As regular readers know, GOP conspiracy theorists in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have recently launched wildly unnecessary "investigations" into the results of their respective presidential elections — not because there's any evidence of improprieties, but because Republicans see political value in the search. After all, President Joe Biden's Democratic ticket narrowly won these battleground states, which has led Donald Trump and his partisan allies to incorporate the states into the Big Lie.
But what about a state like Texas, where the Republican ticket won with relative ease? Midday yesterday, the former president pushed the Lone Star State to launch an unnecessary "audit" of its own, as the Texas Tribune reported, it took less than half a day for GOP officials in the state to comply with Trump's request.
The Texas secretary of state's office announced late Thursday that it has begun a "full forensic audit" of the 2020 general election in four Texas counties: Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant.... There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas in 2020. And earlier this year, an official for the agency called the 2020 election in Texas "smooth and secure."
Of the four counties being "audited," the Democratic Party's 2020 ticket carried three of them.
In case this isn't painfully obvious, there are no legitimate reasons for such an exercise. Texas election officials have praised the integrity of the state's system, and no one has presented any evidence of irregularities. Republicans don't even have a partisan incentive to question the election's outcomes: GOP candidates won up and down the ticket statewide in this reliably "red" state.
There is, however, a larger context to consider. As The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained this week, "An important feature of all this is that the lies about the majorities who win fair elections, and even the undermining of faith that our electoral system is fundamentally capable of rendering legitimate outcomes, are essential first steps toward overturning such outcomes later. The lies are the foundation, the starting point for potential future efforts to subvert our democratic order."
That's exactly right. Texas Republicans aren't auditing election results because they hope to pad the size of Trump's victory in the state; they've launched a "forensic" audit — the adjective needlessly implies the presence of criminal activity — in order to inject fresh doubts into voters' minds about the reliability of election results.
Those doubts can then be weaponized, not only to justify voter-suppression tactics — a step GOP officials in the state recently took in the hopes of tilting democracy to an even greater degree in their favor — but also to help lay the groundwork for rejecting future election results Republicans don't like.
The sham audits don't even have to produce favorable results; they simply have to feed skepticism about the integrity of the nation's electoral system.