Approaching the American halfway (mid-term elections), the Republican Party is more than ever under the influence of former President Donald Trump. His voter fraud allegations are an important part of the Republican strategy to seize the midterms. This could have major consequences for the 2024 presidential election and for American democracy in general.
“So what are we going to do, folks? I only need 11,000 votes.” It’s January 2, 2021, and Trump has been online with Brad Raffensperger for over an hour. He is the Secretary of State of Georgia – and therefore responsible for the electoral process in this State. Trump asks his party colleague to find “enough votes” (11,780) for the state to go to the incumbent president. Raffensperger refuses. Trump loses the election.
The strategy that seemed like a desperate last-ditch solution in 2020 could yet become a determining factor during this year’s midterms. Because in the meantime, the seed of doubt about the election has germinated in a cunning strategy by the Republican Party to win the election. And it may well prove itself in the years to come.
Trump’s election fraud allegations have had exactly the intended effect, which is to sow doubt. About believes now two-thirds Republican voters that incumbent Joe Biden came to power unfairly. “And that means they’re doing everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” says US expert Victor Vlam.
Trump supporters are therefore an indispensable link in the so-called precise strategy (loosely translated: “neighborhood strategy”) that Republicans use now. This strategy means that they want to increase their influence throughout the country at the most local level possible.
“Army” of vote counters and Republican lawyers
The strategy took shape when former Trump adviser Steve Bannon urged supporters in a podcast to turn out en masse at polling places, preferably in predominantly Democratic neighborhoods. “We are going to win back the elections, village after village, district after district. And they cannot stop us,” he said. After his call, the number of Republicans aspiring to be election officials skyrocketed.
Vote counters receive instructions from Republicans before midterms on how to sow as much doubt as possible about the validity of votes. For example, by questioning voters’ identity documents or questioning the operation of voting machines.
All these reports are collected so that they can later be used as “evidence” of electoral fraud. In addition to voting volunteers, the party is recruiting lawyers to present such evidence in trials, found Politics. “It’s really going to be an army,” said Michigan Republicans’ integrity director.
Republicans in key positions
And this army is not only made up of volunteers in the polling stations and lawyers. Republicans are also trying to advance their people to leadership positions at the polls. “In most cases, these are elective positions. This means that people simply appear on the ballot. But sometimes there is only one candidate, because it is difficult to find people for this. anyway. So if a Republican makes an office available, they’ll probably get it as well,” Vlam explains.
Finally, the Republicans are trying to secure key positions within the states. An important function is, for example, that of secretary of state. This person is usually (the exact function varies from state to state) responsible for organizing the elections. “For example, they can create barriers that make it harder for some people to vote,” Vlam says. He can also open an investigation for electoral fraud or even have a recount carried out.
In many states, Republican deniers are vying for political office. This is happening, for example, in Arizona, where the party is pushing loyal Trump supporters to three key positions (Secretary of State, Governor, and Attorney General). If in such a state, on top of that, massive claims of voter fraud come from polling stations run by Trump supporters, then the influence of this group is widespread and relatively significant.
As Trump has tried to secure additional votes from above in 2020, Republicans now want to cast doubt on the outcome from below.
“Damage to the electoral system”
Or the precise strategy will seriously affect the results is the question. “On an individual level, it won’t have a huge impact. But as it now affects many different people in many different places, there can indeed be an influence,” says Vlam. This influence will be particularly important in states where the differences in results are small.
And so the strategy is worrying, says Vlam. “I think this strategy could cause very serious damage to the electoral system. It could lead to an outcome that does not correspond to the will of the people. This is of course a big problem in a democracy,” he says.
“Ik denk ook dat dit het vertrouwen in de democratie kan schaden. Zelfs als het niet de uitslag beïnvloedt, kunnen Democraten door dit soort tactieken alsnog hun vertrouwen in de uitslag verliezen. En als je die niet meer vertrouwt, est de basis van je democratie road.”
What can Democrats do? Not much actually. Republican methods are legal. “The problem is this: what’s legal isn’t always ethical,” says Vlam. “You can stay within the bounds of the law and still do harmful things.”
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