Enough with the election conspiracies. People’s lives are at stake

Opinion: Talk of mules, Sharpies and Cyber Ninjas may come across as just nonsensical political chatter, but it puts election workers’ safety at risk.

By Katie Hobbs

PHOENIX – With the primary election just days away, Arizonans’ constitutional right to vote is facing the fiercest assault we’ve seen in decades.

Regardless of your political party, it should startle you that candidates running for governor and other offices have done everything in their power to cast our election processes in a disparaging light.

Talk of mulesSharpies and Cyber Ninjas may come across as just nonsensical political chatter, but it’s a much graver offense when taking into account how dire – and deadly – these kinds of lies have proven before.

Don’t let disinformation silence your vote

Look no further than the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol that Donald Trump was instrumental in inciting. His election lies and incendiary language cost people their lives, and yet my opponents are increasingly using this same rhetoric to gin up their far-right base.

Already we’re seeing reports of threats and intimidation against election officials such as Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer.

That’s why I cannot underscore how important it is to not let these scare tactics and disinformation silence our voice in our democracy. We need people in office who will stand up for our democracy, not actively seek to undermine it.

The coordinated effort to undermine our democratic systems didn’t stop on Jan. 6. Trump’s “Big Lie” disinformation campaign led to a flurry of death threats targeted at election officials just doing their job, including myself.

Meanwhile, these lies have resulted in Arizona passing one of the worst voter-suppression laws in the nation requiring proof of citizenship to vote by mail or in-person.

Election workers have quit, police on high alert

When I heard Kari Lake this week make threats about “going after” people who are trying to “steal the election,” or when Karrin Taylor Robson refuses to say whether she’d certify the 2020 election or that she supports sham audits that call its integrity into question, I know who will be at the frontlines fielding the consequences of their reckless rhetoric and policies: Election workers and historically disenfranchised voters, many of whom live in communities of color.

The risk of would-be election vigilantes, equipped with the assortment of conspiracy theories peddled by Trump and his ilk, have already spurred a wave of election workers to quit and departments remain understaffed.

It’s led law enforcement to be on high-alert and the Maricopa County sheriff to take the extraordinary step of restricting days off for deputies during the week of the primary and general elections.

Adding fuel to the fire is the Republican National Committee’s cross-country effort to recruit election poll observers in droves and have them ”trained” by known election deniers.

At the same time, Arizona already has a long history of voter suppression, including literacy tests for voter registration targeting Black and brown communities and our state’s Indigenous population. This new wave of intimidation tactics and recently proposed voter suppression policies – such as eliminating early voting – only set our state back further from expanding voting access to all Arizonans.

Both parties must work to reform election law

This is not a partisan issue. These attacks are happening because radical conspiracy theorists have spotted the gaps in our voting rights and election laws and are using loopholes like the Civil War-era Electoral Count Act to manipulate our democracy to their will.

It will take the work of both parties to reform these antiquated laws so that fake elector schemes, pressure campaigns on election officials and sham audits don’t destroy American democracy.

We need to make sure all levels of government have the resources to monitor threats against election workers and make sure those who do cause harm are held accountable. We need to pass commonsense measures like making Election Day a state holiday, so every registered voter has equal access to vote.

Access to early voting should be expanded, not taken away.

These are things both parties should be able to agree on so that every Arizonan can exercise their right to vote. There should be no reason why anyone gets left out of our democracy, especially on the basis of hogwash conspiracy theories.

As secretary of state, I faced death threats, stalking and protests outside my home to defend your right to vote. The more we can do to shore up our election laws and ensure voting is accessible to all, the better our democracy will be for all Arizonans.