Tina Peters isn't the only pro-Trump official accused of attempted or successful thefts of voting data or unauthorized access to sensitive, must-be-secured-at-all-times election machines.
May 1, 2022

Reuters has an excellent report on pro-Trump Republicans who have attacked U.S. election systems, stealing voting data or attempting to do so under the supposed justification of searching for "election fraud." Reuters counts eight known recent attempts, the most infamous being the case of Colorado election clerk Tina Peters, who now faces multiple felony charges after allowing voting data to be breached and stolen. But Peters isn't the only pro-Trump official accused of attempted or successful thefts of voting data or unauthorized access to sensitive, must-be-secured-at-all-times election machines.

There is a trend of Republican officials and allies looking to breach election systems so that they can comb through voter data looking for "fraud" that they claim to be omnipresent simply because they refuse to believe Americans did not vote overwhelmingly to reelect the incompetent loudmouth Donald Trump. Cases include Adams Township in Michigan, where a QAnon-promoting clerk was found in possession of sensitive election tabulation hardware four days after it went missing; another Michigan episode in which a Republican activist impersonated a government official in an attempt to steal equipment; a Colorado election clerk caught on video making "forensic" copies of "everything on the election server"—the two hard drives the information was copied to have not been recovered. Pillow kingpin Mike Lindell features heavily as a financier of election conspiracy theories that have now morphed into pro-Trump crimes and attempted crimes.

It's worth reading in full, if only as emphasis on how widespread the attacks on the validity of our elections have become and will become, but there are some key takeaways worth highlighting:

1. It is all based on conspiracy theories. Not sophisticated conspiracy theories, but QAnon or similar-styled ranting at clouds, bizarre claims with no evidence other than being passed around on the internet from crackpot to crackpot. The "evidence" the pro-Trump officials are looking for is not something that they can even describe; the goals are to obtain voting records or the secured software being used on election equipment so that it can be looked through and distributed to others, upon which the presumption is that "something" corrupt will be found. Like what? You know, something. And what are these suspicions based on? What tidbits of information are out there to suggest that stealing this information will result in exposing a conspiracy?

Not a damn thing. Literally nothing. The best the evidence ever gets is the sort of "looking for bamboo fibers in our ballots"-styled nonsense of the Arizona Republican audit; the tabulation machines are being targeted to look for secret "make Joe Biden win this thing" code, the 2020 election records are being targeted in the hopes that a grand conspiracy will be uncovered in which long-dead or nonexistent voters overwhelmed the vote counts through raw force of their nonexistence.

The people doing the crimes are conspiracy cranks who have either risen to positions of minor local party power or want to. They are ... not scholarly people, to say the least. They are people who have been incited by the invented propaganda claims put on television by Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, House Republicans, Fox News, and Pillow Dude, and believe them simply because one of those aforementioned bozos managed to convince them through the sheer power of their televised hairlines.

2. Each case shows a brazen Republican disregard for the law. The Republican clerks and other local officials behind the data breaches and thefts are unapologetic; since they believe somebody else somewhere might be doing a crime, they assert they are justified in doing real crimes to expose the imagined ones.

Historically, this has tended to be a significant component of conservatism and is a blazingly obvious component of authoritarianism in all its forms. Enemies, named and unnamed, are "oppressing" us by secretly doing crimes. The crimes are so secret that they cannot be found, which only proves that even more crimes are being committed to hide them. Therefore the laws are now invalid and we're going to break them in order to "level the playing field" between the imaginary crimes and our real ones, rinse, repeat.

So you've got things going on like a local Republican official threatening to get an elections official fired if that elections official doesn't let the Republican have access to secured voting equipment that by law nobody is allowed to have access to because then it wouldn't be secure. Election integrity can simply be disregarded if it is in service to Republicanism, especially Republicanism that is itself obsessed with proving that our election integrity is faulty.

It turns out that having a "president" willing to break laws regularly, alongside party-devoted lawmakers who are eager to simply scrub out enforcement of whatever rules he breaks, may result in more widespread party beliefs that Criminality Is Good Now. Given the number of Republican lawmakers still willing to spout the same arguments and a justice system that has gone from apathetic pursuit of crimes committed by public officials to near-silence, there is no indication this will not get much, much worse.

3. These criminal efforts are more coordinated than they might look. The tell here is the simple note that Mike Lindell, the aforementioned Pillow Dude, is pouring a lot of money into convincing people like these local Republican conspiracy theorists that Republican election conspiracy theories are so dire that extraordinary action needs to be taken to combat them. In Texas, a big Republican donor is now under indictment for financing a supposed "investigation" into election fraud that saw one of his investigators run a random Texan off the road and hold him at gunpoint on the bizarre belief that the man's truck was stuffed with fake ballots.

The crimes are all committed due to a belief in a handful of nebulous, nonsensical conspiracy theories that came from top Trump propagandists and which continue to be repeated now as core movement beliefs. The reason those beliefs continue is because there's a whole lot of Republican money being poured into making them continue.

There are also legislative efforts to make such tampering the new normal, Republican-controlled state legislatures have now passed a bevy of new laws that allow them to simply seize control of whatever local election offices have reported back with vote totals that Republican partisans find suspicious. Here's a tip: Counties that tend not to vote for Republican candidates are the ones being singled out as "suspicious." Elections officials who object to partisan party hacks thumbing through secure data are either being voted out of office by the Republican base or are being stripped of their authority, and the lawmakers writing those laws are being quite clear that they're taking those actions because of party conspiracy theories being propped up by, well, themselves.

Reuters is reporting on a wave of conspiracy-minded Republican cranks now looking to target the nation's election systems by stealing sensitive data, but the broader context here is that the party is looking to legalize those sorts of breaches, not tamp down on them. The problem they're trying to solve is that, in states like Georgia, Americans aren't voting for Republicans in sufficient numbers for Republicans to win. The solution they've come up with is to declare that if a Republican candidate doesn't win, it's because there was a secret conspiracy to fudge the numbers—thus requiring Republican "investigation" into votes against them.

Published with permission from Daily Kos.

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