By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – When I was growing up, if the Peru Tigers lost to the Marion Giants or the Logansport Berries, we accepted the verdict on the court. Those who didn’t were labeled “poor sports” or “bad losers.”

These days we are witnessing Republican U.S. Senate debates in Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania where candidates are relitigating Donald Trump’s empirically proven loss to Joe Biden in 2020. 

Dr. Mehmet Oz was asked if it was time to move on from this “Stop the Steal” mode, and he responded, “I have discussed it with President Trump and we cannot move on. We have to be serious about what happened in 2020.”

In Michigan last weekend, the Republicans at their state convention endorsed Kristina Karamo for attorney general and Matthew DePerno for secretary of state. Both are ardent 2020 election deniers, despite a Michigan Senate Oversight Committee report showing no fraud. “This investigation was lengthy, thorough, and revealing,” said committee Chairman Ed McBroom, an Upper Peninsula Republican. “After innumerable hours over many months, watching, listening, and reading both in-person testimony and various other accounts, I am confident in asserting that the results of the November 2020 General Election in Michigan were accurately represented by the certified and audited results.” It prompted Canvasser Tony Daunt, a powerful GOP insider to quit, saying, “Feckless, cowardly party ‘leaders’ have made the election here in Michigan a test of who is the most cravenly loyal to Donald Trump and re-litigating the results of the 2020 cycle.” 

Reporting over the weekend points to a pernicious attempt by the Trump White House to thwart the will of the people by using so-called “alternate electors” to change Trump’s 306-232 Electoral College loss.

According to the New York Times, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony and other materials disclosed by the House Jan. 6 committee in a 248-page court filing on Friday added “new details and texture” to what is publicly known about the discussions in Mr. Trump’s inner circle and among his allies in the weeks preceding the Jan. 6 assault. Hutchinson’s testimony indicated that members of the Freedom Caucus were also involved in plans to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to throw out electoral votes from states won by Biden and accept false certificates claiming those states had voted for Trump.

“They felt that he had the authority to – pardon me if my phrasing isn’t correct on this, but – send votes back to the states or the electors back to the states,” Ms. Hutchinson testified, adding that they had appeared to embrace a plan promoted by the conservative lawyer John Eastman that members of both parties have likened to a blueprint for a coup d’etat. Attorney Cleta Mitchell played a role in promoting the alternate elector scheme. The email, which Ms. Mitchell sent to Mr. Meadows on Dec. 6, 2020, included a list of “key points” about the plan, noting, for example, that the “U.S. Constitution gives the authority to state legislatures to appoint presidential electors.”

NYT:  “Ms. Mitchell had sent a version of the email one day earlier to Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, in advance of the senator appearing on television. When Ms. Mitchell forwarded the email to Mr. Meadows, she wrote, ‘This is what I prepared and sent to Sen. Braun last night to help prepare him for ABC appearance this a.m. Can the WH press office get and start using??’”

After the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, Sen. Braun reversed course on challenging Biden’s victory. In a statement to White House pool reporters, Braun said he “didn’t feel comfortable with today’s events,” noting he believes election integrity is “still a valid issue.”

“When today’s events unfolded, I could not dignify it even with upholding something I objected to,” Braun said. “I’d say that was the reason behind most (of the members of Congress) that ended up changing their minds. Though I will continue to push for a thorough investigation into the election irregularities many Hoosiers are concerned with as my objection was intended, I have withdrawn that objection and will vote to get this ugly day behind us.”

Since then, Ball State University audited five Indiana counties (LaPorte, Cass, Madison, Vigo and Marion) and found no irregularities. “In every race examined, the election outcome was confirmed with 100% confidence and high levels of statistical assurance,” secretary of state spokesman Allen Carter told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star.

Ditto in Arizona. The Republican speaker of the Arizona House doomed legislation that would have permitted the state legislature to overturn election results, according to Capitol Media Services. In Wisconsin, the State Journal reported: “Election deniers are scheduled to head to the Capitol on Thursday and in May in an ongoing effort to cast doubt on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by continuing to press baseless claims that the vote was stolen.” The dogged efforts were despite numerous audits, reviews and court filings that found no more fraud in 2020 than is typical in any other election.

Forbes reported in October that one of the final pending lawsuits filed by supporters of former President Donald Trump in Georgia shortly after the 2020 presidential election was dismissed. State Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled that the plaintiffs “did not have grounds for the audit since they failed to provide any evidence to back up the need for one.”

So there are baseless claims of election fraud, while a number of Republicans are doubling down on Trump’s allegations. Which brings us to the antiquated 1887 Electoral Count Act, which Trump’s inner circle and supports tried to exploit. NBC News reported that a bipartisan group of senators is exploring how to prevent future elections from being stolen: Sens. Collins, Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Todd Young (Ind.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) took part in Monday’s call. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Mark Warner (Va.), Chris Coons (Del.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Ben Cardin (Md.) also took part.

“We’ve reached consensus on some of the key issues, such as the role of the vice president, to have language making clear that it’s ministerial; increasing the threshold in both the House and the Senate that is necessary to trigger a challenge; and some issues involving the transition period,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Monday afternoon.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said “things look pretty good” for consensus on modernizing the Electoral Count Act and presidential transition provisions. “Still working on a few issues,” he told NBC. “It’s moving in the right direction, and people are coming to the meetings and negotiating in good faith.” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, added, “It’s just far more complex than it would seem at the outset, in that everything you change has implications on other elements in the process. So we’re working with attorneys and with a parliamentarian to get their input and suggestions.”

What is the urgency? Just 20% of Americans say they’re confident in the nation’s election system, according to a January ABC/Ipsos poll. Even fewer Republicans (13%) are very confident, with a considerable majority (59%) having little faith in the system.

University of Chicago political science Prof. William Howell told ABC News, “Widespread distrust in our electoral system overlays deep divisions over our democracy. Republicans lack confidence, in no small part, because of lies propagated by their leaders. And Democrats lack confidence because of ongoing efforts of Republicans to politicize the administration of elections. This is a bad equilibrium.”

Sens. Braun and Todd Young should embrace and support reforms to the Electoral Count Act. They should be part of the bipartisan solution.

Our democracy is at stake.