Alan Hays is upset because his fellow Lake County Republicans are spreading unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about 2020 election fraud.

Cry us a river.

Hays contributed to America’s present-day conspiratorial psychosis, and now is upset that the Frankenstein’s monster he helped create is rampaging across the countryside.

Before Hays became supervisor of elections in Lake County, he was a state lawmaker who glommed onto the right’s outrage du jour at the time — so-called Sharia law.

Hays introduced bills designed to ban Sharia — which isn’t a set of laws but rather a religious and moral code for Muslims — from being considered by courts.

Like so many other issues dear to the modern right wing, Sharia law was manufactured hysteria. It wasn’t being used by Florida judges to guide their rulings. It was a nothing-burger.

Hays knew this, but justified the bill as a preventive measure, once likening it to responsible parents getting their children vaccinated. (Ironically, Florida is about to begin a special lawmaking session aimed at regulating COVID vaccines, the right’s latest boogeyman.)

What Hays really had in mind 10 years ago was stoking the anti-Islamist fires of post-9/11. A watered-down version of his bill finally passed but the real mission — fostering distrust of Muslims — was accomplished.

Now, the former state senator who once handed out torches and pitchforks to go after the non-issue of Sharia law is crying foul because fellow Republicans are using the Big Lie of 2020 election fraud to demand an deep-dive audit into Florida’s results.

“I find it disturbing that some of our citizenry continue to promote a narrative that is unsubstantiated in fact or example,” Hays thundered on his office’s official website. “It begins with the unrelenting desire to believe that an election was ‘stolen’ and that ‘the vast majority of us witnessed (this) on election night 2020.’″

Hays is demanding that skeptics — primarily the delusional Lake County Republican Executive Committee — “put up or shut up” by providing concrete examples of fraudulent voting or fraudulent vote-counting. (Hays wants proof of the type he couldn’t provide while peddling anti-Muslim conspiracies.)

They haven’t, naturally, but proof was never the point, any more so than the point of attacking Sharia a decade ago was to ensure equal justice. The point was always the conspiracy.

Hays is right, of course: His fellow Republicans are full of it. But they’re so hopped up on former President Trump’s outrage elixir that they’ve abandoned reason. Republicans across the state are following the lead of charlatans like Lake County state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who hopes to become Florida’s answer in Congress to the preposterous likes of Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Hays isn’t alone in his newfound concern over the societal havoc these deranged conspiracy theories are wreaking.

He and Florida’s 66 other election supervisors released a statement last month declaring that “The Great American Experiment, our cherished democracy, is under threat.”

“In this hour, public trust in our elections is being systematically undermined, to the detriment of all Americans,” it continued.

Very moving, very accurate and very, very tardy. Nearly 70% of Florida’s election supervisors are Republicans who have been watching as their fellow party members spread these fantasies for more than a year now.

Let’s be clear: The trust problem they’re bemoaning is 100% on Republicans.

Not Democrats.

Not NPAs.

Just Republicans.

Supervisors across the state should have been denouncing this garbage from day 1. Instead, they’ve allowed the wound to fester, staying mostly silent when GOP executive committee meetings across Florida started making tinfoil hats part of the dress code.

When Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature proposed repressive new voting restrictions last spring, the elections supervisors organization offered a sniveling, one-sentence statement that read: “Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE) does not support SB90 or HB7041 in their current form, but continues to share information with the legislature.”

Such valor.

Why are supervisors breaking out the smelling salts now? Perhaps because sentiment is growing within Florida’s Republican Party for an audit along the lines of Arizona’s three-ring circus (which ended with more votes in Joe Biden’s column). Sabatini has filed a bill demanding one.

Meanwhile, Roger Stone, one of the most villainous characters in American politics, has threatened to run against DeSantis as a Libertarian candidate if the governor doesn’t order a full-blown audit.

And if election confidence continues to erode, who knows, maybe some of those Republican supervisors will find themselves facing primary challenges from the increasingly powerful Froot Loop wing of the party, running on a platform of never-ending audits.

There is only one way out of this: What’s left of the responsible wing of the Republican Party needs to find its inner Liz Cheney and demand their fellow party members start telling the truth and calling out the election liars, starting with Donald Trump.

We don’t think for a moment that’s going to happen. In this regard, and others, the Republican Party is broken. Successful for the moment, but morally broken.

The GOP has created a monster it no longer can control, and that’s what has politicians like Alan Hays worried.

Editorials are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and are written by one of our members or a designee. The editorial board consists of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Send emails to [email protected].


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