On the same day Montana’s U.S. Sen. Steve Daines announced that he would hold his acceptance of Joe Biden’s presidency hostage to an “emergency audit” of the election results in certain key states, President Trump was urging Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to turn the results in his favor.
In an hour-long phone call last Saturday, President Trump claimed — without merit — that there were 300,000 “fake ballots” cast in Georgia’s election and that he actually won the state. Even though Georgia has already recounted its ballots three times and certified Biden’s win by a margin of 11,779 votes, Trump told Raffensperger “there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," he said in the recorded phone call.
Trump’s attempt to pressure Georgia’s head of elections and a fellow Republican mere days before the state holds a special election to fill two Senate seats may have violated laws against election interference. At best, it was unethical. At worst, it was a clear attempt to thwart the democratic process on which our nation is founded.
In supporting these efforts to undermine a legitimate presidential election, Senator Daines shows a dangerous lack of judgment. He has refused to accept November’s results from the beginning, saying the matter was “not yet settled” until a host of specious legal challenges could be resolved. Those claims have now been roundly rejected by a number federal judges, including those appointed by Trump, as well as Trump’s own Attorney General Bill Barr.
These officials were presented with an array of allegations, and found them fruitless. Yet Daines and his like-minded die-hard Trump supporters claim one more audit will turn up evidence no one else has found. Until then, they say they “intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states.” They do not list which states they consider disputed. Presumably Montana, which voted for Trump by a wide margin, is not among them — even though many Montana counties opted to hold mail-ballot elections, one of the sticking points raised in the senators’ statement.
“We do not take this action lightly,” reads the statement signed by Daines and 10 other senators. “We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it.”
It’s not too late for Daines to do the right thing. He has shown backbone before, and demonstrated a willingness to support sensible legislation in the face of impassioned but wrongheaded opposition. The recent passage of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact is a recent case in point.
If Daines wants to be known for the kind of independent rationality upon which Montanans pride themselves, he will support the duly certified election results of each of the states. Instead of beating the dead horse of debunked allegations, he would start doing his part to fight false rumors with factual information — even if it’s not what some of his base wants to hear.
That’s how to protect the democratic process.
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Regional Editor David McCumber and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.