com, a nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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