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New Republican election 'audits' are off to a truly ridiculous start

Nearly a year after Trump's defeat, Republicans in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are launching unnecessary and utterly ridiculous election "investigations."

Arizona Republicans' utterly bonkers "audit" of the 2020 presidential election has become the stuff of legend — but not in a good way. As a bipartisan group of local officials in Maricopa County put it in May, the outlandish process is a "spectacle that is harming all of us," adding, "Our state has become a laughingstock."

But with so much of the GOP fully invested in the Big Lie, Republican officials elsewhere remain eager to repeat Arizona's mistakes nearly a year after Donald Trump's re-election defeat.

In Wisconsin, for example, GOP legislators recently agreed to spend up to $680,000 — in taxpayer money — on an entirely unnecessary investigation into ballots that have already been counted multiple times. Making matters worse, the Associated Press reported this week that the state's election clerks reacted "with a mixture of concern and confusion to the first inquiry made by a special investigator hired by Republicans to examine" the state's 2020 election.

As Rachel explained on Tuesday's show, the inquiry came in the form of a strange email from an unofficial account and an unknown sender, requesting the preservation of election records. Not surprisingly, several Wisconsin counties said they intended to ignore the mysterious correspondence and await official instructions.

The investigation is being led by former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who made up his mind about far-right conspiracy theories before his examination even began: Gableman is a "Stop the Steal" activist who's publicly sought to undermine public confidence in the election results.

While these developments unfold in the Badger State, Pennsylvania Republicans, also invested in the Big Lie, have moved forward with their own "review" of the election — despite the fact that the state has already conducted post-election audits confirming the accuracy of the results.

The Washington Post reported yesterday on GOP state legislators approving subpoenas for "a wide range of data and personal information on voters."

Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver's license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.

That's quite a list. Remember, there's literally no evidence of election improprieties in the Keystone State. There was an election; the votes were tallied; the results were certified; and audits found no irregularities in the vote count. No one, anywhere, has produced any credible proof of problems with the state's balloting.

A couple of Trump voters were caught trying to cast illegal ballots on behalf of dead relatives, but they were easily caught, and in a state in which roughly 7 million Pennsylvanians voted, the vanishingly small number of Republicans who tried and failed to commit fraud was inconsequential.

GOP legislators are nevertheless investigating for no reason, and they're jumping in with both feet: Pennsylvania Republicans' opening gambit is to request the names, dates of birth, home addresses, driver's license numbers, and partial Social Security numbers for millions of voters — not in response to improprieties, but in the hopes of turning up evidence that might bolster conspiracy theories they've already decided to believe.

What could possibly go wrong.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, the state Senate's top Republican, President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, recently told a conservative media personality that he and his GOP colleagues are justified in this partisan exercise, not because there's evidence of wrongdoing, but because they think evidence of wrongdoing might emerge if they keep looking for it.

"I don't necessarily have faith in the results," Corman said last month. "I think that there were many problems in our election that we need to get to the bottom of."

By all appearances, Corman lacks "faith in the results" because voters in his state had the audacity to support the Democratic ticket — just as Pennsylvania voters did in 2012. And 2008. And 2004. And 2000. And 1996. And 1992. His hunch has nevertheless led to expansive subpoenas for millions of voters' personal information.

Marian Schneider, an elections lawyer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times, "That's a really bad idea to have private information floating around in a Senate caucus. And it's really not clear how the data is going to be used, who's going to be looking at it, who can have access, how it's going to be secured. And it's unclear to me why they even need the personally identifying information."

Court fights over these subpoenas are inevitable. Watch this space.