Republicans who have spent years lying about 'rigged' elections now need your vote to win

She told you the 2020 election was
rigged. She claimed that thousands of “illegal ballots” counted in 2022
meant that your vote didn’t matter. 

And now she wants you to vote for her in 2024. 

Kari Lake, the leading Republican candidate for U.S. senator from Arizona, spent the last year fighting unsuccessful court battles
to overturn her 17,000-vote loss in the 2022 governor’s race to
Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. Lake spent much of that campaign as a
leading purveyor of the “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election
was stolen from Donald Trump, who showered her with praise in 2022 and
has now endorsed her Senate bid. 

Lake, who has repeatedly claimed that
she is the “true governor” of Arizona and has yet to acknowledge the
fact that she lost, is one of several Republicans seeking office in 2024
who have spent the past year telling voters — without evidence — that
elections in Arizona and other parts of the country are rigged against
Republicans and that voting by mail is rife with fraud. Their message
has been clear: Elections aren’t fair. 

But now, Lake and other Republicans,
like failed 2022 attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh, must convince
the electorate to vote for them anyway as they seek new elected offices
in 2024. 

Lake seems to have already softened her stance on early voting, which she tried to abolish in 2022, telling the crowd gathered for her campaign announcement rally on a warm Oct. 10 evening in Scottsdale to vote early if they wanted to. 

The crowd loudly booed the idea,
underscoring the challenge she and other Republicans who have peddled
baseless election fraud claims face. 

“If you choose to vote that way,
fine, vote early,” she said. “I’m OK with that. If you want to vote on
Election Day, vote that way. Just vote. Don’t sit home because you’re
pissed off at the system.” 

When Trump appeared on the giant
screen behind her  to offer his endorsement, he also encouraged the
crowd to vote — even as he continued to claim that Democrats “cheat” in
elections. 

“Republicans must win, and we must
win very, very big,” Trump said. “It’s much harder for them to cheat if
we do it like we should and we swamp ‘em. If we get enough votes, they
can’t cheat, because they can’t cheat that badly.” 

But the kind of people who attended
Lake’s rally are not the kinds of voters that Lake, Hamadeh and Trump
should be worried about, said David Becker, executive director and
founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research,
a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that works to restore trust in
U.S. elections and ensure election integrity and security. 

“She needs a whole lot of Arizonans
that aren’t going to rallies to vote for her, and they’re hearing very
mixed messages, at best,” he told the Arizona Mirror. 

Becker has spent the last 15 years
studying the reasons that people across the country decide not to vote.
Prior to founding his nonprofit, he directed the elections program at
PEW Charitable Trusts, where he looked into the motivations of
infrequent voters. 

Even in presidential elections, which always have higher turnouts than local and midterm elections, only about 60%
of registered voters cast a ballot. That means a huge percentage of
infrequent voters need to be persuaded to mail their ballot or come to
the polls. And those on the fence about voting can be convinced that
it’s not worth it through messaging that comes from across the political
spectrum, Becker said. 

Becker has found that the two
messages most likely to discourage these infrequent voters are that
voting is difficult — a message that usually comes from Democrats — and
that elections are rigged, messaging that has most recently come from
Republicans like Lake and Trump. 

“This isn’t speculation,” he said.
“Ask Georgia Republicans. The talk of rigging of elections cost them
Senate seats. Some Republicans just didn’t show up because of that
messaging.” 

That’s exactly what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found in its analysis
of voting records from the 2020 presidential election in Georgia and
the U.S. Senate runoff election just two months later. The publication
found that more than 752,000 voters who cast ballots in the presidential
election didn’t vote in the runoffs, with the biggest decline among
Republican voters, although some of those voters said they declined to
vote in the runoff because of disappointment over Trump’s loss in the
presidential election. 

A poll
conducted on behalf of the Journal-Constitution found that more than
75% of Republican voters in Georgia believed there was widespread voter
fraud in the 2020 presidential election, compared to just 4% of
Democratic voters.

Craig Roland, 61-year-old Georgian,
told the Journal-Constitution that he didn’t vote in the runoffs after
being discouraged by Trump’s message of rampant fraud that, while
unsupported by any evidence, was repeated ad nauseum in the weeks following his loss to Joe Biden. 

“What good would it have done to vote? They have votes that got changed,” Roland said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever vote again.”

