Sebern: Has the GOP given up on fair elections?

Florence Sebern

Democrats and some election officials were likely pleased to see the RNC remove longstanding, strong advocacy for secure elections from the 2016 Republican Platform. State Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, who was involved in the decision, has said that blame belongs with Colorado’s rank-and-file Republicans for failing to lobby him to retain key principles.

A delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention, Everett served with Robin Coran — a former field director and caseworker for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, she’s a regional director for U.S. Rep. Ken Buck — representing Colorado on the Convention Platform Committee. Members spent three days prior to the RNC drafting the platform. The platform was adopted by convention delegates and is the definitive document of party principles for the next four years. How was the traditional, national stand for safe and fair elections diminished in this process?

“It’s on them,” Everett recently said on a talk radio show, referring to Colorado Republicans. A caller had asked why the GOP’s national platform no longer opposed all-mail-ballot elections and dropped support for prosecution of election fraud. Everett responded that the topic never came up in Cleveland, suggesting the issue did not merit focus.

Colorado continues to suffer the negative impacts of mandatory mail ballot elections and diminished citizen oversight of elections. Everett indicated that no Coloradans had communicated with him to retain principles of election transparency, retain election watchers as an integral part of election oversight, encourage prosecution of election fraud or oppose mandatory mail-ballot elections.

Colorado’s election security suffers from long-known risks of fraud and lost ballots, which Republicans warned of in 2013. Every Republican legislator voted against Democrat-led mandatory mail-ballot legislation. Colorado Republicans are in a strong position to credibly argue against this policy as one of only three states in the country that uses mandatory mail ballots. Coloradans could have warned other states that are weighing convenience over security in elections.

Well-known risks of absentee and mail ballots increase the need for citizen oversight. Knowledgeable party and campaign-appointed watchers are critical to transparent activity and independent verification. The 2012 RNC platform quoted James Madison saying, “Let ambition counter ambition,” arguing for party-appointed election observers as an essential check and balance. The words of Madison are gone from the 2016 platform, along with any stand for the underlying principle.

Why have Republicans become so politically correct that they remove a call for prosecution of election fraud from the platform? Recent national security experts warn that system hacks, such as those suffered by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, could manipulate ballot tabulation systems, too. Yet the 2016 RNC Platform dropped its demand to make election fraud a priority for law enforcement.

The Colorado Republican delegation — and those who were elected by the delegation to serve on key convention committees — ran on their solid, conservative credentials. Now Everett says it was up to Republicans back home to tell them what to do. How could savvy, professionals with extensive legislative and policy experience blame the GOP rank and file for stripping election integrity essentials from the platform?

Will our Republican legislators follow the national lead, or will they renew the fight for fair, transparent, secure, citizen-driven elections?

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