Robert Gehrke: Sean Reyes puts Donald Trump before his office, Utah and democracy

Utah’s attorney general signs on to bid to overturn the election results. Utah’s governor wants nothing to do with it.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the law, but he is doing neither.

Instead, Reyes on Wednesday joined 16 other attorneys general in a desperate, half-baked bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out election results in four states that President Donald Trump lost — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin.

It’s an act of pure, craven political hackery, signing on to a mish-mash of arguments and bad-faith allegations already heard and dismissed repeatedly by the courts. What it really is is an overt attack on every democratic institution we cherish.

Worst of all, he purports to be doing it on behalf of the state of Utah.

The filing with the U.S. Supreme Court by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been derided by legal scholars as nonsensical — University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck called it “a new leader in the ‘craziest lawsuit filed to purportedly challenge the election’ category.”

But if somehow it is successful, it would throw out the votes of tens of millions of voters and direct legislators in those states to appoint new electors, the notion being they would disregard the will of the majority who supported Democrat Joe Biden and instead keep Trump in the White House.

When Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was asked about pro-Trump legislatures disregarding the election results, he sounded a little like C-3PO from “Star Wars”.

Madness. This is madness,” he said. “We have a process. Recounts are appropriate. Going to the court is appropriate and pursuing every legal avenue is appropriate, but trying to get electors, not to do what the people voted to do is madness.”

Reyes is not just OK with the madness, he isn’t just embracing it. He is kissing it on the mouth, with tongue. And the absurdity of the arguments he and his colleagues are relying upon is just jaw-dropping.

For example, they attack the legitimacy of mail-in ballots.

“For decades prior to 2020,” the brief says, “responsible observers emphasized the risks of fraud in voting by mail and the importance of imposing safeguards on the process of voting by mail to allay such risks.”

But here are some numbers to consider: Reyes has twice been elected using these supposedly fraudulent mail-in elections. During his tenure as attorney general, his office has not once charged a single voter with fraud.

Zero also happens to be the level of integrity and honesty shown by advancing an argument he knows to be false.

The brief from the attorneys general also claims that election officials shouldn’t be afforded discretion to make decisions when it comes to administering elections.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in Sanpete County, where 12,000 ballots were printed without the required signature line, yet election officials accepted them and counted them despite it being a violation of election law.

Those ballots were counted, and they should be. But Reyes, as he noted in his news release, sat on the board of canvassers that officially certified Utah’s election results — despite the supposed rampant fraud that comes with mail-in elections and the flagrant election law violation in Sanpete County.

You can see how illogical it is. But having acknowledged the supposed fraud and the supposed violations of election law in Utah’s voting, what is to stop, say, California, from asking the Supreme Court to throw out the results here — the same way Reyes and his cronies are attempting to do to voters in four states?

It’s a point that was not lost on Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who said in a joint statement that, “Just as we would not want other states challenging Utah’s election results, we do not think we should intervene in other states’ elections.

“Candidates who wish to challenge election results have access to the courts without our involvement,” they said. “This is an unwise use of taxpayers’ money.”

That raises another point. It’s bad enough when Reyes goes to Nevada to give legal advice on electoral challenges that got laughed out of court for failing to provide any meaningful evidence of wrongdoing. At least that was supposedly done on his own time. This is being done on behalf of citizens of the state in his official capacity, using official resources.

But perhaps the most galling part of it all is that Reyes tries to pass off this blatant lie — that this isn’t a desperate ploy to keep Trump in office, instead arguing that he is standing up for the integrity of the process.

“This case is not only about one candidate or election cycle, as important as they may be, but the fairness of all elections — current and future,” Reyes said. “It is about assuring the process is fair and uniform today and becomes so or remains so tomorrow.”

He must genuinely think we’re idiots. But we see Reyes for what he is — a partisan hack willing to debase himself, abuse the law, diminish our Constitution and democratic electoral processes to keep the Deluded Donald in office.

He is an utter embarrassment to his office and to the state of Utah.