Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2019

Currently: 74° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Nevada won’t tolerate underhanded election tricks used in other states

If there’s any doubt you’ll win, cheat. And if you get caught cheating, destroy the evidence.

This is what the Republican Party of 2019 considers acceptable election strategy.

The party’s latest attack on democracy was exposed last week in a court ruling in Georgia, where a federal judge blasted Republican state officials over the state’s controversial 2018 election.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg came in a lawsuit over allegations that GOP operatives committed widespread suppression of black voters and gamed the voting system in 2018. Their goal: to engineer Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp’s win against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Totenberg ruled that the election was rife with problems — malfunctioning voting machines, voter selections automatically flipping to other candidates, self-casting ballots, misinformation about voters’ polling places and addresses, and more. She said the plaintiffs provided a “mountain of evidence” proving the problems had a “tangible impact” on many Georgians’ ability to vote and have their ballots counted accurately.

Totenberg also harshly criticized state officials for failing to address a 2017 system breach that exposed the data of 6.7 million Georgia voters, as well as passwords used by county officials to access information. Voter rights advocates claimed the breach allowed Republicans to train their voter suppression efforts on black communities, where voters have traditionally supported Democratic Party candidates.

In an obvious sign that Republicans were caught with dirty hands, the relevant servers were wiped shortly after the lawsuit was filed. Totenberg said the GOP’s assertions that the servers “were simply ‘repurposed’ and not intentionally destroyed or wiped is flatly not credible.”

The clear takeaway of the ruling is that Republicans maintained a voting system that could easily be hacked, rigged and weaponized against black voters.

For that, the preponderance of guilt falls on Kemp, who was Georgia’s secretary of state from 2010 until shortly after the election. (Yes, Kemp remained in charge of the election during the race, which Abrams aptly compared to a boxing match where one fighter is also the referee and one of the judges.)

The ruling is a scathing rebuke of Kemp and his fellow Republicans.

But the GOP showed no shame. A spokeswoman for the current secretary of state — a Republican, naturally — called Totenberg’s conclusions “silly and unfounded.” This despite the plaintiffs providing statements from more than 130 voters, 15 poll watchers and two county poll workers about the subterfuge.

There’s nothing silly or unfounded about what happened in Georgia. The same goes for Republican attacks on democracy there and in other states through gerrymandering and voting suppression. When those disgusting tactics don’t work and Republicans lose elections anyway, they resort to scorched-earth legislation that undercuts powers of incoming Democratic Party leaders. That happened in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

Nevadans won’t stand for this. In the past two election cycles, voters here sent a loud-and-clear message to Republicans that we’ll protect poll access for all eligible voters and ensure their ballots are counted accurately.

We took a responsible step forward by passing the motor voter ballot question in 2018, which makes voter registration automatic when someone applies at the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license or identification card. In last year’s legislative session, lawmakers restored voting rights for convicted felons upon completion of their sentences. Then there’s the remarkable work of the Clark County Election Department, which eliminated the old precinct voting system in favor of election centers allowing eligible county voters to cast ballots at locations across the Las Vegas Valley. The change made voting far more convenient.

The Culinary Union and other advocacy groups also deserve a hand for efforts to register voters, especially among groups where turnout is traditionally low.

Nevada is a model of what can be accomplished when voters elect responsible leaders. We’ve put up a barrier to undemocratic activities of the GOP as shown in Georgia and so many other states.

Now, we must keep that wall strong. As revealed in Totenberg’s ruling, Republicans will sink to any depth in attacking fair voting.