Consider the following:
A profligate prevaricator, the de facto capo of the Republican Party, spouted lie after lie in both the run-up to and after the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump was abetted by craven acolytes who knew better, and conspiracy theorists — in public office both in Virginia and elsewhere — for whom facts were merely “suggestions.”
(For a chilling look at Trump’s deceit to overturn the election, read Axios’ eight-part series on the behind-the-scenes machinations by Trump and his minions.)
Republican officials claimed Democrat Joe Biden didn’t win in November, though he earned roughly the same number of electoral votes as Trump did four years earlier. Biden also won millions more in the popular vote nationwide. Courts, state officials and even the U.S. attorney general said Biden’s victory was legit.
This was even before the deadly insurrection, incited by Trump, at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
So it’s hard to now take seriously the baying of Republican legislators, in the commonwealth and around the country, who demand changes to state election laws. They say such modifications would boost “election integrity.”
All of this is nonsense. Republicans are apoplectic Trump lost, though he bungled the pandemic response that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
GOP elected leaders have uttered jeremiads they were cheated, instead of acknowledging their deep embrace of the onetime Racist-in-Chief and the party’s lack of appeal to many Blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans.
The ongoing Republican blueprint on voting access is nakedly cynical: Erect as many barriers to voting as possible. Then hide behind the pretense of election accuracy. Most of these policies would affect Democratic-leaning voters more, thus reducing turnout for their candidates.
Which is exactly the point. If you can’t win on a level playing field, then tilt it.
The issue came to the fore in the Virginia General Assembly during debate last week, according to The Washington Post. Part of the discussion centered on a budget amendment introduced by House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. He wanted the state Department of Elections to purge voter rolls of dead people every week instead of every month, which happens now.
No one suggested in The Post article the current process is defective, or that “dead people” have been leaving graveyards to cast ballots. The dispute seemed more designed to throw suspicion on past elections. Gilbert’s proposal died in the Democratic-controlled House.
The article also repeated how three Republican delegates had written a letter to then-Vice President Mike Pence asking him to nullify the commonwealth’s slate of presidential electors. This would’ve snuffed out the will of Virginians, who supported Biden by nearly a half-million votes.
Has Virginia made it easier for people to vote in recent years? Yes. It was the right thing to do, especially after the pandemic arrived. Among the changes was “no excuse” absentee voting, which was long overdue.
“Virginia election officials conducted the most safe, secure and successful election in the history of the commonwealth on Nov. 3, 2020,” the state Department of Elections noted recently. That means while things could be better, the process here ultimately worked — despite the unfounded claims spouted by some politicians.
Creeping disenfranchisement could take place around the country, following the huge turnout that occurred last year. One party has shown, repeatedly, it frowns on the concept of as many eligible voters as possible going to the polls.
“In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year,” the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reported this month. “Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).”
Meanwhile, other state lawmakers seized on “an energized electorate and persistent interest in democracy reform (which is likewise reflected in Congress),” the Brennan Center said. “To date, thirty-seven states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 541 bills to expand voting access.”
That’s the track the nation should be following. Make voting simple and straightforward. Welcome people to the polls — instead of blocking the ballot boxes.
The last time a Republican won a statewide office in Virginia was 2009.
In the 21st century, the Republican candidate for president has won the popular vote nationwide just once, in 2004. That was George W. Bush’s re-election contest.
The issue isn’t voting laws, fraud or voter identification. For the GOP, the problem is what they’re selling to the electorate.