Elections: Should it be easier or harder to vote?


Elections: Should it be easier or harder to vote?

Republicans failed to help Donald Trump steal the 2020 election, but they’re already “trying to steal the next one.” Horrified by the record turnout that powered Joe Biden’s narrow victory in swing states, GOP lawmakers in 28 states have introduced 106 separate bills restricting citizens’ access to the ballot box. If enacted, the bills would curtail early and absentee voting; impose more stringent voter ID requirements; reduce the number of polling places and ballot drop-boxes; eliminate automatic and sameday registration programs; and make it easier for Republican officials to “purge” voter rolls of Democrats. As always, Republicans are justifying their voter-suppression efforts in the name of “ballot integrity,” But that’s hard to square with a proposed Arizona bill that would empower the state’s (Republican) legislature to simply “decertify” unfavorable election results and let them choose their own electors. Republicans are keenly aware that their base of white, rural, mostly male voters is being steadily outnumbered by minorities, young progressives, and educated suburban women. As Alice O’Lenick, a GOP election official in Georgia put it, new voting restrictions are needed “so that we at least have a shot at winning.”

We’re at a “fundamental crossroads in American politics,” said Ronald Brownstein in TheAtlantic.com. Democrats can’t block these “anti-democratic measures” at the state level—17 of those 28 states are under full Republican control. But the House is poised to pass H.R.1, or the For the People Act, which would mandate automatic voter registration in every state, along with unlimited absentee voting and 15 days of early voting. The bill would also prohibit extreme gerrymandering and so-called dark money campaign funding, while restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Republicans will no doubt filibuster the bill, so unless Democrats can persuade all of their 50 senators to abolish the filibuster, expanded voting rights is dead on arrival. That will have “enormous consequences for the future balance of power between the parties.”

The Democrats’ bill isn’t about defending democracy, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. It’s about “cementing Democratic political power.” The bill is designed to “auto-enroll likely Democratic voters,” such as food-stamp recipients, while enshrining in law fraud- susceptible practices such as ballot harvesting and same-day registration. All while making it harder for Republican candidates to raise money, said Jack Fowler in NationalReview.com. Banning anonymous political donations may sound neutral, but the Left routinely shames, ostracizes, and organizes boycotts of Republican donors. H.R.1 might be better named the “For the People Who Are Not Conservatives Act.”

Both parties assume that making it easier to vote helps Democrats, said Bill Scher in WashingtonMonthly.com. But “that’s hardly certain.” The massive turnout in 2020 no doubt helped Biden, but the predicted “Blue Wave” did not materialize: Republicans flipped 15 House seats and won big in state elections. The GOP needs to start thinking long-term, said Lee Drutman in The Washington Post. If Republicans double down on restricting voting rights, they “might squeeze out another decade of power” before being “crushed” by the demographic tide. To stay competitive, the GOP needs to “nominate moderates” who can win elections without voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the other anti-democratic dark arts. By forcing the Republicans to evolve sooner rather than later, H.R.1 is “the long-term rescue package they desperately need.”