In those runoffs, Democrats Jon
Ossoff and Raphael Warnock beat out Republican incumbents David Perdue
and Kelly Loeffler, giving Democrats the majority in the U.S. Senate.
Georgia has historically been a Republican stronghold but has been turning more purple in the past 15 years or so. 

Impact on close races 

Tyler Montague, a longtime Arizona
Republican Party precinct committeeman and activist, also believes
election conspiracy theories have the potential to swing elections for
Democrats, especially in the kinds of incredibly close races that the
state saw in 2022. 

“In these super tight races that are
won by fractions of a point, absolutely this stuff makes a difference
and has cost Republicans elections,” Montague told the Mirror. 

When candidates discourage their
followers from voting early, a method used by more than 80% of voters in
the Grand Canyon State, some people who decide not to vote early but
fully intend to cast their ballots in-person on Election Day will end up
running low on time or having some sort of emergency and ultimately end
up not voting at all. 

In each election, a small percentage
of voters who planned to vote on Election Day end up not doing so,
Montague said, and in very close races that can impact the outcome. 

In the 2022 election for Arizona Attorney General, Republican Abe Hamadeh lost to Democrat Kris Mayes by a mere 280 votes. 

“He reaped what he sowed,” Montague said. “They had these (polling place) problems
day-of, and I absolutely believe that he probably lost that election
because a couple hundred people is all it would take to say, ‘I don’t
have time, I’ve got to go,’ and leave because the line was too long.” 

Montague added that he does not believe that Hamadeh lost because of fraud. 

“Ironically, I think he lost over claims of fraud,” he said. 

Kathy Petsas, another longtime local
GOP precinct committeeman, believes that some Republican voters will
have a difficult time trusting candidates who denigrated early voting in
2022 but who in 2024 will likely be encouraging voters to mail in their
ballots. 

“I think there are going to be
challenges in credibility, when you have candidates who have said that
early ballots have an element of fraud to them and that you can’t trust
early balloting, when they are going to be focusing on returning early
ballots,” Petsas told the Mirror. “I think you’ll have some people who
will look at it, also, with some irony.”

And at least some Republican
candidates will be encouraging voters to mail in their ballots early,
not only to ensure that people actually vote, but also to cut down on
costs for the GOP. 

“Campaigns check in every day to see
who has mailed in their ballots, so they can chase in the ballots of the
remaining voters,” Montague said. 

When a large number of voters mail in
their ballots early, campaigns can narrow their focus — and the amount
of money they spend on phone calls, door knocking and mailers — to those
who haven’t returned their ballots. When the majority of Republicans
plan to vote on Election Day, campaigns end up spending more to reach
all of those voters who haven’t yet cast a ballot. 

“All the methods they use to reach
voters are more expensive for Republicans if their voters are not
getting the vote in early,” Montague said. 

Montague believes that not only do
election conspiracy theories end up depressing the vote, but also turn
off some more traditional Republicans, who see through the claims of
election fraud as obvious lies. 

“So, if you believe these election
fraud conspiracies, genuinely, despite all of the evidence to the
contrary, I don’t think you’re smart enough to be my leader,” he said.
“But if you don’t believe them, but you’re cynically putting it out
there, I don’t think you’re honest enough to be my leader, either.
Either way, you’re a lose-lose for a voter like me.”

Both Petsas and Montague pointed out that, while election deniers who ran in statewide races in 2022 all lost,
other Republicans who didn’t run on that platform won by healthy
margins, including state Treasurer Kimberly Yee and Maricopa County
Attorney Rachel Mitchell. 

“These are core issues of integrity,
character and core institutions of the country that are being attacked,”
Montague said. “People like me don’t want to be part of that. That lost
them elections. Stupidity will lose you elections.” 

Petsas believes that Republicans who
ran on a platform of election fraud in the past couple of years will
likely shift to a focus on policy instead, concentrating on issues like
the economy, education and school choice. 

“They’re going to be pointing the
finger at anywhere else except the — perhaps — hypocrisy of begging
people to get their early ballots in,” she said.

Montague thinks it might be too late
for some of the conspiracy theorists to turn things around and ask
people to get in their ballots early, but with Lake facing a potential
three-way race and the possibility of vote-splitting among her, U.S.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, he still thinks Lake
has a chance to win. 

“People who didn’t vote for Lake last
time aren’t going to vote for her this time — en masse at least,” he
said. “She hasn’t done anything to win anybody over. I think she’s a
terrible candidate under normal conditions. But, then again, it’s the
Wild West with a three-way race.”