“Conspiracy-promoting sheriffs claim vast election authority”

AP reports on the “constitutional sheriffs” movement, which maintains that “a sheriff’s power in a county is greater than that of any other official.” To debunk the movement, the article quotes Steve McAllister, whose career includes serving as dean of the University of Kansas law school:

“It’s like a lot of these theories — it legally has no basis whatsoever,” said Stephen McAllister, the top federal prosecutor for Kansas during most of the Trump administration. “They are subject to state law. They are certainly subject to federal law. They are not sort of supreme little kings within their counties, whether they think so or not.”

The article discusses the application of this theory to election administration, because these sheriffs are asserting unbridled power to investigate claims of election fraud, including baseless claims of the kind associated with Trump’s “Big Lie” allegations of a stolen election. There is, however, an effort to counteract this development:

“The danger of anyone embracing a conspiracy theory is the loss of confidence in election results,” said Chris Harvey, the former state elections director in Georgia. “It’s an added danger if it’s law enforcement. Their job is to enforce laws and maintain order. If they are seen as not having confidence in what’s going on, it’s just going to further trickle down into society.”

Harvey is part of a new group bringing together election officials and law enforcement. The Committee for Safe and Secure Elections is comprised of 32 current and former election and law enforcement officials, with a goal of build stronger relationships and providing training.

Let’s hope Harvey’s group and its efforts are successful. As I’ve blogged before, reversing the corrosive trends of the past few years is going to require a lot of work over a sustained period, and will need the sort of bridge-building into communities that have embraced election denialism, so that the outcome of future elections are less likely to be engulfed by conspiracy theories.

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