Tag: mark finchem
Lacking Evidence (And Lawyers), Arizona Trumpsters Want Midterm Overturned

Lacking Evidence (And Lawyers), Arizona Trumpsters Want Midterm Overturned

Trump Republicans who are seeking to overturn Arizona’s 2022 general election are preparing to sue up to 15 counties with the hope that they find a judge who will be sympathetic to a litany of conspiratorial claims, according to recruitment and briefing materials sent Wednesday seeking lawyers, plaintiffs, and funds.

The materials from “Arizona Constitutional Advocates,” which do not specify which race, or races, they contend were improperly administered, also suggest that the supporters of losing Trump-affiliated candidates will sue whether or not they are represented by a lawyer.

Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and GOP secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem were defeated, according to the media’s preliminary projections. Neither contest, as of Thursday, would trigger a legal recount.

Lake, in her first statement since losing to Democrat Katie Hobbs, said Thursday that she was assembling the “best and brightest legal team… to right these wrongs.” That boast was at odds, however, with the materials circulated by her supporters to hastily assemble a lawsuit to try to block Hobbs’ victory.

“There is a narrow window of 5 days after the election Certification to file a suit-complaint that out election was flawed,” said minutes from a Wednesday meeting by the Gila County Election Integrity Team. “We need to prepare now!”

“If no attorneys, we as plaintiffs could represent ourselves,” it said, under a section entitled “The Plan.”

“The goal in getting the case to many counties [is] so we could find judges that are favorable to hearing the case as we’ve had about 6 rejections in the past 2 years for other voting suits in Maricopa County. As we know the judges can be part of the problem.”

Six documents described the strategy. Two are filing instructions and forms, and court fees, for Maricopa County Superior Court, which is based in Phoenix. The others are the group’s Wednesday minutes, “Election Fraud Claim Info for Possible Plaintiffs,” “Grounds [to sue],” and “Redress of Grievances,” which describes filing of affidavits -- and “How To Call In The Military.”

Many of the purported claims have been circulating in far-right circles since Donald Trump lost the 2020 election in Arizona and nationwide. Some claims are newer and based on glitches that led to 17,000 ballots not being accepted by scanners in Maricopa County’s vote centers on Election Day. Those ballots, whose ink was too light to be read, were set aside, secured, and counted later.

However, none of the 22 issues listed in “Grounds” document specified how general election votes were improperly cast, or improperly counted, in a manner that would alter outcomes – which is the legal threshold to contest an election.

“Anyone can file a lawsuit for the filing fee,” said Chris Sautter, an election lawyer who has specialized in post-election challenges and recounts since the 1980s. “If you’re not doing a recount, the vehicle by which you challenge an election result is a contest. And in an election contest, you have to demonstrate in your pleadings that were it not for the actions you were contesting that the result would be different.”

Sautter reviewed the briefing materials and said that they were vaguer than the 60 lawsuits filed by Trump’s lawyers after the 2020 election that led to every suit except one on a procedural matter being rejected by state and federal courts.

“This is all reminiscent of the kinds of cases that were filed by Trump and his allies following the 2020 election, only these seem to be worse,” he said. “They’re more amateurish. At least, with Trump, you had lawyers in those cases, who knew how to frame the cause of action [when filing a suit]. You’re not going to get anywhere by just going in pro se and representing yourself and throwing out a bunch of allegations that will be dismissed pretty quickly.”

Sautter also said suing in multiple counties to find a sympathetic judge was naïve.

“These people are not going to outsmart the system, which seems to be what they are trying to do,” he said.

The Newest Allegations

The first allegation is one that Trump Republicans raised before Election Day in a few red-run counties. A handful of activists had urged county supervisors to replace state-approved vote-counting computers with a hand count – which none of the counties had done recently. The activists claim the federal accreditation of the testing labs that approved technology used in Arizona had expired.

“If the Lab was not accredited, the voting machines were not certified,” the minutes said. “And if the voting machines were not certified, the vote count (canvass) cannot be certified… and the election cannot be certified.”

The next allegation – “failure of audit without remedy” – concerned Cochise County, which still wants to do a hand count. The county’s attorney “refused to represent them – a dereliction of duty,” the minutes said, referring to a county attorney who said that state law clearly barred a county-run hand count.

The next allegation – “disenfranchisement” – claimed that voters in Maricopa County whose ballots were rejected by scanners were blocked from voting.

“If you are in Arizona, and you are one of the many who was turned away at the polls, or you had your ballot rejected, or later learned your vote was not counted – then sign and notarize a statement saying you were disenfranchised,” the minutes said. “Email your signed affidavit to CountMyVote@azgop.org.”

