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On Challenging Election Results: Frivolous attacks on elections damage our democracy

From the column: "Minnesota Republicans seem willing to radicalize their base and undermine the legitimacy of our elections for short-term political gain."

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The courts have just tossed out a frivolous lawsuit brought by a Republican to challenge a result of the 2020 elections. Here in Minnesota and across the country, Republicans are not letting up on their efforts to discredit free and fair elections that they lost, proving time and again that the Republican Party cares more about short-term political gains than the stability of American democracy.

Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court struck down Republican Donna Bergstrom’s lawsuit contesting the results of her race for the state Senate against DFLer Jen McEwen. McEwen won the race to represent Duluth by a two-to-one margin. Despite getting less than half the votes as her opponent, Bergstrom still asked the courts to overturn the result, citing vague “irregularities” with the election while providing no actual evidence to support her claims.

Thankfully, the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized this anti-democratic turn and rejected Bergstrom’s claims. Even better, the court determined that as our elections are free and fair, there is no need for the court to investigate ridiculous and discrediting election contests such as Bergstrom’s.

This is far from the first time a Minnesota Republican has called into question the result of a free and fair election. Republican Tyler Kistner, who lost a race for Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, filed suit challenging his result, as did half a dozen Republican candidates for the state Legislature.

Republican elected officials joined in the attack on democracy, too. In the months after the November 2020 election, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton attempted to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election in several swing states in front of the Supreme Court. Minnesota’s Republican members of Congress signed onto this effort, and 15 Republican state legislators asked for the frivolous Texas lawsuit to add a challenge to Minnesota’s results as well.

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It’s crucial for us all to remember the severity and harm that these Republican attacks on the November 2020 election have and continue to have. None of the accusations are true, based in fact, or fair. Attacks on our elections damage their legitimacy by convincing voters and the GOP base that our elections are rigged.

Patterns of disinformation abound within the Republican Party, and bogus lawsuits such as Bergstrom’s are extensions of a campaign to discredit fair systems that are not delivering Republicans the results they want. If Republican attacks on election integrity become like their dogmatic refusal to accept climate science and the like, our democracy will be in serious jeopardy: Voters will not trust our elections, and dangerous conspiracies will continue.

This is an extremely disturbing path for our political system to take. Minnesota Republicans seem willing to radicalize their base and undermine the legitimacy of our elections for short-term political gain. As we saw with the violent attacks on our country’s Capitol in January, the words Republicans use and the ideas they tout carry weight with their base.

Republican elites seem to view these frivolous lawsuits as just another piece of some political game, but it is clear a certain segment of their base takes their false claims of election fraud very seriously. People did not storm the U.S. Capitol for no reason; they did so because they were radicalized by Republican leaders who lied to them and said our elections, the beating heart of American democracy, had failed. That is dangerous and un-American.

It is on us to hold Republican leaders accountable for this and to not stand for such dangerous absurdity here in Minnesota. We cannot let this pattern continue. For the sake of our democracy, we must be in this fight together and vote like our democracy depends on it — because it does.

Ken Martin is chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party.

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Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin

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