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Dan Rodricks

Dan Rodricks: Good people still needed to work the polls, counter Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ | COMMENTARY

Before I offer four observations about the findings of the House select committee on the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a public service message: Citizens are needed right now to continue the nation’s long run of fair and accessible elections. In Maryland, you can be as young as 16 and serve as an election judge (more on that in a minute), and getting good people engaged as poll workers has never been more important.

Donald Trump continues to claim widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, and that’s a big, toxic lie.

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Having sound elections is a great American tradition — a beautiful achievement — and the 2020 election was carried out with the usual care and integrity. Joe Biden soundly defeated Trump.

Despite Trump and the efforts of Republicans to constantly raise suspicions about the voting process, we need it to continue. For it to continue, able-bodied and rational American citizens need to be engaged — not just as voters, but as election workers.

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In some states, getting good people to do this again — or getting new recruits to work the polls — is a challenge.

In March, in a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, 1 in 5 local election officials said they were likely to leave their jobs before the 2024 presidential election. Some have faced death threats. Even poll workers, citizens who volunteer to work on election days, have been harassed.

Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, poll workers in the Atlanta area, were targeted by Trump and his addled, conspiracy-obsessed adviser Rudy Giuliani with baseless and racist claims that Freeman and Moss were engaged in rigging the election. The attacks on those women were disgusting, and anyone who listened to their emotional testimony to the House committee will understand why they want nothing to do with elections work again.

But if good people do not step up, the terrorists win.

In Maryland, more election judges are needed, says Linda Lamone, the state elections administrator.

Maryland’s primary election is July 19. Time is of the essence. Lamone says that, if possible, voters should apply by June 30 to become a poll worker for the primary.

In Maryland, you have to be registered to vote in the state; have the ability to speak, read and write English; be able to work a 15-hour day, sitting and standing for long periods, and be willing to work outside your home precinct.

“No experience is required,” the elections board says, “and the local board of elections in your county will provide comprehensive mandatory training. Knowledge of computers is preferred but not necessary. Bilingual speakers are encouraged to apply.”

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You can do that through the State Board of Elections website or by contacting your local election office.

The summer primary presents a great opportunity for young people to get involved.

You can be as young as 16 and work the polls, with a parent or guardian permission. (In Maryland, you can register to vote at 16 but can’t vote unless you turn 18 by the next general election. The next general is Nov. 8.)

Allow me to invoke the late President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

End of public service announcement.

Now, four observations about the Jan. 6 hearings:

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1. Republicans dismiss the committee’s findings and insist that Americans are more concerned with inflation and the cost of gasoline. Maybe Republicans think Americans have limited capacity to absorb information — “I love the poorly educated,” Trump said — but I believe a majority of us can process the price of gas and Trump’s attempt to subvert democracy at the same time. The problem is the cult nature of Trump’s support: Embrace a liar and you’re stuck with his lies.

2. Some observers argue that, despite all the evidence gathered by the committee putting him at the center of efforts to subvert democracy, an indictment and prosecution of Trump would be politically untenable. I listen to that argument and weigh it, but keep coming back to that thing called “the rule of law.” If Trump is not charged with crimes related to the ultimately violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election, then no former president would ever be held accountable in a court of law.

3. Experts in federal law claim that it would be tough for prosecutors to get any kind of conviction because Trump might have “sincerely believed the election was stolen.” But that’s despite all evidence to the contrary and numerous advisers, including Trumps’ second attorney general, telling him repeatedly the claim was nonsense. And pardon my skepticism, but I have a hard time associating any form of the word “sincere” with Donald Trump.

4. Former Attorney General Bill Barr testified bluntly about Trump’s claims of election fraud, saying he found him “detached from reality.” Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers refused to break the law on Trump’s behalf. As offended as both these Republicans were at Trump’s attempts to illegally remain in power, you’d think they would have joined the Never Trumpers by now. Instead, both have said they’d still vote for Trump if he’s the GOP nominee in 2024. Sounds cracked, but maybe Bowers and Barr are just being good Christians who forgive the sinner — except, in this case, the sinner admits no sin, seeks no forgiveness and refuses to go away.


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