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Editorial: America can’t restore faith in voting until we put 2020 behind us
Biden 2020 victory speech
President-elect Joe Biden speaks Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The 2020 election and its aftermath are the gifts that keep on giving for the nation’s news media, providing a steady and varied diet of confusion, controversy, chaos and conspiracy for the American news consumer.

Nowhere is that more obvious than here in Georgia, where, nearly two years after the votes were counted, election officials and prosecutors are still trying to get to the bottom of whether laws were broken by those who refused to accept the outcome of the general election balloting.

One of the more disturbing possibilities is the revelation that an investigation is underway into events in rural Coffee County in South Georgia, where there have been allegations that local election officials provided improper access to election data and system software to a team led by a Donald Trump attorney, and that some of the data may have been copied and compromised.

The allegations came to light via subpoenas in a court case involving election system security, and the Secretary of State’s office has launched an investigation. At this point, we don’t know what happened in Coffee County, but just the fact that such accusations can’t be immediately dismissed as fanciful indicates the depth of the post-election conspiracy spiral.

Subpoena has certainly become a word integral to the election uproar in the state. A Fulton County grand jury investigating whether laws were broken by those attempting to change election results has been at the center of the storm, subpoenaing a number of high-profile people, some of whom have in turn gone to considerable lengths to avoid having to appear before the grand jury.

Among those fighting to get subpoenas quashed are Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and now Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who has openly accused the Fulton County district attorney investigating the post-election events of playing politics with the grand jury probe.

Giuliani ultimately appeared before the grand jury and Graham’s effort at having his subpoena tossed proved futile. Kemp’s situation is different in that he has apparently cooperated to some extent with the investigation by earlier providing documentation previously requested. But he is now in the final weeks of a campaign for re-election and can raise an argument that the timing of the subpoena and his appearance before the grand jury is meant to do political damage. A judge ultimately will decide whether Kemp must appear.

The same panel also subpoenaed the 16 “fake electors” who had hoped to replace the actual representatives sent by the state to the electoral college so as to change the outcome of the presidential election. The subpoena for one of those, lieutenant governor candidate Burt Jones, was successfully quashed due to a conflict of interest by the prosecutor, who has openly backed Jones’ opponent in the race.

That’s just some of what’s happening at the state level in regard to the election that never ends, not to mention the ongoing Jan. 6 investigative committee in Congress that is still holding hearings, and any post-election dramas in other states.

Toss in an FBI raid on the ex-president’s home, ongoing fundraising by the Trump organization that leaves supporters with the hope he will again run for president, attacks on the FBI for daring to search the Trump home, the unproven possibility a former president stole classified government records, and enough conspiracy theories to provide scripts for a decade of “The X-Files,” and you’ve got a schism of gigantic proportions between the American people, their electoral system and their government.

So what to make of it all? Here’s what we think:

The investigation by the Fulton County grand jury to determine if criminal laws were broken in the aftermath of the 2020 election is legitimate, but it has dragged on for too long and has expanded its scope too far. The district attorney started her investigation in February 2021. It’s time for a finding by the jury.

The Jan. 6 congressional hearings also have a legitimate purpose, but they too have gone on for too long. It’s time for its final report. We can never start to rebuild trust in elections and in government if we don’t move on.

If the Coffee County allegations prove to be true, someone, possibly several people, needs to go to jail.

At the heart of many of these investigative efforts are lawyers who served the Trump team. If it is evident that they knowingly condoned criminal efforts to overturn the results of a valid election, they should be disbarred.

There is no doubt that there is plenty of politics at play in the various investigations that are under way. Absolutely no doubt. But that does not mean that any potential finding of wrongdoing should be brushed off as being purely political in nature.

Despite everything that has transpired during almost two years of microscopic scrutiny, there is still no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election sufficient to have changed the outcome. Joe Biden won. If the former president is sincere in his recent comment that “the temperature has to be brought down in the country,” he could cool things down considerably simply by admitting that he lost.

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