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Opinion | Ciattarelli and New Jersey Republicans try to discredit another free and fair election

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In Virginia, McAuliffe conceded defeat the morning after the election. “Congratulations to Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin on his victory,” he said in a statement. “I hope Virginians will join me in wishing the best to him and his family.”

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In New Jersey, Ciattarelli refused to concede, and staff called media outlets “irresponsible” for projecting that his opponent won. He issued a video appeal Thursday evening for people to come forward with allegations of fraud. “You can report any perceived or real irregularity to the voter integrity hotline set up by the NJGOP,” he said.

He said he wouldn’t concede for another week or two “until every legal vote is counted” (that’s a way of insinuating there are illegal votes), at which point he would decide about “a recount or audit.”

Or maybe he can save us the wait and just skip to the part where his followers storm the state capitol.

It’s another sad reminder that the Republican Party isn’t just campaigning against Democrats. It’s campaigning against democracy. Reckless, irresponsible GOP leaders and candidates have convinced their voters that there are two possible outcomes in any election:

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B. The Democrat stole the election.

Heads I win, tails you cheated. A free society cannot function this way.

Nobody should be surprised Ciattarelli is doing this. Three weeks after President Biden won the election last year, Ciattarelli spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally dedicated to overturning Biden’s win.

Before his video statement in which he refused to concede, his campaign sent out a fundraising appeal saying “this race is far from over” and asking for contributions “to make our path to victory as smooth as possible.”

And it’s not just Ciattarelli.

The New Jersey Republican Party tweeted that the Republican National Committee had deployed 20 lawyers to New Jersey as part of “our election integrity team (the largest such team ever assembled).”

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A website funded in part by Koch money, SaveJersey.com, reported that the RNC’s “election integrity” group sent more than 200,000 texts and emails to voters — another way of trawling for fraud allegations. The website cited “widespread technical difficulties,” the “possibility of legal challenges” and a “potentially protracted battle.”

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie told Guy Benson of the right-wing TownHall outlet that “there’s a very legitimate chance Jack could win this” and that Christie is concerned about “data discrepancies.”

And Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post published an article claiming there were “vote-counting debacles plaguing several counties.”

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Ciattarelli said he welcomed “any and all credible reports” of fraud. He said his delay would assure that the “outcome … will be legal and fair,” but his actions will convince his supporters of the opposite. He told people not to believe “wild conspiracy theories,” but that’s exactly what he encourages. Social media was full of zany claims: Foreigners voting! Tallies manipulated! Ballots mysteriously found!

Republicans were planning to do the same in Virginia if Youngkin lost. Trump on Monday declared: “I am not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections; lots of bad things went on, and are going on.” In the closing days of the campaign, Youngkin allies, surrogates and right-wing media personalities prepared Republican voters to suspect fraud if Youngkin were to lose, as David Corn noted in Mother Jones. Former chief Trump strategist Steve Bannon, on a Virginia-based talk show on Oct. 29, said: “They’re Democrats. They’re going to try to steal it. They can’t win elections they don’t steal, right?” Youngkin had raised doubts about voting machines.

In exit polls, 3 in 10 Youngkin voters said they lacked confidence the election would be fair.

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Youngkin didn’t have to claim fraud because he won. But Ciattarelli lost, so he’s now asking for any “perceived or real irregularity” he can use to raise doubts about the outcome. There were technical problems with some of New Jersey’s new voting devices Tuesday night — just as there are problems in virtually every election. And though there are still mail and provisional ballots to be counted, even the New York Post reported “the ballots that have yet to be counted are expected to sway toward Murphy, given the districts they’ll be coming from and typical trends for mail- into the.”

But then it isn’t about Ciattarelli winning the governorship. It’s about delegitimizing the victor — and discrediting another free and fair election.

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