“Voter fraud” is just Republican rhetoric to justify voter suppression.
WASHINGTON — Led by loyalists who embrace former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election, Republicans in state legislatures nationwide are mounting extraordinary efforts to change the rules of voting and representation — and enhance their own political clout.
At the top of those efforts is a slew of bills raising new barriers to casting votes, particularly the mail ballots that Democrats flocked to in the 2020 election. But other measures go well beyond that, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules for the benefit of Republicans; clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives; and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections, which were crucial to the smooth November vote.
And although the decennial redrawing of political maps has been pushed to the fall because of delays in delivering 2020 census totals, there are already signs of an aggressive drive to further gerrymander political districts, particularly in states under complete Republican control.
The national Republican Party joined the movement this past week by setting up a Committee on Election Integrity to scrutinize state election laws, echoing similar moves by Republicans in a number of state legislatures.
Republicans have long thought — sometimes quietly, occasionally out loud — that large turnouts, particularly in urban areas, favor Democrats, and that Republicans benefit when fewer people vote. But politicians and scholars alike say that this moment feels like a dangerous plunge into uncharted waters…
The party’s battle in the past decade to raise barriers to voting, principally among minorities, young people and other Democrat-leaning groups, has been waged under the banner of stopping voter fraud that multiple studies have shown barely exists.
“The typical response by a losing party in a functioning democracy is that they alter their platform to make it more appealing,” Kenneth Mayer, an expert on voting and elections at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said. “Here the response is to try to keep people from voting. It’s dangerously antidemocratic.”
…Consider Iowa, a state that has not been a major participant in the past decade’s wars over voting and election rules. The November election saw record turnout and little if any reported fraud. Republicans were the state’s big winners, including in the key races for the White House and Senate.
Yet, in a vote strictly along party lines, the State Legislature voted this past week to cut early voting by nine days, close polls an hour earlier and tighten rules on absentee voting, as well as strip the authority of county auditors to decide how election rules can best serve voters.
State Senator Jim Carlin, a Republican who recently announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, made the party’s position clear during the floor debate: “Most of us in my caucus and the Republican caucus believe the election was stolen,” he said.
State Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat, said that served as justification for a law that created “a voting system tailored to the voting tendency of older white Republican voters.”
…The Republican push comes as the rules and procedures of American elections increasingly have become a central issue in the nation’s politics. The Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning law and justice institute at New York University, counts 253 bills in 43 states that seek to tighten voting rules. At the same time, 704 bills have been introduced with provisions to improve access to voting.
The push also comes as Democrats in Congress are attempting to pass federal legislation that would tear down barriers to voting, automatically register new voters and outlaw gerrymanders, among many other measures. Some provisions, such as a prohibition on restricting a voter’s ability to cast a mail ballot, could undo some of the changes being proposed in state legislatures.
…Republicans in Georgia, which Mr. Biden won by roughly 12,000 votes, lined up this week behind a State Senate bill that would require vote-by-mail applications to be made under oath, with some requiring an additional ID and a witness signature.
Arizona Republicans are backing bills to curtail the automatic mailing of absentee ballots to voters who skip elections, and to raise to 60 percent the share of votes required to pass most citizen ballot initiatives. Legislatures in at least five other Republican-run states are also considering bills making it harder to propose or pass citizen-led initiatives, which often involve issues like redistricting or tax hikes where the party supports the status quo.