Shawn Vestal: In the world of ‘election integrity’, no integrity is required

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There are many code words in political discourse – words that mean more than, or way beyond, what they appear to mean.

Whenever someone invokes “mental illness” in relation to homelessness or gun violence, for example, it does not mean that the speaker intends to do anything about mental illness in relation with homelessness or armed violence.

No no. In this context, “mental illness” is code for “will do nothing.”

Likewise, when you hear the words “election integrity,” you know you’ve entered the realm of election lies – the slanderous nonsense about voter fraud that has gripped much of the electorate. “Electoral integrity” is coded the same way “sanity” is coded: as a way of draping a bit of normalizing sheepskin over the mangy wolf of a lie.

Lately, vigilante teams of election conspirators are going door to door in D.C. cities, including Spokane, to see if they can cobble together evidence of voter fraud — or at least keep the idea alive. and alive.

It’s called the Washington Voter Research Project, and it’s headed by longtime conservative gadfly Glen Morgan, who for years bombarded the Public Disclosure Commission with complaints against Democrats.

They compare voter registration lists to other data, look for inconsistencies, look for fraud. What they find so far — according to county auditors statewide — are relatively few cases of non-fraudulent circumstances, such as military voters and people who have moved away or died, according to a Seattle Times report.

Owners have complained about this tactic, which some find intimidating. Some have accused the ringers of impersonating election officials. The secretary of state and county auditors — including Spokane County’s Vicky Dalton — have made a point of distancing themselves from the project.

Some 350 of these volunteer vigilantes are engaged in the campaign – which is similar to other doorbell pushes in other states associated with Stop the Steal stupidity. It is driven by the widespread and baseless belief that there is a great deal of fraud in the electoral system (although such fraud tends to be suspected only when Republicans lose).

Morgan insists this is all just a good faith, non-partisan effort to ensure… the integrity of the election. Pundits and propagandists who like to shine a light on people say this is all just a good faith, non-partisan effort to protect…the integrity of the election.

The real objective seems rather obvious: to foment and foster the false belief in an enduring fraud pattern, where none has been discovered.

Voter fraud has proven, time and time again, to be extraordinarily rare, in this state and nationally. But the number of people who believe it’s everywhere has grown, and the biggest election lie of all — that Trump won — is believed by a majority of Republicans.

Forward, these absurd marches, fueled by counterfactual claims, bizarre “evidence” and the avalanche of lies told by a former president whose continued dishonesty would be obvious to an alert and reasonably intelligent 6-year-old.

In this context, the “electoral integrity” code is an important weapon. It is used to de-nuttify a nutty motion. Give a veneer of seriousness and respectability to a baseless lie. It is deployed by those who want you to believe that lies are facts.

It’s code, intended to communicate with those who know and deceive those who don’t.

In another case, the state Supreme Court just castigated an “election integrity” effort in no uncertain terms. The so-called Washington Election Integrity Coalition United had claimed Governor Jay Inslee allowed or encouraged non-citizens to vote.

This is a big part of the election integrity code, and it relates to the great replacement theory. This notion, which is a favorite of white supremacists, Tucker Carlson, and a lot of GOP folks you might have once called “mainstream,” holds that shrewd leftists are importing foreigners to take the place of “mainstream” Americans (in speaking of code) to win elections.

Fraud, you see, is part of that big picture.

The trial was absurd in 50 ways. The “evidence” was an indirect reference to comments made at a Skagit County GOP rally by a woman who claimed to have seen Licensing Department employees registering noncitizens to vote.

Court records say the allegation appeared to be based on assumptions about the ethnicity of people registering to vote – “expressing concern that a ‘Hispanic person’ had expressed an interest in registering to vote”, as Attorney General Bob Ferguson said so in a motion.

The court ruled that the group “provided no valid evidence of voter fraud based on the voting of non-citizens”. In his successful sanctions request, Ferguson called the lawsuit’s allegations “exceptionally inappropriate” and “lacking competent evidence.”

Judges fined the group nearly $10,000 for the frivolity of its claim, and its attorney was fined $18,800. Ferguson says he is considering seeking the disbarment of that attorney, Virginia Shogren.

In a factual world, that would be a serious setback for the “election integrity” movement.

In the coded world of electoral fraud, this may make no difference.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@spokesman.com.


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