Another document that listed 22 “Grounds for Election Complaints—Maricopa & Other Counties” was even vaguer. It cited the above claims, and then issues such as “Lack of county department transparency,” “registration problems,” “no day of election records,” and more long-standing complaints from Trump Republicans.

“People came to voting centers to specifically be able to have their vote counted the day of elections were thereby unable to have their vote counted the day of the election, and potentially compromised their voter intent,” it said, reviving Trump’s contention that only votes cast on Election Day should count.

Among the “resources” to be viewed by possible plaintiffs were videos from Rumble, a pro-Trump media platform, “If Arizona Gets Stolen, Here’s How to Fight It,” a YouTube interview with 2020 election conspiracy theorist Cleta Mitchell, a segment from InfoWars, the website run by Alex Jones, who recently lost a major suit for attacking the parents of school children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting.

“We seek bold trusted patriots who have had enough of stolen elections,” said a document seeking plaintiffs in 15 Arizona counties. “We’re working together to redress our claims at the courts and pray some judges hear our cases.”

Polls Miss Again As Voters Mobilize To Protect Elections and Abortion Rights

Polls Miss Again As Voters Mobilize To Protect Elections and Abortion Rights

In 2022’s general election, the most consequential results were not just the defeat of Trump Republicans and continuing reaffirmation of abortion rights. It was what those choices by majorities of voters said about their expectations for American democracy. The electoral system did not sabotage the clear will of voters, but, instead, aided turnout by offering many options to vote, including mail ballots.

There is no single explanation for the still-emerging outcomes in blue and red states. Indeed, some red states saw Trump Republicans whose 2022 candidacies were launched by the U.S. Capitol insurrection win – or at least stay ahead as votes were being counted at the weekend.

But the rejection of Trump-backed candidates, support for core freedoms like abortion rights, record turnouts in key states – lifted by convenient mailed-out ballots, and civil servants’ ability to handle turnout and run an orderly process -- was not what many polls and pundits were forecasting before Election Day.

Indeed, the same outlets that on Veterans Day were reporting that “vote integrity and abortion” shaped the midterms were, for weeks, citing polls that said 2022’s voters mostly cared about the price of gas, food, and inflation. Democracy and freedom were not on the ballot, apparently, until it was discovered they were.

“The polls were telling us that people didn’t care about democracy or abortion. In fact, that’s what they cared about,” said one analyst in a Thursday briefing. “Our interest [is not] in who won this election, but that this country continued to have free and fair elections and that our freedoms continued to be protected… Any other narrative about what happened is going to leave us vulnerable again.”

Election Deniers Rejected

It’s easy to overlook that these outcomes were possible because the nation’s election infrastructure – the multitude of election officials and poll workers, and the technologies they use to verify voters and count ballots – did the job that most Americans have expected over the years. That assumption changed, of course, during the course of Donald Trump’s presidency, when Trump started attacking the accuracy of the system before he was elected, and especially after he was defeated in 2020. Millions of Republicans believed him and still do.

For the past two years, Trump and his allies hoped to create a path for a 2024 comeback by pushing national and state GOP organizations to back candidates for state constitutional offices that had varying degrees of authority to alter the rules surrounding access to a ballot, how votes are counted, and winners are certified. Many of those same candidates also embraced Trump’s belligerent attitude and vowed to revive culture wars – led by banning abortion.

That unofficial Republican Party platform, where many current GOP candidates claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, expressed little reluctance to tilting voting rules for the GOP’s benefit, and assailed many civil rights, became known as “election denialism” in the press and political circles.

The earliest returns on Tuesday night showed election deniers losing key state and federal races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. By midday Thursday, only five new election-denying candidates out of 94 seeking statewide office had been elected, according to the States United Democracy Center, a bipartisan pro-democracy organization that has been monitoring these candidates.

“Election Denial as a platform was a new tactic we saw this year, and the results show that it didn’t work,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Action, its advocacy arm. “So far, most of the Election Deniers who have won statewide office were already sitting elected officials in states that voted for Trump.”

“We’re still waiting on results from Arizona, Nevada, and a few other states,” she said. “But Americans have already sent a clear message: They believe in our free and fair elections. And they don’t want Election Deniers to have power over their vote.”

The rebuke was even wider than States United’s tally. In Michigan, voters passed a ballot measure with a slate of election reforms to make voting more accessible and transparent. Nevada voters passed an expansive equal rights clause to their state constitution. Voters in Michigan, like California and Vermont, opted to add abortion rights to their state constitutions. Voters in red Kentucky, like Kansas this past summer, rejected proposed constitutional limits on abortion.

