By Sasha Hupka |The Arizona Republic
Nearly 100 civic, business and religious leaders in Arizona have joined together in an effort to protect democracy and stave off political violence.
The Arizona Democracy Resilience Network — a cross-partisan effort — is asking political candidates to:
Cooperate with elections officials.
Avoid spreading falsehoods.
Acknowledge the legitimacy of election outcomes after results have been certified.
“When you have candidates talking about fraud when there’s really been no evidence of fraud and fraud before an election is even held, it presents the kind of atmosphere out there that can lead to things down the road that you just don’t want to see happen,” said co-director Don Henninger of Scottsdale.
Henninger, a former media executive who runs the Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow, said the network will promote principles of democratic elections and keep ears to the ground for potential threats through the 2022 and 2024 election cycles.
The network was initiated by the Carter Center, a nonprofit founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and devoted to resolving conflict and advancing democracy. The center’s efforts to bolster democracy have historically been focused outside of the United States, but it announced in 2020 that it would begin to look inward.
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“We do see a threat to democracy here, and we should never take it for granted,” Henninger said. “The values that we hold near and dear that have driven democracy for all of our lives are now being questioned and challenged, and it’s a little disconcerting to think about what could happen next if we don’t have enough people paying attention.”
The new group comes after elections staff across the nation received threats following the 2020 election. In Arizona, those threats drove some away from their jobs. Five of the state’s 15 counties have new elections directors this cycle.