Gasoline on the fire

Last Thursday, March 30, I attended an event at the Strand Theatre. I have been hanging out at the Strand a lot lately, rehearsing for a production of “Wizard of Oz” with Sagebrush Theatre. On Wednesday, we saw posters for an event the next night that piqued my interest.

The title was “Are Wyoming Elections Secure?: Come and see what our Wyoming data reveals! With Dr. Douglas G. Frank.” Then it had a photo of Dr. Frank, and a disclaimer saying the event is free — though donations were accepted — and nonpartisan. My favorite price and my favorite kind of party.

When I walked in close to starting time, the theater was surprisingly full. There were plenty of empty seats, but still a crowd that would make us happy at a Sagebrush play.

I looked around and saw many friends, some relatives and even more acquaintances. In short, many people whom I know, love and respect. However, I found the actual presentation disturbing, to put it mildly.

Dr. Frank, who was introduced as the former chair of the math and science department at the Schilling School for Gifted Children in Cincinnati, after touting his own credentials, immediately began talking about all the “evidence” of massive voter fraud all across the United States.

His proudest credential seems to be his connections and association with Mike Lindell (the “My Pillow” guy) and Donald Trump.

The main evidence that he actually presented consisted of slide after slide showing graphs of election data, comparing the growth of population to the trends in the numbers of registered voters.

His claim is that, across the country, voter registration is growing faster than the population is growing. I hope that is true, because way too many Americans don’t bother to register and, of those who do, many don’t vote. However, Frank claims this is evidence of voter fraud. He mentions many cases around the country where high levels of voter fraud have been “proven.”

When it came to Wyoming, however, he didn’t make such bold claims. He showed the same types of graphs for all counties in Wyoming, and claimed they followed the same patterns he has found across the country.

He pointed out a strange phenomenon in the Cowboy State. Right before each election, the voter registration numbers go up significantly, then right after the elections, there is a steep drop in the number of voters.

Then he let slip that Wyoming has an automatic purge rule in place, where any registered voter that doesn’t vote in a nationwide election cycle is dropped from the voting rolls and has to re-register the next time they want to vote. Several audience members confirmed this.

I asked him why he claims these ups and downs were evidence of fraud when he had just given us a reason that completely explained the erratic data. He said, “Well, it doesn’t completely explain it.” He didn’t follow up with any other reasons.

He also claimed that in one of our counties the population had gone down, but the voter registration numbers had gone up. However, his own data didn’t show that. The peak values for the registered voter numbers went down in a pattern that very closely followed the population data.

I challenged him on that and said he was misinterpreting the graph. He appeared momentarily thrown off balance, then said something like “I’m not afraid of any questions,” then quickly moved on without addressing my point.

He claimed the trends in Uinta County also show evidence of fraud, and he talked often about how voting machines can’t be trusted, and we should have only paper ballots, counted by hand.

I’m not totally against hand counting ballots, other than the fact that it is extremely time consuming, and not practical in higher population areas. However, hand-counted ballots are just as prone to mistakes and fraud as machine-counted, especially if one party is able to elect secretaries of state and county clerks who are willing to cheat to make sure their party wins.

Clearly, he did not have any evidence of voter fraud in Wyoming or Uinta County.

I could look around the crowd and see the faces of poll workers who had checked my ID and voter registration information in a process that made voting almost harder than getting my passport. They always check IDs carefully, even though they already know most of us.

If voter fraud were rampant in Wyoming, wouldn’t different people be winning the elections?

The disturbing part, however, was not his evidence, but his rhetoric. He said several times, “I’m not just here to convince you there is fraud, I’m here to light fires, and then throw gasoline on those fires!”

One time, when he talked about a case of voter fraud, he asked what we should do in these cases. A voice I could recognize in my sleep came from behind me with the comment “Get a rope!”

My former principal and current school board member Dave Bennett made the comment. It brought lots of laughter and some nodding from the audience, and agreement from the speaker, who referenced the comment again later in the speech.

I know Dave was joking, not advocating real violence or lynching but, Dave, you should know by now that words matter. In fairness to the speaker, he did say several times that he is not advocating violence, and that you have to take your time, follow the law and make sure not to make false accusations. However, he encouraged audience members to try to gain access to the voter rolls, then go out and knock on their neighbors’ doors and ask to see their IDs and evidence that all the voters registered at this address really live there.

I don’t know about you, but if someone I don’t know shows up at my door asking for evidence that I am a legally registered voter, I would feel threatened. I would immediately slam the door in their face and call the police.

In Wyoming, you are certainly taking a chance of someone greeting you with a loaded gun in this situation. Frank alluded to this fact. He also mentioned a case in Idaho where outside protesters were coming in (not sure of the reason, but I think maybe some environmental thing) and they were met by a group of Idaho patriots with their AKs in hand. He suggested that that’s the way these things should be handled.

I left the Strand discouraged, and hoping that the majority of my respected and loved friends and neighbors who were in attendance didn’t really believe that there is massive voter fraud in Uinta County.

I don’t understand the purpose of trying to get us not to trust our local elections and elected officials. The only thing that  makes sense to me is that this is an attempt to get good people to lose confidence in our system, so in some future election when an authoritarian presidential candidate claims he was cheated out of the election, people will be willing to support a government overthrow and sacrifice our democracy in order to have the candidate they want in power.

I hope and pray that we never come to that point.

A couple of weeks ago there was an opinion piece in the Herald titled “Common Sense Republicans.” The idea that there is widespread election fraud in Wyoming is certainly not one that could be endorsed by a “Common Sense Republican.”