If I were to tell you that the minister at your church shoplifts all over town, I imagine that you would ask me where I got such an idea.

And if I replied that, shucks, everybody knows that the minister’s got light fingers, I expect that you (and eventually the church’s lawyer) would say that’s not good enough. You’d insist: “Do you have any proof?”

That’s reasonable. Any accusation of wrongful behavior, certainly unlawful behavior, ought to be based on something solid.

But apparently in some quarters, no. In some quarters, accusations of wrongdoing need not be grounded in anything other than a fondness for conspiracy, a mischievous mind or an intention to harm.

In fact, I know of a great many people who, without concrete evidence, are accusing fellow citizens of inappropriate behavior. Specifically, since last November they’ve been saying that election authorities across the nation routinely allow voting fraud to happen.

The accusers include high-ranking elected officials and former officials. According to opinion surveys, they include more than half of all Republicans in the nation, some of whom traffic their unfounded accusations beneath the radar through social media groups in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

Their allegations of election fraud continue — despite more than 50 court challenges that went nowhere, despite clean bills of health from election audits that Republicans themselves ordered up and despite statements to the contrary by some prominent and knowledgeable Republicans, among them:

“Here in New Hampshire our elections are secure, accurate, and reliable — there is no question about it.” (New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu press release, Dec. 2, 2020)

“We don’t have a voting problem here in New Hampshire. We do elections right.” (N.H. Republican Party Chairman Steve Stepanek in the N.H. Journal, May 6, 2021)

“This Committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election.” (Report from the Republican-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee, June 2021)

“It was not rigged, it was not stolen, Donald Trump lost the election, Joe Biden won the election, it’s really clear.” (Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, on Milwaukee’s WISN-TV, Sept. 21, 2021)

Such statements have the convincing ring of legitimacy. Still, they apparently mean nothing to those who, seemingly without any proof or any interest in proof, continue to insist that our hallowed system of democratic self-governance is rotten at the polling place.

It would be one thing if the falsifications, lies and misrepresentations regarding our elections were confined only to fringe groups and political figures with personal axes to grind. But disinformation about voting fraud is spreading thanks partly or largely to the silence of others — including mainstream Republicans who possibly fear that they’ll personally be branded traitors to the party and all its priorities if they spoke out.

Nonsense. Given the danger to the nation from groundless attacks on our fairly run elections, it’s past time for those Republicans to stand up and speak out — not just top officials but also all principled members of the rank and file who in their hearts know right from wrong.

Otherwise would be no different from my going around saying, without evidence, that the minister at your church is shoplifting all over town while you stood silently by.

Jim Rousmaniere, retired editor of The Sentinel, is a former selectman in Roxbury.

Recommended for you