Mr. Youngkin is a virtuoso of verbal misdirection. In the course of his campaign he has insisted by twists and turns that his top priority is election integrity, thereby casting doubt on whether past elections have been fair; then declared that Virginia elections have indeed been free of fraud; then dodged questions about whether he would have certified President Biden’s victory; then conceded Mr. Biden’s win was “certifiably fair.” Now, unbidden, he has returned to the subject, asserting that the state’s voting machines must be “audited.”
“I think we need to make sure that people trust these voting machines,” he said the other day, thereby lending his winking support to Republican conspiracy theorists enamored of the lie that voting machines are rigged, and allying himself with party fantasists elsewhere who continue to press for dodgy state “audits” of the 2020 elections.
Mr. Youngkin plays his game with feigned naivete. Gosh, he says, businesses are audited routinely, so why not voting machines? In fact, the state’s Department of Elections already coordinates an annual post-election audit of voting machines; in last year’s elections it found the results were accurate, which was not exactly a surprise.
At the same time, Mr. Youngkin, a wealthy former private equity executive, has been happy to have the campaign trail surrogate services of one of the state’s most extreme and polarizing figures, Republican state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield). Ms. Chase, who has embraced the “big lie” that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, says out loud what Mr. Youngkin hints at with his double-talk — that election fraud is rife, that Virginia’s audit was phony, and that the buffoonery of Arizona’s election audit, which she visited while it was underway, is a model for the nation. She says electing Mr. Youngkin is “the single most important thing” Virginia can do to advance election integrity.
Mr. Youngkin’s rhetoric is more deft than Ms. Chase’s, and more subtle than Mr. Trump’s, but the intent is the same — to affirm and legitimize doubts about whether U.S. elections can be trusted, and therefore about American democracy itself. It is pernicious, and serves only to accelerate the Republican Party’s flight from the constitutional order.