Former President Donald Trump gained Mesa County, Colorado, by 28 factors in final fall’s election.
In Barry County, Michigan, he gained by greater than 32 factors. And in Lander County, Nevada, his victory was in extra of 61 factors.
But in every county, Republican officers have sought to additional examine these outcomes and, in some instances, recommended they is probably not correct. That is regardless of no proof of widespread fraud within the 2020 election there or elsewhere.
With denial of President Joe Biden’s victory on the core of the pro-Trump motion, calls for for partisan election investigations styled after the one approved by Republicans in Arizona — targeted in a county Biden gained — have proliferated. Now, a push to revisit November’s outcomes is underway or being referred to as for in not less than 9 counties Trump gained by greater than 24 factors.
The development is symptomatic of the more and more entrenched concept among the many Trump base that elections are rigged and to not be trusted — a lie Trump continues to vigorously promote and which has grow to be a litmus take a look at for GOP officers in any respect ranges of presidency. A current CNN ballot discovered that just about 6-in-10 Republicans say believing this false declare is vital to their partisan identification.
Some county officers have taken more and more irregular steps to probe the prior election whereas others face strain at rowdy native authorities conferences from teams demanding such investigations. Specialists say that is one other flashing crimson gentle for the state of U.S. elections.
The rising development of unorthodox election critiques “demonstrates that the Massive Lie is getting greater,” Jena Griswold, a Democrat who serves as Colorado’s secretary of state, informed NBC Information, referring to Trump’s baseless and unceasing claims that huge fraud prevented him from successful a second time period. “The risk to democracy is growing.”
The county efforts are occurring on a parallel observe to partisan critiques launched by or along side state legislatures in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, critiques that largely stray from typical vote-auditing process and have typically concerned non-public corporations with little related expertise or experience. Partially for these causes, these critiques in solidly crimson counties haven’t been proof against skepticism from fellow native GOP officers — together with those that run elections.
Ballots from the presidential election, which befell greater than 10 months in the past, have been counted, licensed correct, and, in lots of instances, recounted greater than as soon as with the identical consequence affirmed. Officers in each events acknowledged the validity of the outcomes, whereas former Trump administration officers have mentioned that the election was safe and that they might not discover proof of widespread fraud. Trump’s legal professionals have been unable to provide proof to show their claims in court docket.
Nonetheless, in Michigan’s Barry County, Sheriff Dar Leaf employed a personal investigator he mentioned got here really useful by a lawyer on pro-Trump legal professional Sidney Powell’s “Kraken” lawsuit crew to assist conduct an uncommon probe he launched in July. (Powell and different legal professionals would later be sanctioned for what a federal choose referred to as a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial course of.”)
Leaf, who final yr sought to enlist different Michigan sheriffs to grab the Dominion voting machines on the coronary heart of the election conspiracy concocted on the far proper, had his workplace and a personal investigator, Michael Lynch, interview a sequence of township clerks. The Barry County GOP clerk criticized the hassle and informed the information group Bridge Michigan that Leaf’s crew sought to “shock” the officers.
Leaf, who didn’t reply to requests for remark, informed county commissioners final month he couldn’t present them with an replace on his investigation however mentioned “for essentially the most half” the election was safe.
Ben Geiger, the Republican who chairs the Barry County Board of Commissioners, informed NBC Information that native officers “are sort of antsy to see” Leaf’s probe “wrap up.”
“I have not seen something to trigger me to be involved about Barry County’s election outcomes,” Geiger mentioned.
Julie Nakfoor Pratt, a Republican who’s the county’s prosecuting legal professional, mentioned she walked away from a gathering with Leaf and Lynch “pondering, ‘What on the earth?’”
“To this present day, I have not obtained something extra. And I have not obtained a charging request. I have not obtained requests for something,” she added.
Requested if she has seen any proof that might make her query the outcomes of final fall’s vote regionally, she responded, “Nope.”
These critiques can feed into comparable efforts on the state stage, one thing elections consultants mentioned they discovered notably alarming.
Officers in tiny Fulton County, Pennsylvania, which Trump gained by almost 72 factors final fall, selected a personal IT firm, Wake TSI, to conduct critiques of its election starting late final yr. Wake TSI, which generally labored within the well being care sector, got here really useful by state Sen. Doug Mastriano, an in depth Trump ally who has boosted fraud claims. That firm would later be briefly concerned with the Arizona poll assessment, whereas the chair of Fulton County’s election board was the primary witness to testify final Thursday earlier than a brand new Republican-led Pennsylvania state Senate investigation of final fall’s vote.
That official, Stuart Ulsh, testified that the Wake TSI assessment discovered nothing incorrect with how the 2020 election was carried out in his county. Pressed on who paid the non-public agency for its work, Ulsh repeatedly insisted he by no means requested and didn’t know. A doc obtained by NBC Information confirmed it was employed by Defending the Republic, a gaggle run by Powell.
“You possibly can see that Fulton County was nearly a pilot or a take a look at run of the hassle in Pennsylvania,” Vic Bassetti, senior adviser at States United Democracy Heart, a nonpartisan elections advocacy group, informed NBC Information, “after which the county commissioner from Fulton exhibits up in Harrisburg, and says to everybody ‘Effectively, as I did in my county. Why cannot you?’”
A few of these localized efforts have caught the eye of federal authorities and state election officers. This summer season, Michigan election officers warned native leaders in Antrim and Cheboygan counties that they lack the authority to conduct or supervise post-election critiques. In late August, the Justice Division and Nevada election officers intervened to cease a machine-auditing effort by Lander County commissioners. In his first White Home bid, Trump carried Lander County by 59 factors. In November, his margin of victory grew to 61 factors.
“This has not been about who gained or who misplaced,” Lander County Supervisor Bert Ramos mentioned in an e-mail. “It has been about making 100% sure that what’s licensed is appropriate, clear, and truthful. Nothing extra, nothing much less.”
One prime elections official in Mesa County, Colorado, which Trump carried by 28 factors final fall, is underneath state and federal investigation after an information breach led to the leak of passwords for the county’s Dominion election machines. The county needed to order new voting machines, and that official, clerk and recorder Tina Peters, has been changed as elections head not less than briefly as litigation she faces is pending.
Peters, who didn’t reply to emailed questions from NBC Information, spoke final month on the South Dakota election symposium organized by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of many greatest peddlers of false fraud claims.
There isn’t any proof of wrongdoing in Colorado’s election, which has been audited by the state and authorized.
In Butler County, Pennsylvania, the place Trump gained by 32 factors in 2020, two county commissioner conferences since mid-August have featured pro-Trump conservatives demanding officers launch an Arizona-style poll assessment.
Leslie Osche, GOP chair of Butler County commissioners, informed NBC Information she understands considerations concerning the election course of. Earlier this yr, the commissioners empaneled a gaggle to assessment how November’s election was carried out. The group’s report described some insurance policies and procedures guiding the election as “problematic” however mentioned elections officers “responded in one of the simplest ways attainable given the circumstances.”
As such, Osche mentioned she “typically” has no cause to suppose the Butler County vote doesn’t replicate native voters’ will. Whereas Trump’s margin of victory dropped from 38 factors in 2016 to 32 factors final fall, Osche mentioned there are less complicated explanations for why that occurred, similar to voters’ decreased urge for food for third-party candidates in 2020.
Osche added that since 2000, it has appeared to her that elections and the way they’re carried out have grow to be extra contentious with every passing cycle.
“It simply retains getting extra intense as we go to the purpose of being just a little scary.”