Many pre-election polls missed these pro-democracy and freedom sentiments. That conventional wisdom began to crack on Election Day, when the Associated Press’ Election Day poll of 94,000 voters – a much bigger sample than most pre-election polls – reported “about half of voters say inflation factored significantly in their vote,” but “slightly fewer voters — 44% — say the future of democracy was their primary consideration.”

The economy, of course, always matters. But democracy was on the ballot.

Still, The Election Isn’t Over

Meanwhile, anti-democratic threats from Trump Republicans remain.

While Democrats have preserved their U.S. Senate majority, the U.S. House, which President Joe Biden said on Wednesday may have a slim GOP majority, will have a GOP caucus filled with election deniers, including scores of representatives who voted against certifying the 2020 Electoral College after the insurrection.

In other battlegrounds, such as Nevada and Arizona, by Saturday evening it appeared that Democrats had defeated or were positioned to defeat most Trump Republicans. Nevada’s incumbent Democratic Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, was projected by the Associated Press to win her contest, preserving the body’s Democrat’s majority. Another Democrat, Cisco Aguilar, was projected to win the race for secretary of state. In Arizona, Democrat Adrian Fontes was projected to win the secretary of state race.

Masto, Aguilar and Fontes all defeated Trump Republicans who were among their state’s most vocal election deniers. However, some election deniers were winning high office. In Nevada, Joe Lombardo, a Las Vegas area sheriff endorsed by Trump, was elected governor. In Florida, Gov. Rick DeSantis, an authoritarian Republican, was returned to office. In deep red Wyoming, an election denier was elected as secretary of state.

As 2022’s election continues toward the process of officially certifying winners, it will be intriguing to see how the pro-democracy messages sent by voters will play out. In Arizona and Nevada, where the GOP ticket is led by candidates who not only rejected Biden’s victory, but also colluded with rogue county boards to take over counting ballots and declaring winners, some chaos is stewing.

These frays may be sideshows when compared to state and nationwide trends. But Trump and his allies have used local fights over election results and voting technology in a handful of counties to perpetuate his stolen election narrative and to sustain doubts about 2020, and to fundraise.

On Thursday, the Trump Republican-led board of supervisors in Cochise County, Arizona, announced it will meet next week to start a hand count that was blocked by a state court on Monday. The supervisors did not want to use a state-approved voting system, which reflects their distrust of computers that tally votes.

Initially, they wanted to hand count ballots and use those figures as the results – which a non-Trump Republican lawyer told me would let them create whatever totals they wanted. The hand count, which is likely to be stopped by the Arizona Supreme Court, is led by the former lawyer for the Cyber Ninjas, the Florida firm that oversaw the discredited post-2020 review sanctioned by state senators.

Voting rights lawyers are following these antics. In 2020’s post-election period, Trump and his allies filed more than 60 lawsuits filled with false claims but lacking in factual evidence – the basis of judicial rulings. He lost every suit except one. But they were a bonanza for creating stolen election propaganda in right-wing media.

In 2022, Trump Republicans claim they are better organized. They have recruited volunteers to gather evidence of malfeasance. If and how those reports are cited in future court filings, or surface in pro-Trump media, remains to be seen.

Most Conspiracists Sidelined

But what hovers over these ongoing developments in the 2022 general election is wide rejection of Trump Republican candidates and other signs that voters were moved by democracy issues and voted to protect elections and abortion rights.

The list of election deniers and rightwing culture warriors who lost bids for state office keeps growing, as tracked by States United Action.

Nationally, at least 42 million voters, a third of the electorate, cast mailed-out ballots, according to The National Vote at Home Institute, a non-profit that assists officials with this option. That usage will set a record for a midterm election and affirms that voters welcome flexible voting options and want to be heard.

Moreover, Election Day voting did not see widespread incidents of threats to election officials, or disputes among election workers and partisan observers, as many election insiders had feared. Nationally, officials administered an orderly process, even though some locales experienced glitches that delayed voters.

What stood out in the final Election Day briefing by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, were singular incidents where individuals with right-wing sympathies bullied or hurled “racial slurs” at voters waiting in line, and problems with voting sites near universities that were impeding students (which isn’t new). Such intolerance, which predates Trump, still lingers in his base.

But mostly, voters opted for candidates that did not want to subvert elections and to protect personal freedom. And today’s voting rules and infrastructure allowed record numbers of voters cast ballots and accurately recorded their choices.

“So far, new Election Denier candidates have only won around five percent of all races for statewide office,” said Thania Sanchez, State United Action’s senior vice president of research and policy development. “And there aren’t enough uncalled races left for that trend to shift much.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

How Can Jews Still Support A Republican Party Infested With  Anti-Semites?

