Holding our leaders and institutions to account is as American as apple pie. If done well, speaking truth to power is a reliable driver of our growth and progress as a people as it keeps officials honest. In short, accountability is an effective disinfectant – it makes our institutions strong, transparent, and trustworthy.
Of course, building faith in institutions is a big part of our mission at Civic Nebraska. This week, we were pleased to see Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen meet head-on a series of specious allegations regarding Nebraska’s 2020 general election.
Evnen emailed a presentation to all 49 Nebraska state senators that unpacked – and flatly rejected – accusations by a group that has publicly and persistently insinuated there were widespread issues with the last election in our state.
Among other things, Evnen’s office debunked claims by noting:
›› Several of the laws cited by critics don’t actually exist;
›› There is no factual basis to allegations that thousands of votes couldn’t be matched with registered voters; and
›› It’s untrue that Nebraska’s voting technology was untested, as critics alleged.
Most notably, the Secretary of State’s Office refuted a baseless claim that 4,001 votes cast in 2020 could not be linked to registered voters. This claim was publicly leveled during a recent hearing of the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee of the Nebraska Legislature.
Here’s the simple answer:
This whole discussion is difficult to watch for at least two reasons. First, this matter is something so easily disproved, and yet it persists because there’s a number (4,001) attached to the allegation that gives it just enough of a sense of authenticity to stick with those who are seeking a way to confirm their baked-in biases. And second, even though it involves a simple disconnect between different sets of data, instead of investigating that further, critics immediately pushed out a much different, much more sinister conclusion.
It’s getting old, isn’t it? Especially since this certainly won’t be the end of the business. In an interview this week with the Nebraska Examiner, Evnen said those perpetuating these allegations likely won’t be convinced by any number of facts. One can arrive at this conclusion simply by looking through the claims that the Secretary of State’s Office was compelled to address.
By the final slide, rational people can conclude that all of this “people-are-saying” and “we’re-just-asking-questions” noise is not about seeking or finding the truth. The goal seems to be to undermine our faith in the last election, which in turn plants the seeds of doubt about the next election. The longer play, of course, is to broadly undermine Nebraskans’ faith in our elections and our democratic institutions.
Like those who brought the debunked allegations, we understand that democracy works only because enough people believe democracy works. Parrying cynical untruths one by one is easy enough, if time-consuming – but the toxic presence of public lies is never something that active and engaged citizens should ever take lightly.
We applaud the Secretary of State’s Office for holding these public untruths up to the sunlight. Because, just like accountability, sunlight is a powerful disinfectant.