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Kentucky’s Michael Adams Takes on Election Conspiracies

The Republican secretary of state claims that the biggest threat to the state’s elections is not fraud, but the people who are claiming election fraud exists and the danger that those conspiracy theories create.

(TNS) — If, like me, you’re a little nervous about the upcoming midterm elections and whether people will abide by the results, then you might want to look at the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit group with a mission to protect elections and democracy.

They are tracking the election deniers nationwide on the ballot on Nov. 8 and beyond with the simple explanation that “the anti-democracy playbook is simple: If you change the rules of elections, and you change the referees who oversee elections, you can change the results.”

After the latest round of primaries, they note, election deniers — those who peddle the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election —are in at least one in four of all races for governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

For Kentucky, the bad news is that our election for constitutional officers isn’t until next year, and the GOP candidates have been decidedly wishy-washy about where they stand on 2020. And we have our own army of deniers, the six primary candidates who challenged the results of their May elections in court. Five of the six are aligned with Kentucky’s own “Liberty,” movement, the latest incarnation of the Tea Party or small government or Trump supporters or whatever you want to call it. (Two cases were dismissed; the other four are still in court.) They’ve been cheered on by state Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R- Lawrenceburg, and former Secretary of State candidate Steve Knipper, who have been putting on a “Restore Election Integrity” tour to peddle various ideas of elections controlled from beyond through the Internet and other nonsense.

The good news is that the person who oversees Kentucky’s elections, Secretary of State Michael Adams, is on a tour of his own to stop them.

Adams has turned to Dickens to describe the crazy times we’re in.

“It’s the best of times and the worst of times,” he told me. “In Kentucky we have taken great strides forward on security and accessibility, and our election system has never been better. Yet it’s the worst of times — the Secretary of State and county clerks shouldn’t get death threats, but the more we do and the more we improve, the more doubt, the more crazy and the more hate we get.

“The biggest threat is not fraud, it’s people who are claiming election fraud, and it’s starting to get dangerous.”

County clerks are starting to retire in greater numbers and those who stay have more trouble recruiting poll workers because of the current atmosphere.

The funny thing is that election fraud has always had a presence in Kentucky — in small towns and counties where just a few dollars can sway a vote and a few votes can sway an election. But in 120 separate elections conducted by 120 county clerks, Venezuelan socialists are not using the internet to switch results in the Logan County judge executive race.

Adams has spent the summer researching our current craziness, books like “The Big Sort,” by Bill Bishop which took a prescient look at the literal and virtual ecochambers we’ve sealed ourselves away in. “People can no longer handle cognitive dissonance,” he said. “They think if my candidate lost, then the election must be stolen, there’s no other explanation.

Adams has chosen to take a more optimistic view of the situation, pointing to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger’s recent win, despite opposing Trump’s attempts to swing that state’s results. Adams also points to a state legislature led by still fairly traditional Republicans who have not bent to the winds of craziness. In fact, one of the first intimations of election fraud was sown by Trump lite former Gov. Matt Bevin after he lost in a squeaker to current Gov. Andy Beshear. GOP legislative leaders, (who it must be noted were not Bevin fans), quickly shut it down.

“By and large Kentucky Republicans have not bought into this craziness, maybe because they’re less concerned about losing their seats” in a predominantly Republican state, said Josh Douglas, a professor of election law at the University of Kentucky.

The proof will be in the 2023 elections. As a conservative Republican, Adams has taken a stand for democracy, and like Liz Cheney, he may pay a high price for doing so next year when he runs for a second term. He’s already been censured by the Republican Party in LaRue, Marshall and Hart Counties . Next year, we’ll see exactly how much belief the current crop of Republicans have in the electoral process or if one of them decides his or her loss could be due only to fraud.

“One of the biggest problems I’ve got is what happens if Andy Beshear is reelected,” Adams said. “If we wins, it won’t be because of fraud ... and if he does win, I will have some explaining to do with certain sector of GOP population.”

Ben Chandler, former congressman and recent chair of the State Board of Elections, says that the bipartisan Board and Adams will have to continue to defend the system.

“It goes to the very foundations of our democracies — if mistrust is sown in electoral system, we have no democracy left, it’s the cornerstone,” he said. “You’ve got to have faith in the outcome of elections and instead we have a whole body of people trying to sow distrust. We have to be vigilant about that and we have to continue to explain to people how it works and that we have faith in it.”

©2022 Lexington Herald-Leader. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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