It’s been disappointing this week to see the apparently baseless claims of a tainted electoral process in the Republican primary for U.S. senator. We shouldn’t have to tell any campaign that it ought not to cry election fraud, much less attack the integrity of an opponent, without a sound basis.
Republican senatorial candidate Joe Miller claimed for most of this week that there was an effort under way to skew the results in his primary election. His campaign accused Sen. Lisa Murkowski, or people working on her behalf, of engaging in unethical and perhaps illegal behavior.
The campaign claimed that many absentee voters had been called by an unidentified Murkowski-supporting organization to find out how they voted — for vague but nefarious purposes. So far, not a single identified person has stepped forward to say he or she received such a call or to answer questions about it. Unfortunately, that hasn’t kept hysterical talk show hosts, or anonymous commenters on websites, from recklessly spreading such conspiracy theories.
The campaign criticized last week’s visit of a Republican lawyer to advise the Murkowski campaign about monitoring the count of absentee and questioned ballots. Campaign attorney Thomas Van Flein on Monday said a Murkowski consultant had access to the state’s election management system, an accusation the Division of Elections says did not happen.
Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, ultimately responsible for the integrity of Alaska’s elections, struck the right note in his response to Van Flein’s complaint. He said he took it seriously and would investigate, but that he saw no need to call for Alaska State Troopers to every regional elections office, and that he was confident the Division of Elections is up to the job. Obviously, if anyone has evidence of a person tampering with the vote, he should provide it to law enforcement authorities.
But in the meantime, let’s not accuse U.S. senators or anyone else of cheating on the basis of nothing more than wisps of rumors. We have confidence that the Alaskans at the Division of Elections have done and will do their jobs effectively and fairly.
Those jobs includes investigating complaints like Van Flein’s. So far the division has found only that the Murkowski consultant, Mike Roman, was out of line in trying to bring a bag into a division office and in texting from that office. The division said at no time did he have access to voter results or the ability to “skew” anything. Roman’s conduct broke the rules and elections officials put a stop to it.
But fraud? Tainted results? Hacking into the state system? There’s no evidence of that and the Miller camp was ill advised to suggest there was. Bogus claims of cheating and stolen elections are needlessly damaging to the credibility of elections, and that credibility is essential for any democracy to function.
Alaska voters decided this election. The ballots are cast and almost all the votes have been counted. We now have an honest recording of that decision — not tainted, not stolen.
That’s as it should be, and it could have been accomplished without reckless accusations that only served to undermine the process.