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The kind of politics residents don't need on the Windermere Town Council

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Norine Dworkin

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The kind of politics residents don't need on the Windermere Town Council

Seattle Municipal Archives

Windermere provides voting spaces. Orange County handles the voting machines.

I can’t tell you why Windermere Town Council candidate Mike Hargreaves chose to tell the West Orange Times Observer that his “No. 1” priority, if he got elected, would be “to investigate what vote tallying machines we use to cast our votes from local to federal.”

When Windermere residents are concerned about traffic clogging their roundabouts, dirt roads washing out, and the cost of switching from well water to city water, signaling that your top priority is linked to a bonkers theory of election fraud that’s been thoroughly debunked — and is tying Fox News up in multibillion dollar defamation lawsuits — is questionable political strategy.

But since Hargreaves threw that out on the table, let’s talk about it. A more seasoned politician might have concealed that they intend to spend their time chasing after nonexistent election fraud until after they’d been elected. But when candidates make mistakes, sometimes voters benefit because it provides insight into who they really are.

Hargreaves was asked about his comment and whether his concern about voting machines signaled  corruption in Windermere voting at the February 10 Windermere Candidates Night, held via Zoom. (If you missed the Zoom, you can read our recap here).

Here’s how Hargreaves responded:

“I don’t think Windermere has corruption issues. I was pointing more toward the national election we just saw, and that’s a big political issue we’re not going to get into. However, there is [sic] a lot of questions raised that I don’t have the answers to. The voting machines that we use, which I think are tally machines, I noticed were picked up by a rental truck and put on a rental truck and driven to who knows where. Based on what we’ve seen nationally, I have a lot of questions. Whether you see and believe what others see and believe in the national election, we come away with one thing — there was [sic] a lot of irregularities. Where’s [sic] our votes going? Are they being counted? As the Windermere Council, I would like to step forward and look into that and answer those questions for myself.”

Put on a rental truck and driven to who knows where.

Okaaaaaay. In any other election year, we would ignore this as the delusions of the tin foil hat brigade. However, a new Quinnipiac poll found that 76 percent of people who identify as Republicans believe there was “widespread fraud in the 2020 election,” so we are likely to be repeating and amplifying disclaimers for quite a while.

As a refresher, when the nonsense about rigged voting machines started to gain traction, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued this statement:

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history…While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should, too…There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”

In addition, Christopher Krebs, CISA's director during the election, quashed several persistent election fraud fallacies — like that voting machines switched Trump votes to Biden votes — in a wide-ranging interview with 60 Minutes. Krebs, you might recall, was sacked by Trump for reassuring the public that the election had been secure and not riddled with fraud as Trump maintained. (You might also recall that Krebs came with literal receipts -- a paper tally that matched the voting machine count -- while 86 judges of all political stripes roundly rejected the 63 fraud-related lawsuits Trump and his associates filed in court.)

Hargreaves returned to the topic of fraudulent voting machines when he answered a different question during the Zoom event: Is Joe Biden the legitimate president of the United States? 

In an earlier response, Hargreaves let slip that the “new president’ is a “touchy subject for me.” Now, it’s one thing to be bummed when your candidate loses. I supported Walter Mondale, Al Gore and John Kerry, so, trust me, I get it. But taken together with voting machine concerns, an off-hand comment about President Biden being a “touchy” subject was setting off all kinds of alarms. So I asked Hargreaves to clarify his comment and assure Windermere voters that he recognized Biden as the legitimate President of the United States.

This is what he said:

“I don’t hide the fact that we’re either Republicans or Democrats, and we all voted for and we all believed in who we believed would win and hoped would win. Whether I voted for one person or another I don’t think matters. The fact is that one person won, and I’m okay with that.

“However, I’m not okay with what I saw and what millions and millions and millions of Americans saw on national TV. I’m not okay with that. All my life I’ve been an investigator. Two plus two equals seventeen. There’s a problem with that math, and I’m not going to hide that. We don’t know where the votes go. We don’t know how they’re being tallied. A lot of people do, but I don’t. A lot of people I spoke to didn’t know either, and what we saw on the national scale was from small towns. Small towns in Georgia and Pennsylvania and so forth. Are we affected? I don’t know. But I’d like to know and I’m hoping to find out.”

There is so much to unpack there. Is Joe Biden the legitimate president of the United States?  A simple yes will suffice. 

Hargreaves says he’s “okay” with “the fact that one person won.” But he leaves open who he thinks that person is. That is a salient detail. An American Enterprise survey  that found 66 percent of Republicans don’t see Joe Biden as the legitimate president. The continued promotion of false information, like voting machine “irregularities,” is what contributes to that belief.

When Hargreaves pivots back to voting machine fraud, he singles out the Georgia and Pennsylvania results. As has been reported many times before, the Georgia vote was counted three times and was certified by the Republican secretary of state as being secure and legitimate. Last week the Pennsylvania secretary of state announced that their statewide risk-limiting audit provided “strong evidence of the accuracy of the count of votes cast in the November 2020 presidential election.”

We really cannot state this often enough: there was no election fraud during the 2020 presidential election. The only reason “people” have questions about the legitimacy of the election is because Trump refused to accept his loss and so lied about the election being stolen. Republican senators, like Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, cynically seeded questions about fraud in their constituents and then used the excuse that “people” had questions to try to overturn Biden's win by stopping the certification of electors. Let’s not forget that Trump's original lie propelled the Capitol Riot on January 6.

So, why should what Hargreaves thinks about voting machines matter to voters who just want to know if the traffic is going to ease up through downtown or if there’s a plan to fix the dirt roads in front of their houses? Because council members will debate and disagree. But to come to compromise and move projects forward, it helps to start with the same set of shared, agreed-on facts. There is a reason ER docs ask you who the President of the United States is after a head injury to see if you’re alert and oriented. Everyone has to exist in the same reality.

At the Candidates Night, Hargreaves showed that he’s quite comfortable trafficking in election conspiracies. Even with explanations from state and federal officials — the folks who would presumably be giving him the answers to those questions he wants to ask — he still believes that some other truth is out there for him to find.

Windermere, you don’t need someone on town council who, when presented with facts, doesn’t believe the facts they are presented with simply because they do not jibe with the world view they already have. Conspiracies and misinformation won’t fix your roads or unsnarl your traffic. But dealing with them takes time and attention away from other important business.

Just ask House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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