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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The 'Big Lie': How the crusade against the 2020 presidential election threatens our democracy

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After days of counting and nail biting, President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election last November. Two months later, on Jan. 6, supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to stop the certification of the election results, following a “Stop the Steal” rally held by Trump nearby.

This violent outcome did not appear out of thin air — Trump had been casting doubt about election results since before the 2016 election. He claimed the 2016 election would be rigged against him and once he won, he said that he lost the popular vote due to people illegally voting for Hillary Clinton. His rhetoric remained the same for the 2020 election. Now, the so-called “Big Lie,” the term Trump has coined to claim his stolen victory, has become a central point in the Republican platform.

In April, after calls from Trump to investigate the election results of Arizona’s Maricopa County, which had previously been audited and certified, a group of Arizona Republicans commissioned an auditof the Maricopa County ballots. Election audits are common, but they are usually nonpartisan and performed by experienced election officials. However, this group of Arizona Republicans chose a private cybersecurity firm called Cyber Ninjas, which had never audited an election and whose CEO is a known election conspiracy theorist. Additionally, the audit was largelyfunded by groups connected to Donald Trump.

In late September, after months of delays, Cyber Ninjas released their report. Despite the obvious partisanship of the audit, they found 99 more votes for Biden and 261 fewer votes for Trump — a negligible difference which nonetheless nullifies any claims that Trump should have won the county. Yet Trump has falselyreiterated that they found evidence of fraud and many Republicans in other states, such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, are pushing for similar audits.

Democrats and even many Republicans have spoken out against these partisan audits. Nonetheless, Trump and his supporters continue to push for them and perpetuate the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. In fact, according to a CNN poll, six out of 10 Republicans said that believing that Trump would win the 2020 election was a significant part of what being Republican meant to them. 

Today, more Americans identify as Democrats than as Republicans, and the Democratic party's popular lead over conservatives only continues to increase as more people become eligible to vote. Democrats are typically concentrated in urban areas while Republicans dominate rural areas, giving smaller, Republican-leaning states outsized governmental importance, as laid out in the Constitution. Because Republicans do not necessarily need to win majorities to win seats or the presidency, they have moved sharply to the right, toward conspiracy theories like QAnon and away from democracy. Their strategy has moved toward using conservative media and Trumpism to electrify their voters while employing voter suppression tactics, casting doubts on election validity and manipulating redistricting to reduce the impact of Democratic voters. 

What is most terrifying about the proliferation of the Big Lie is the potential legislative impact of this conspiracy. Spreading the belief that our elections are fraudulent because Trump did not win has spurred a Republican movement to enact restrictive voting laws. Arizona removed voters from its Permanent Early Voting List if they did not cast a mailed ballot in a four-year period, regardless of whether they voted in person during that time. Texas' state house passed a bill increasing the power of partisan poll watchers, raising penalties for voting crimes and barring election officials from sending unrequested mail in ballots to Texas citizens. In Michigan, Republican lawmakers are pushing a number of voting billsthat would limit the accessibility of casting a ballot or finding information on elected officials. 

These laws are only the beginning of what could be a complete demolition of voting rights as we know them. And the push to stop this trend at the federal level through the For the People Act and the Freedom to Vote Act is only weakening as partisan gridlock increases. 

Across the ideological spectrum, the protection of voting rights and fairness in our democratic system should be a priority. Weakening the voting process through what is essentially Trump's political pity party makes a mockery of this system while furthering tactics of voter suppression. Rather than incite a partisan war over contesting fair and legitimate election results, our lawmakers’ focus should always be to protect the trust citizens have in government and ensure that all voters can easily participate in our elections. 

If you can vote, exercise that right and vote, not just in the upcoming midterms but for local and state races. Support organizations like Fair Fight Action that work to protect voting rights and fight against disenfranchisement. Push your representatives to make protecting our democracy a legislative priority. Make sure the people in your lives are voting if they can. Help them navigate any barriers that may exist toward casting their ballot and if they support claims of widespread voter fraud, educate them on why these ideas are misguided. We cannot let any more disinformation, restrictive laws or partisan claims threaten the future of our democracy.

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