Meeting election deniers half-way

York Dispatch editorial board

Like many similar groups throughout the nation, Audit the Vote PA has made a habit of shouting “fire” when there isn’t even any smoke.

Pressing charges of improprieties in the 2020 election absent any evidence, the group sought a public referendum to remove the county’s electronic voting machines. When it fell short of the necessary 9,000 signatures, members asked the county Board of Commissioners to remove the machines anyway.

“We came up a little short, but we do not have a failure, I’m convinced of that,” an Audit the Vote PA representative told the commissioners, sounding very much like a certain ex-president.

Robert Senft, right, of Spring Garden Township, one of five York County residents to be inducted into the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame, receives a medal from Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, during a ceremony at York County Administrative Center in York City, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. The recipients have voted in at least 50 consecutive general elections. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

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So, when the group recently asked for a meeting with county elections officials, said officials would have been excused for putting them off.

They did just the opposite. Not only did county officials meet with Audit the Vote PA representatives but, following that meeting, President Commissioner Julie Wheeler announced that elections officials would hand-count ballots in three random precincts following the upcoming Nov. 8 election.

Is the county caving in to election deniers?


Rather than slamming the door in their face, elections officials have opted to engage with their critics. Frankly, it’s a response we could use much more of in all areas of the public arena.

By demonstrating via hand counts that local elections are operated in a fair and competent manner, county officials are opening up the process to additional scrutiny, which, hopefully, will diminish some of the conspiratorial thinking around the elections process.

As York County Director of Elections Julie Haertsch recently told the Dispatch, the best way to counter election deniers is through customer service and transparency. The hand-count initiative certainly checks those boxes.

Not that everyone is on board with the decision.

Marian Schneider, senior voting rights counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Pennsylvania chapter, said random hand counts aren’t the most scientific way to confirm election results. Still, she allowed, there’s value to meeting election skeptics partway.

“If it satisfies those who would destroy our democracy,” she said, “then it’s worth it.”

That’s where the Audit group comes in.

County officials are evidently making a good-faith effort to demonstrate the integrity of local elections. That good faith must be returned in kind.

Audit representatives mustn’t use the hand counts as an excuse to manufacture feeble claims of fraud if none exist.

Even Haertsch admits the county isn’t likely to build many bridges with the type of blind elections deniers who are still claiming the 2020 vote was stolen.

“If their minds are closed there’s nothing we can do to manage that,” she pointed out.

So, Audit the Vote PA, the onus is on you. County officials have announced plans to open the elections process up to several hand counts. You must now be open-minded about assessing these results honestly and fairly.

Integrity is not a one-way street.