Merrill: We must unequivocally condemn the campaign to overturn the election

December 14, 2020

From the Casper-Star Tribune

Topping the long list of profound challenges we’ve all faced in 2020, we’re now witnessing a coordinated national-level campaign to undermine our basic, essential faith in our country’s system of elections.

Some elected leaders at the highest levels — people charged with upholding the U.S. Constitution and standing up for the truths we hold to be self-evident — have bombarded us with lies and misinformation meant to sow doubt and sell us on the fiction of so-called “widespread voter fraud” (which, as we know — and as the U.S. Justice Department has confirmed — does not exist).

These lies are not only insidious and meant to sow division . . . they’re not only unjust, unethical, unfounded, and dishonest attacks on facts, logic, nonpartisan poll workers and election officials, and the character of American voters . . . they’re not only deeply corrupt and unpatriotic acts . . . they are, at their heart, an affront to our rights and core values as Americans. And, make no mistake, if successful, these lies threaten to bring down our entire democracy.

The Equality State Policy Center is a nonpartisan coalition with a long track record of standing up for free and fair elections in Wyoming. We condemn this dangerous rhetoric and these anti-patriotic acts.

And let’s say the other thing that needs to be said:

The current president, who in November lost what his own administration’s election watchdog agencies called “the most secure [election] in American history,” continues, on the taxpayers’ dime, to spread lies and misinformation meant specifically to undermine and overturn the lawful election results.

This is not and should not be about partisanship. This is a flagrant attempt to take away the sacred and inalienable power of the American people to elect our own leaders. Party politics should play no role in how we think about these actions by this or any president.

The fact that a U.S. president is spearheading an Orwellian misinformation campaign not only complicates the situation — it directly threatens the rights of voters, the rule of law and the future of our democracy.

We’re seeing the predictable results of the nonstop misinformation as patriotic election officials are receiving death threats for faithfully doing their jobs. Some states have even attempted to interfere in the lawful elections of other states. More than 30 of Wyoming’s own state legislators this past week asked Gov. Mark Gordon to join a lawsuit seeking to nullify the legally cast and legally certified votes of our fellow Americans in — not surprisingly — four swing states.

To his credit, Gordon declined their request, pointing out one of the most glaring problems with the case (which must be obvious to any Wyoming legislator): the lawsuit “could have unintended consequences relating to a constitutional principle that the State of Wyoming holds dear — that States are sovereign, free to govern themselves.” Translation: Do you really want to set a precedent where states like New York and California can routinely petition the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out Wyoming’s election results? The good news is the Supreme Court, on Friday, rejected the suit.

But the fact that more than a third of Wyoming’s elected legislators so brazenly support attacking and undermining the lawful elections of fellow American states suggests the damage from the misinformation campaign has already been done.

The Equality State Policy Center, on behalf of our coalition of 30 member organizations across Wyoming, denounces this attempt — both here in Wyoming and nationally — to overturn an election and undermine our democracy by thwarting the will of the people. We ask that you denounce it as well. We must all stand up together as Americans and condemn it. Steadfastly. Unequivocally.

The stakes are higher than ever, folks. The voices seeking to undermine democracy are louder than ever. And so, our work as citizens and patriotic Americans is more important than ever.

Please, speak up. At this point, silence is complicity. Standing up for our shared core values and the rights of our fellow Americans is not and never should be a question of partisan politics. It’s how we pledge allegiance to the flag. It’s how we keep the American Dream alive.

If American democracy is to survive and continue to flourish, we cannot abandon the very institution and values that makes this country a beacon of democracy for the rest of the world. We cannot ever allow anyone to overturn a free and fair election here. This is our work as citizens, and we must do it together.

Chris Merrill is the executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of all Wyoming’s people through transparent government, fair elections and thriving communities.

This column originally appeared in the Casper Star-Tribune on December 12, 2020.

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