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Opinion: We should all be outraged over violent rhetoric surround election
Gabriel Sterling
Gabriel Sterling, a top Georgia elections official speaks on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, during a news conference in Atlanta. On Tuesday Dec. 1, 2020, Sterling called on President Donald Trump to condemn supporters who have threatened violence against election officials. - photo by Associated Press

The thoughtful, rational people of Georgia should be outraged after the press conference held by the state’s voting system’s manager on Tuesday.

Outraged that state officials entrusted with conducting elections, and in some cases family members, have been threatened with violence.

Outraged that armed law enforcement protection is necessary to provide for their security.

Outraged that the irresponsible rhetoric that has led to such threats continues unabated.

Outraged that the elected leadership of the state has not staked out a moral high ground on the issue by forcefully defending the election process against unsubstantiated allegations of fraud by the president of the United States.

Gabriel Sterling, a top official in the elections division of the secretary of state’s office, stood behind the press conference podium and told of death threats received, acts of violence threatened, sexualized threats directed to the wife of the secretary of state on her personal cell phone.

A low level technician for the company providing the state’s voting machines even had an image of a noose tweeted at him after a video of him copying a report from one computer to another went viral along with accusations of vote tampering. All of this after previous reports of protesters repeatedly driving back and forth in front of the home of the secretary of state, honking horns and yelling.

Sterling’s point was clear: the constant rhetoric of the president, and the refusal of other top officials to rebut the president’s claims, were to blame for the threats of violence. “You have to be responsible! You have to be responsible for your rhetoric, you have to be responsible for your statements, you have to be responsible for your deeds,” Sterling said.

The comments apparently hit a nerve, as representatives of the Trump campaign and senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler responded immediately to say their candidates did not condone violence of any sort. But even those statements were offered with a wink and a nod, as the candidates continued to insinuate yet again that there was some massive fraud in the state election that resulted in the defeat of Donald Trump.

And yet, despite all the heated rhetoric and the vitriol, there has been no indication that any such effort to fraudulently change the results of the election, in Georgia or anywhere else, actually exists.

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The U.S. Attorney General, appointed by the president and considered by many to have been much too close of an ally for much of his term, said that investigators from the Justice Department could not find “fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

Christopher Krebs, once responsible for overseeing cybersecurity for the federal government, said in a report that there was no evidence to support any allegation that “any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” He was fired for his failure to support the president’s contention that computer fraud was a factor in the results. A lawyer for the president later said Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot.” Does that sound like a campaign that doesn’t endorse the idea of violence?

Judges in courtrooms scattered across the nation, some of them appointed by the president, have repeatedly rejected legal challenges to election results in various states, often making it clear that there simply was no evidence to support any of the claims being made. Yet the rhetoric continues, unabated, and the faithful followers believe what they hear.

In Georgia, the focus of challenges is on absentee ballots and the verification of signatures of those voting by mail. Since individual ballots have no signature, the only hope the Trump campaign has of overturning the results is to have all absentee ballots ruled invalid. Doing so would not only revoke the voting rights of millions who legally cast their ballots, but would also invalidate every candidate elected in the state, from sheriffs to congressmen.

To date, nothing has emerged to suggest there is any justification for doing so.

Were there irregularities in the election? Absolutely. There are irregularities in every election. But they generally are the results of individual voters gaming the system by finding a way to cast an illegal ballot or making a careless mistake, like forgetting to sign something. The secretary of state’s office is investigating some 200 such allegations in the aftermath of the election, and has already asked for the resignation of one county election supervisor.

Are there things in the process that can be tweaked and improved? Almost certainly, and they likely will be before the state has another general election or primary.

But there is no evidence of widespread, coordinated fraud of the extent that would change the result. Considering we are a month past the election and no such evidence has yet been presented, despite the efforts of teams of lawyers working on the president’s behalf, we have to believe they do not have it to present.

Nor is there any reason at all to boycott the upcoming U.S. Senate runoff out of concern over the voting process. Those who suggest otherwise are playing senseless mind games. Don’t give up your vote at the whim of political operatives out to make a name for themselves.

Once upon a time in this nation powerful segregationist politicians preached a political gospel of White supremacy. They may not have told their followers to bomb Black churches and kill people, but that was the result. Emotional rhetoric by those in positions of power has consequences, a fact of which our top state election officials are now very aware.

A favorite theme of a certain faction of the modern GOP has been the need to show courage in standing up for moral principle and ignoring political correctness. If the leadership of this state truly wants to live up to that expectation, there is a clear way for them to do so.

There should be another press conference by the secretary of state’s office, except this time it needs to be held in front of a backdrop of the state’s top leadership – governor, lieutenant governor, legislative leaders, members of congress, U.S. senators – and they should speak with one voice to say the election is over in Georgia, there was no evidence of widespread fraud and the incumbent president was defeated.

If there is anyone in a top leadership position who would refuse to join such a gathering, they need to look into a mirror and ask themselves who the “snowflakes” really are.

We would all do well to remember the admonition attributed to Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Where is the outrage?

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