Last week, the contractors conducting the Republican Arizona Senate’s 2020 presidential vote “audit” teased their preliminary findings. The discrepancies they described sounded damning. Former president Donald Trump and his acolytes embraced them as proof of major voting problems in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous.

In fact, they illustrate that the Arizona Senate and its contractors have premised their audit on ignorance, dishonesty or, most likely, some toxic combination of the two. In that, they match Republicans throughout the country who are undermining faith in the nation’s system of government for partisan gain.

“We have 74,243 mail-in ballots where there is no clear record of them being sent,” declared Doug Logan, the pro-Trump conspiracy theorist who heads Cyber Ninjas, the Florida firm with no apparent expertise in election auditing whom the Arizona Senate Republican majority hired to examine Maricopa’s ballots. Election experts immediately pointed out that this number represents the in-person early ballots that voters cast, which Maricopa County counts in its submitted ballot tally. Similarly, Mr. Logan’s claim that 11,326 people suddenly showed up on the voting rolls after Election Day reflects provisional voters, whose ballots only counted if they demonstrate after Election Day that they were eligible. Instead of publicly revealing any of these alleged discrepancies, Mr. Logan should have consulted someone with a rudimentary knowledge of election procedures. Nevertheless, Mr. Logan said that he might need to send inquisitors door-to-door asking people about their ballots, without explaining how households would be picked, a move the Justice Department previously warned might amount to voter intimidation.

No one should seek to emulate this embarrassing spectacle, but Trump devotees in other swing states President Biden won, such as Georgia and Pennsylvania, are pushing to audit their ballot counts, too, despite the fact that intensive reviews have already found no reason to doubt the results. Pro-Trump activists in Georgia are suing to examine thousands of ballots with a high-powered microscope. They play up some 200 ballots that were initially double-counted in Atlanta’s Fulton County, despite the fact that there is no indication they ended up in the official results and that manual and machine recounts confirmed Mr. Biden’s victory.

Again and again, the “evidence” behind Mr. Trump’s lies fails to show fraud, yet Republican 2022 primary candidates in Georgia and elsewhere are embracing the fiction, while the party ridicules and sidelines those who continue to stand up for the truth. As the Arizona audit shows, the party’s goal is not to save U.S. democracy but to poison it, inspiring enough distrust in election systems to enable Republicans to pass unwarranted voting restrictions and to reject legitimate vote tallies that do not go their way. There is no more important priority than defending the nation’s democratic institutions from subversion and attack.

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