The citizens of Washington can be very grateful that our secretary of state, Kim Wyman, is a traditional Republican who believes in the sanctity of the ballot. We can be relieved, as well, that GOP leaders in the Legislature seem to be generally sane people who are not motivated by wild conspiracy theories. In other words, we do not live in Arizona.

While kooky characters who subscribe to the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump do control the local and state party organizations, and while the GOP’s failed gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp is still pushing the claim that he was robbed of an election victory as well, these people do not run our state government. Down in Arizona, however, Republicans run almost everything. That is how a bizarre inspection of the votes in Maricopa County was allowed to happen.

Arizona’s Republican-controlled state Senate gave a group of rabid Trump fans custody of the voters’ ballots so they could conduct an “audit” to see if there was election fraud, even though duly-elected local and state officials had already certified that the vote was fair. The so-called expert subsequently put in charge of the bogus audit is a huckster who claims he can detect bamboo content in ballots forged by the Chinese.

This charade has become so embarrassing that even some Republican officeholders in Arizona are calling for an end to it. Yet, even as the audit appears to be unraveling down there, Trump partisans in several other states, including Michigan, Georgia and New Hampshire, are demanding audits of their own.

A half century ago, Washington’s venerated Republican Gov. Dan Evans invited members of the John Birch Society and other right-wing extremists to leave the state GOP. At least the wacky, paranoid conspiracy theories of the expelled Birchers sprang from something that actually existed – the malignant power of Soviet communism. Their philosophical descendants today are in thrall to dark fantasies, like stolen elections and child-sex cabals running the country, that have no basis in reality.

Unlike in Evans’ day, though, these paranoid folks are not on the fringes, they are the dominant activists at the center of the GOP. And in states like Arizona, these lunatics are actually running the asylum.

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