Republican officials in some states, stung by record voter turnouts and Donald Trump's defeat, are already acting to make it harder to vote in future elections.
According to a report in The Guardian, "the GOP backlash underscores how swiftly and severely the party is willing to cut off access to the ballot amid signs of a changing electorate," and now they are using Trump's baseless claims to justify their actions.
So for all of Trump's unfounded complaints about the election being rigged, the Republicans, realizing that the more people who vote the less their chances of winning, are putting in the fix long before the next election even takes place.
“There will be some states where it is very clear that the existing power structure is worried about their voters. And part of their job security plan is to make it harder for their voters to participate,” Myrna Pérez, director of the voting rights and elections program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told The Guardian.
In this past election that saw Democrat Joe Biden, with 81.3 million votes, defeat Trump with his 74.2 million, nearly 160 million people voted. About half of them cast their ballots by mail, while another quarter voted in person before election day. Much of that was due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it came as Trump did everything he could to discourage mail-in voting.
Protecting their Turf
Georgia and Texas were two states at the heart of the 2020 election controversy, both becoming increasingly competitive because of demographic changes, and Republicans are busy in both states trying to protect their turf.
In Georgia, which Trump won by a slim 12,000 votes out of nearly 5 million cast, and where Trump has howled and howled about unproven voter fraud, there has been significant growth among Black, Hispanic and Asian eligible voters over the last two decades. So, Republicans who control the state legislature want to pass new restrictions focused on mail-in voting.
"The Georgia Senate Republicans have heard the calls of millions of Georgians who have raised deep and heartfelt concerns that state law has been violated and our elections process abused in our November 3, 2020 elections. We will fix this," the state Senate's GOP leadership wrote in a Dec. 8 news release.
Among the steps they plan to take:
"As soon as we may constitutionally convene, we will reform our election laws to secure our electoral process by eliminating at-will absentee voting. We will require photo identification for absentee voting for cause, and we will crack down on ballot harvesting by outlawing drop boxes."
In Texas, which has seen a surge in its Latino population, Trump emerged victorious, even though for a time it looked like Biden might pull an upset there. When the dust settled, Trump defeated Biden by 600,000 votes out of approximately 11 million passed.
Apparently, those results were too close for comfort because Republican lawmakers there have pre-filed several bills with new restrictions, according to The Guardian's report. One bill would prevent state officials from sending out applications to vote by mail. Election officials in Harris County tried to mail applications to all 2.4 million registered voters.
Said Anthony Gutierrez, the executive director of Common Cause Texas, “Texas is always on the cutting edge of finding new ways to suppress the vote.”
Of course, it was the Texas attorney general who launched the ill-fated lawsuit against Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia asking that those elections be overturned based on unfounded charges of fraud. The U.S. Supreme Court flatly declined to even hear arguments in that case.
Keith Bentele, a professor at the Southwest Institute for Research on Women at the University of Arizona, who has studied efforts to restrict voting access, told The Guardian it was “extremely likely” that Republicans – who will still wield enormous power over state legislatures – would pass new voting restrictions.
“Given the extraordinarily intense amplification of the voter fraud myth by President Trump and allies unfolding currently, it would seem odd if state legislators did not follow through with legislation to address these alleged (and in nearly all cases immaterial) issues of election integrity,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pérez, at the Brennan Center for Justice, questioned what kind of message it would send to the American public to see politicians so swiftly restrict access to voting after many people used it for the first time.
“What does it do to the American population to have to see our politicians being so self serving. So brazen in their attempts to make it harder for people to vote?,” she told The Guardian. “It’s just gonna tell a really ugly story about America.”
The Bottom line
Republicans realize that their chances of success diminish proportionately with the increasing numbers of people who exercise their right to vote. And so, realizing that they can't win on a level playing field, their last-gasp strategy is to tilt that playing field in their favor.
In fact, Trump, himself, admitted as much in May, saying that making it easier to vote in America would hurt the Republican party.
He made the comments in dismissing a Democratic-led push for reforms such as vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting as states sought to safely run elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Democrats had proposed the measures as part of the coronavirus stimulus. They ultimately were not included in the $2.2 billion final package, which included only $400 million to states to help them run elections.
“The things they had in there were crazy," said Trump on Fox & Friends. "They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again. They had things in there about election days and what you do and all sorts of clawbacks. They had things that were just totally crazy and had nothing to do with workers that lost their jobs and companies that we have to save.”
So now, politicians in states like Texas and Georgia, where they have lived fat and happy for years, are taking Trump's words literally and doing everything they can to make it harder for people who are unlikely to support them to vote.
They'll disenfranchise as many voters as possible as they attempt to cling to power, but the election of 2020 proved that those tactics, ultimately, will not work. In this election, millions of Americans realized that they had the power to make the change needed to save our nation.
And so, despite the odds, despite the obstacles of the pandemic, despite efforts to discourage their vote in many areas, they voted. And they ended the presidency of Donald J. Trump.