How Can Jews Still Support A Republican Party Infested With  Anti-Semites?

The anti-Semitic outbursts of Kanye West have exposed again the increasing tolerance of foul bigotry within the Republican Party and among its "conservative" mouthpieces. With West now touted as a new Black GOP voice (despite or perhaps because of his admitted mental illness), his sickening threats against Jews were quickly excused by the likes of Tucker Carlson, the top Fox News host whose own embrace of explicit anti-Semitism appears imminent.

Over the past few years, nearly every day has seen an anti-Semitic outrage perpetrated by some figure or organization associated with the Republicans; as the intensity and frequency of these offenses grows, the response by the party and its officials, never robust, has only become weaker and more cowardly.

The question is what Republicans — not the burgeoning caucus of neo-Nazis who call themselves Republicans, but actual conservatives — will do about this cancer on their party. It is a question especially pertinent to the handful of American Jews who have provided substantial financing for the Republicans, and for the man who has stimulated so much hate, former President Donald J. Trump.

When Trump initially excused the murderous Nazi rioters in Charlottesville, Virginia, he upset at least some of the Jewish Republicans who had supported him, such as the financier Stephen Schwarzman and the investment banker Gary Cohn. They felt the disdain of the overwhelming majority of Jews who want no part of Trump or Trumpism.

And yet many of those same Jewish Republicans continue to support the party as its extremism endangers their community and every other minority in the United States. It is curious indeed that someone like the hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay and therefore a target of fascist violence, would continue to subsidize this social poison.

Despite the fact that his own daughter and grandchildren are Jewish, Trump revived the "America First" slogan first popularized here by Hitler's agents and supercharged the return of fascist movements, with their animus against Jews, Blacks, gays and anyone else deemed "different." Having recently donned a "Q" pin to advertise his affinity for the conspiratorial, anti-Semitic and violent QAnon movement, the former president clearly understands that these hideous elements are crucial to his base. But the blame for this menace can no longer be attributed to him alone. Too many other Republicans are directly implicated or complicit.

In Arizona, much of the Republican apparatus is tainted by anti-Semitic rhetoric and ideologies, in particular state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who sucks up to the neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes and his America First Political Action Committee, and Rep. Paul Gosar, the member of Congress notorious for posting homicidal images of himself murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Joe Biden. Mark Finchem, the party's nominee for secretary of state this year, is touting his endorsement by the openly anti-Semitic social media site Gab and its founder Andrew Torba, whose speeches explicitly echo the German Nazi Party.

In Pennsylvania, the Republicans nominated for governor a Christian nationalist state senator named Doug Mastriano, who hired Torba to send Gab's anti-Semitic subscribers to his campaign. He followed up with a bit of unsubtle Jew-baiting of his Democrat opponent Josh Shapiro.

In New York, the Republicans chose Carl Paladino, a raving racist, for an upstate congressional seat; his endorsement of Adolf Hitler as "the kind of leader we need" didn't bother Rep. Elise Stefanik, third-ranking Republican in the House, enough to evoke comment, let alone a disendorsement. And let's not forget Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the lunatic anti-Semite and apostle of QAnon violence who was nevertheless backed by nearly every House Republican last year when Democrats moved to strip her committee assignments.

The roster of white nationalists, fascists and neo-Nazis who identify as Republicans goes on much longer and includes such prominent party figures as Trump adviser Steve Bannon. There is now an entire wing of the party, bidding for dominant status, that bills itself as "nationalist" and promotes the authoritarian anti-Semitic leader of Hungary, Viktor Orban, as a Republican role model. That wing even has its own financier, the gay tech billionaire Peter Thiel, whose attraction to white nationalism may someday make him the Republican version of Ernst Röhm.

Whatever has motivated decent Republicans, including those of Jewish descent, to continue supporting what is rapidly becoming the party of fascism and anti-Semitism, they must stop and reconsider. If they imagine that they are using the far Right to achieve a political agenda of lower taxes or less regulation, they ought to recall how that worked out a century ago, when German conservatives, aristocrats, and nationalists thought they were manipulating Hitler and his movement to thwart socialism.

Those willing instruments of Nazism are stained forever — and that legacy of disgrace will be shared by the Republicans who are now enabling fascism in America.

Far-Right Election Denier May Become GOP Nominee

Election Denier May Be GOP Nominee For Arizona Secretary Of State

On August 2, Arizona’s Republican and Democratic primary elections will be held, and residents of the Grand Canyon State will be voting for everything from governor to secretary of state. On the GOP side, it remains to be seen whether the nominees will be far-right MAGA conspiracy theorists or more traditional conservatives — and the Donald Trump-backed MAGA candidates include gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and secretary of state hopeful Mark Finchem, both of whom have been campaigning on the Big Lie and making the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.

