The Raleigh News & Observer | by Will Doran and Brian Murphy | November 26, 2021
More than 30 Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina and South Carolina signed onto a new letter that backs false claims about the 2020 elections and pushes for the whole country to copy a widely discredited type of election audit that Arizona recently attempted.
The letter goes on to suggest that the 2020 election results should be overturned and Democratic President Joe Biden ousted from office.
One of the lawmakers who signed the letter is North Carolina Rep. Donnie Loftis of Gastonia. He was at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack on Congress in which former President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to reverse the election results by force, although he hasn’t been charged with any crimes related to that day.
Loftis initially wrote on social media that he “got gassed three times and was at the entrance when they breached the door,” The News & Observer reported, but later told WRAL-TV that “I had absolutely zero involvement in the rioting and categorically condemn the storming of our Capitol building that day.”
None of the top leadership of the North Carolina or South Carolina House or Senate signed the letter, but some of those who did sign it wield significant influence within North Carolina’s House GOP caucus, like Rep. Keith Kidwell of Onslow County. He leads the far-right House Freedom Caucus whose members include nearly half of the Republicans in that chamber, and which has been pushing unsuccessfully to inspect North Carolina voting machines to see if they contain modems, The News & Observer reported.
The letter itself, led by far-right Arizona state lawmaker Wendy Rogers, was posted online Tuesday night. It says every state’s election results need to be audited again, and, if audit results go in Trump’s favor, the U.S. House needs to potentially reinstate him as president.
Nearly every state automatically audits its results after every election, including North Carolina, and none of those audits have found any reason to suspect the election was fraudulent.
The few states that don’t conduct election audits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, are nearly all states Trump won.
Some states have also conducted additional audits, with no signs of fraud that could have changed the election results for either Trump or Biden. Dozens of lawsuits from Trump and his allies challenging the election also failed to provide any evidence that the election should be overturned.
The letter suggests that there is still some reason to believe fraud occurred, although it does not give any specifics.
“This is our historic obligation to restore the election integrity of the vote as the bedrock of our constitutional republic,” the letter states.
The letter suggests that all 50 states conduct a “forensic audit” like the one that Rogers’ home state of Arizona just completed. That audit was conducted by a conservative political group called Cyber Ninjas that had no experience in auditing elections.
Its efforts were widely panned by experts in election administration, both inside Arizona and around the country. And the audit ended up reaffirming that Biden won Arizona, despite the contentions of the Republican politicians who backed the audit. The state Senate president who was one of that audit’s strongest supporters announced she was retiring from politics earlier this month, CNN reported, after its embarrassing rollout and results.
Rogers’ letter signed by the lawmakers from the Carolinas and other states, however, does not mention any of that. It claims that the Arizona audit found “a corrupted 2020 election,” even though the audit’s results upheld the official results.
“Decertification of a presidential election is not a thing,” election-law expert Rick Hasen posted on Twitter, reacting to the letter.
“There was no significant fraud or illegal action in the 2020 election. This sort of stunt is dangerous for American democracy and will further undermine voter confidence already shaken by lies about 2020 election rigging,” said Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine.
North Carolina Rep. Mike Clampitt, when reached by phone Wednesday, said the letter speaks for itself and declined to discuss it further.
N.C. Rep. Kelly Hastings, of Cherryville, said he signed the letter because of his concerns over changes made to election law by unelected officials, specifically citing a North Carolina settlement that allowed mail-in ballots to be counted if they arrived up to nine days after Election Day.
He said it raised “red flags” for him and some constituents. A legal challenge went to the U.S. Supreme Court just days before the election. In a 5-3 vote, the court ruled it would not interfere with the settlement agreement that allowed mailed-in ballots to be counted until Nov. 12, so long as they were postmarked by Election Day. The court also allowed extended deadlines to stand in other states.
”My main focus right now is to do anything I can to what I believed was a nefarious attempt to override what was a duly, constitutionally passed law,” Hastings said in a telephone interview. “Whether that leads to fraud or whether it leads to an issue, that would be for someone else to decide.
“I still have an issue with what they attempted to do through a collusive settlement process and in other states changing the law without going through a constitutional law-making process. I think that is a recipe for a bad outcome — constitutionally.”
Hastings said he signed the letter several weeks ago.
This year, state lawmakers passed laws against the types of settlements Hastings is objecting to and to set Election Day as the deadline for receiving most mail-in ballots. Gov. Roy Cooper signed a budget into law that included the changes to settlements, but is widely expected to veto the new ballot deadline.
North Carolina signees
Senators: Ted Alexander, Bob Steinburg
Representatives: Jay Adams, Mike Clampitt, Edward Goodwin, Bobby Hanig, Kelly Hastings, Keith Kidwell, Donnie Loftis, Jeff McNeely, Tim Moffitt, Larry Pittman, Wayne Sasser, Mitchell Setzer, Harry Warren, Sam Watford
South Carolina signees
Senators: Tom Corbin, Rex Rice
Representatives: Stewart Jones, Ryan McCabe, RJ May, Vic Dabney, Bill Chumley, Mark Willis, Cal Forrest, Mike Burns, Steven Long, Josiah Magnuson, Ashley Trantham, John McCravy, Melissa Oremus.