State Sen. Kathy Bernier joined a bipartisan group of election and legal experts to raise the alarm about Republican efforts to undermine elections.
State Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) on Monday got choked up as she joined a bipartisan group of legal and election experts to call out what she labeled as fellow Republicans’ “despicable” spreading of lies about fraud in the 2020 election.
Republicans have launched baseless investigations into false claims of voter fraud, sought to prosecute members of the bipartisan commission in charge of Wisconsin’s election administration, and tried to pass new restrictions on voting rights in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s loss to now-President Joe Biden.
Additionally, US Reps. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) were among Republican members of Congress who objected to certifying two states’ election results, and US Sen. Ron Johnson has urged state lawmakers to take control over federal elections.
“We cannot keep undermining our republic,” Bernier, a former county clerk, said at a press conference hosted by the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR),to discuss Republicans’ ongoing efforts to sow doubt about the integrity of the nation’s electoral process. CEIR is a national nonprofit that helps local election officials.
She later added that “made-up claims” of election fraud are “just despicable, and I don’t think any elected legislator should ever play that game.” She also said she hopes her fellow Republicans will bring an end to the partisan election investigation helmed by a former conservative state Supreme Court justice who doesn’t know how elections work and has embraced conspiracy theories.
‘A Great Crisis’
Speakers at the press conference said the very existence of American democracy is in danger.
Mark Becker, founder and executive director of CEIR, said he is depressed and alarmed at the direction the nation is headed and that he has never felt less confidence in the country’s future.
“There are doubts that are being inflamed by the loser of the presidential election and others, and this is causing a great crisis in our democracy,” Becker said.
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With all the threats, intimidation, and legal action being cast against election officials, Ben Ginsberg, a Republican attorney who worked for former Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, and Bob Bauer, former White House counsel for the Obama administration, have founded the Election Official Legal Defense Network, an organization that helps connect election officials with free legal representation.
“The bottom line is that our states and communities, our democracy, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the professional election administrators,” Ginsberg said.
Ginsberg said he fears a situation in which a significant number of voters lose faith in the electoral process. Already, a sizable majority of Republican voters do not trust the nation’s elections despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud. If Republicans were to further undermine—or even steal—elections, Ginsberg said, Democrats would likely lose faith as well.
“That’s an unsustainable situation for either party and this country in general,” he said.
Becker said that not only is the continued erosion of public faith in elections bad for democracy, but it’s bad politics for Republicans, too, as they are suppressing their own base: Last month, a CEIR poll of 1,600 voters found that 16% of Republican respondents said they’d be less likely to vote in the next election unless every state conducts an audit of the 2020 election.
“Right now, we are being played by Washington DC and the political people at the top,” Bernier said. “So I ask my citizens of this country: You are in the driver’s seat. Don’t let them manipulate you.”