Finchem, who serves in the Arizona House of Representatives, is way beyond conservative; he’s a supporter of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers who, in 2013, said that President Barack Obama was trying to establish a “totalitarian dictatorship.” And if Finchem wins the primary on August 2 and goes on to win the general election in November, Arizona’s top elections official will be someone who attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 and falsely claims that President Joe Biden wasn’t legitimately elected.

In an article published by Politico on August 1, journalist Zach Montellaro notes, “Mark Finchem — a poster child for election deniers following the 2020 election — is inching closer to becoming the chief election official in one of the most tightly divided battleground states in the country. Finchem, an Arizona state lawmaker, is running with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in Tuesday’s Republican primary for secretary of state there. He has support from a coalition of other like-minded candidates running to be election administrators in their own states, which has gained traction in several other close 2020 swing states. And Finchem has a significant edge in a rare public poll of the secretary of state race published Friday.”

The poll that Montellaro is referring to was conducted by OH Predictive Insights and released on July 29. According to OH, Finchem is leading primary opponent Beau Lane by 21 percent — and Lake, in Arizona’s GOP gubernatorial primary, is leading opponent Karrin Taylor Robinson (who conservative Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has endorsed) by 18 percent.

Finchem is a member of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a far-right group that seeks to put MAGA Republicans in control of the administration of elections in different states. The group ran into a brick wall in Georgia, where Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — a conservative Republican who, like Gov. Brian Kemp, famously resisted Trump’s coup attempt in the Peach State after the 2020 election — won his primary by double digits. But in other states, including Nevada and Pennsylvania, the America First Secretary of State Coalition has been more successful.

“Should he win on Tuesday,” Montellaro explains, “Finchem will become the latest member of the America First Secretary of State Coalition to secure the Republican nomination in a key battleground, putting them a general election win away from running the 2024 presidential vote in their states — four years after working to subvert President Joe Biden’s election win and falsely claiming the vote was marred. The coalition’s founder, Jim Marchant, is the Republican nominee in Nevada, while Kristina Karamo is the de-facto GOP pick in Michigan. And in Pennsylvania, where the governor picks the state’s chief election official, coalition member Doug Mastriano is the GOP candidate…. Finchem does face significant opposition in the primary, including from Beau Lane, a businessman endorsed by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.”

Montellaro continues, “But if the latest polling is any guide, Arizona Republicans are poised to elevate someone who has relentlessly sought to undermine confidence in state elections as their pick to run future elections. Finchem has been one of the chief proponents of election conspiracy theories since the 2020 election. He was a significant booster of the GOP-led review of all of the ballots cast in 2020 in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, which was strongly opposed by the Republican-dominated county government and a bipartisan cast of election officials. Finchem also advocates the fanciful plan of ‘decertifying’ the 2020 election results in Arizona, which has no basis in the law, and he counts others who worked to undermine American elections among his prominent supporters, including Michael Flynn, Jenna Ellis and Mike Lindell.”

On June 1, 2021, The Informant’s Nick Martin tweeted that images appeared to show Finchem near the U.S. Capitol Building and “walking through the crowd” on January 6, 2021.” The photos that Martin tweeted were taken by Tomas Abad of Getty Images.

Montellaro notes, “Lane hails from the business wing of the state party. He launched his campaign touting the endorsement of dozens of business leaders in the state. And in July, he scored the endorsement of outgoing Ducey, the term-limited governor, who praised him for his integrity and 'competence in (his) ability to actually do the job they seek.'”

Politically, Arizona has evolved a great deal in recent years. Once a deep red state, Arizona was closely identified with the conservative Republican politics of Sen. Barry Goldwater and his successor, Sen. John McCain (who died in 2018). But Arizona now has two centrist Democratic U.S. senators: Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly. Arizona’s secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, is a Democrat who is running for governor — and while Hobbs is campaigning on preserving democracy and against voter suppression, Lake is campaigning on the Big Lie.

Although Democrats have made a lot of progress in Arizona, the Arizona Republican Party has responded by moving further to the right — much to the chagrin of traditional conservatives like Cindy McCain (John McCain’s widow) and former Sen. Jeff Flake, both of whom endorsed Biden in 2020 and have been critical of Trump and the MAGA movement. Another MAGA critic is conservative activist Meghan McCain, who is Cindy McCain’s daughter and a former co-host of The View and is on very friendly terms with Sinema.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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