As 2021 has unfolded, the word "audit" has taken on an unfortunate meaning in political circles. Republican state legislators, pursuing ridiculous anti-election conspiracy theories, have launched sham investigations, ostensibly to uncover irregularities.
But in practice, to describe such exercises as "audits" is to strip the word of its meaning. These reviews are partisan charades, intended to fuel far-right suspicions of democracy, while simultaneously creating a pretense to justify new voter-suppression measures. These "audits" add poison to the political system.
There are, however, actual election audits, conducted by professionals who know what they're doing. For example, the Associated Press reported late last week on just such a process:
A highly anticipated nonpartisan audit of the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin released Friday did not identify any widespread fraud in the battleground state, which a key Republican legislative leader said shows its elections are "safe and secure."
The report was released by Wisconsin's non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau, which not only failed to find any widespread fraud, it also failed to find any problems with voting machines.
The AP report went on to note that Republican state Sen. Robert Cowles, who co-chairs the Legislature's Audit Committee, which assigned the audit bureau to conduct the review, welcomed the findings. "Despite concerns with statewide elections procedures, this audit showed us that the election was largely safe and secure," the GOP legislator concluded.
In theory, this should help bring matters to a close. Wisconsin's election results found that President Joe Biden narrowly won the state last fall. Recounts and court rulings bolstered those results. It was against this backdrop that an official and credible audit concluded that there's simply no reason to question the validity of the outcome.
So, time to move on? Apparently not. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported yesterday:
Republicans in the state Senate announced Monday they were launching a review of a recently completed audit of the 2020 election, just days after one of their members said the audit had shown voting had been safe and secure.
In a press statement, GOP state lawmakers said they were responding to the audit with a new "election investigation."
This, of course, shouldn't be confused with the sham "audit," also launched by Wisconsin Republicans, which is led by an increasingly outlandish conspiracy theorist who was also a Trump appointee from late last year.
The Journal Sentinel's reporting added that the GOP leaders in the state Senate announced their plans for a fresh investigation "just hours after Assembly Republicans disclosed they had hired more attorneys at taxpayer expense to try to make sure their review survives a legal challenge."
They have reason to be concerned: State Attorney General Josh Kaul asked a judge late last week to throw out the subpoenas sent out by the increasingly laughable Republican "audit," explaining that the entire inquiry is pursuing "debunked theories."
Time will tell whether the courts agree, but as Rachel noted on Friday's show, the fact that the matter is headed to the courts at all is probably a good thing, since some judicial oversight might help constrain the slipshod process.