For the past month and a half, an old fashioned roadshow has been taking place in counties across our state. While that may recall images of traveling salesmen or theater troupes, this roadshow was more of a mix between a bad circus and an evangelical huckster. And the man who swept through town? He spread only one thing: distrust in our election system
Last month, we were alerted to an email that went out to all the GOP delegates and alternates in Summit County, inviting them to an event to be held in Park City on October 16 featuring the “Hand Count Road Show.” Two members of the Summit County Republican Executive Committee, Jay Dauser and Marjorie Manning, organized the event, where attendees would “learn more about The Big Lie vs. The Big Steal.”
This wasn’t an isolated event. I don’t know who organized or was invited to the others, but similar events featuring the Hand Count Road Show were held in Washington, Utah, Salt Lake, Weber, Morgan, Wasatch, Davis, Duschene, and San Juan Counties, in addition to Summit County, with the most recent held in Blanding on October 31.
Riding into each of these counties in his RV was the ringleader of the Hand Count Road Show, Mark Cook. According to Slate, Cook is an “IT specialist” who has been involved in promoting the theory that Dominion Voting Systems rigged the 2020 election—yes, that is the same Dominion Voting Systems that FOX News agreed to pay a whopping $787.5 million settlement to for making the same exact claims Cook is making. Not only that, last year, Cook was accused of helping a county clerk illegally copy data from Colorado voting systems.
I watched the recording for the Park City event. I’m not going into all of Cook’s claims and refute his “evidence” of election vulnerabilities here in this blog post because 1) I don’t want to continue spreading disinformation and 2) you can find the recordings, slideshow, and select videos for each of his events at the website linked above if you truly want to go through the experience for yourself. Suffice it to say that the presentation was three hours and forty-six minutes of misdirections, half-truths, ad hominem attacks, misinformation, and conjectures that are all part of a grand conspiracy by corporations and “evil genius architects” to obfuscate and overturn election results.
Mark Cook has two stated goals for attendees of his events: 1) Get their state out of ERIC and 2) Return their state to paper ballots and hand counts of those ballots at the precinct level. However, to achieve those goals, there is a more sinister unstated objective: sow distrust across the country, in our states, counties, and communities, of the electoral process.
We’ve already seen where distrust in the electoral process can lead. For the past four years, we’ve had elected officials, politicians, talking heads, and other influential individuals casting doubt on the results of elections across the country. A full 38 percent of Americans still believe that President Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election. The January 6th storming of the U.S. Capitol is only the most extreme symptom of this distrust, but it can also be seen in the high rates of turnover we’ve seen in election offices across the country who have been threatened—both figuratively and literally. Without trust in our elections, institutions, and the people that operate them, the very foundations of our democratic process weaken, erode, and fall out from beneath us.
As has been said by many people before me, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud or voting machine manipulation in the 2020 presidential election, or other elections for that matter. Election officials, including here in Utah, have sought to assure that voting systems, including vote by mail, have many layers of protection to ensure that they are accurate and secure. In those rare instances where intentional fraud is found, they have been limited and did not have an impact on overall election results.
As we quickly approach the next presidential election, the Hand Count Road Show is just one example that the effort to sow distrust in our elections has not slowed down. We need to keep working to restore faith and trust in our democratic institutions, especially our electoral process. A lot of this work falls upon our elected officials and community leaders that are in positions of trust, who should resist entertaining the conspiracy theories and courageously respond to deliberate misinformation. But each of us can also do our part by voting for politicians that will work to restore that trust and continuing to fight for our right to free and fair elections.