GOP’s False Cries Of Mail-In Voter Fraud Are A Voter Suppression Tactic

President Trump and the Republican Party have ramped up their assault on voting rights in an effort to undermine US democracy and steal the 2020 election.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, before the start of a meeting with House and Senate Leadership in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, before the start of a meeting with House and Senate Leadership in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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While America has prided itself on the principle of free and fair elections, even fighting to secure democratic governments in countries abroad, there has been a worrying trend at home. For decades, Republican Party (GOP) has sought, at numerous turns, to use its power in office to try to, essentially, rig elections in their favor by gerrymandering, removing people from voter rolls, and limiting mail-in ballots.

Each of these actions, the GOP has claimed, has been in the interest of preventing “voter fraud” or to counter attempts to “steal” elections, but there is no evidence to back up any those assertions. The reality is that these policies have made it harder for those opposing the Republican Party to exercise their constitutional right to make their voice heard at the ballot box.

This isn’t something that’s new to the Republican Party. It’s something that has been a consistent feature of the GOP, as they see barriers to the polls as being key to their political self-preservation. However, it’s an issue that has been propelled into the headlines, as a number of close races have, in some people’s opinions, been swayed by voter suppression tactics introduced by incumbent Republicans.

In 2018, despite Tennessee having one of the lowest voter turnout levels in the country, the state attempted to make voter registration drives illegal. This move was eventually stopped by a judge, but it had already acted as a brake on new registrations. In 2019, acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley handed over a list of tens of thousands of naturalized citizens, who had the right to vote, to the Texas Attorney General to pursue criminal prosecution for, as he claimed, voting illegally. Ultimately, these people were found to have not committed any crime, but the damage was already done, as people had been intimidated.

This year, despite Florida having voted to allow 1.4 million ex-felons to become re-enfranchised, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has repeatedly tried to add on riders, such as requiring them to pay court fines or fees, to keep them from voting. A federal judge has blocked this, but the confusion the Governor has deliberately caused will continue to have an impact up until polling day and beyond.

The GOP isn’t concerned about voter fraud. The GOP is concerned about ensuring immigrants, minorities, ex-felons, young people, and other groups are kept away from voting booths because they know that, if voting rights are expanded, it will be difficult for Republicans to win in battleground states.

Donald Trump actually said the quiet part out loud during a Fox & Friends TV appearance back in April when he stated that, if the Democrats secured reforms such as mail-in voting, same-day voter registration and expanded early voting, “…you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”. If you want evidence that Republicans aren’t actually concerned about voter fraud, look at the 2018 midterms in North Carolina. When a GOP operative allegedly attempted to steal a House seat through a ballot fraud scheme, the Republican Party stayed quiet instead of shouting from the rooftops about their outrage.

With the United States in the midst of a global pandemic, there has never been a more important time to ensure that people can vote in a safe manner, either from home or early, so they don’t have to cram into polling stations or pack into lines on election day. As the Democratic National Committee said: “Ensuring that Americans can vote during the Covid-19 crisis is fundamental to maintaining our democracy.”.

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The Republicans have not taken that same view though. Instead, we’ve seen the President and the White House Press Secretary make repeatedly-debunked claims about “widespread voter fraud” when there is no evidence that mail-in voting increases voter fraud. If Republicans truly oppose mail-in ballots, why is Donald Trump voting in Florida via a mail-in ballot? Why has Trump’s press secretary Kaleigh McEnany voted by mail 11 times in the past 10 years? Why is the Republican party encouraging its own supporters to use them? It’s because this isn’t about mail-in ballots. This is about trying to reduce turnout to as low a point as possible so that the GOP doesn’t lose control of the Senate and the White House.

For those of us who’ve been paying attention over the last few years, it’s a little surprising that the Republican Party has decided to make a concerted effort to tackle voter fraud or election tampering, given the GOP’s complete inaction over protecting US elections from foreign interference. Voting machines are easily hackable, with security vulnerabilities having been repeatedly exposed for all to see but, despite that, multiple states have continued to spend over a hundred million dollars on the flawed equipment.

All along, Republicans have refused to enact election security legislation. It’s just sitting, untouched, on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. Why would a party that claims to care so deeply about leveling the playing field refuse to protect US elections? Because the accusations of voter fraud are a smokescreen so that the GOP can suppress the vote to solidify its power base.

While all of these actions are concerning, this time around it is bigger than the normal Republican attempts to restrict access to the ballot box. It is bigger than one of Donald Trump’s usual Twitter rants, where he unleashes a torrent of abuse at people or policies with which he disagrees. The President has seen the writing on the wall and he is aware that the polls are pointing towards the Republican Party being crushed in the 2020 elections at all levels, resulting in the Democrats securing the House, Senate, and White House.

In response, he has concocted a wider plot to seek to undermine the basic principles of democracy in America. By attacking everything from mail-in ballots to the number of polling places in districts, Trump is seeking to sow doubt and mistrust about any action that could result in the Democratic Party flipping a GOP-held seat. Donald Trump is guiding the US to a place where he can, in front of his followers, refuse to accept the result if Joe Biden secures a narrow Electoral College victory and his own party is letting him. If members of the Republican Party had any conviction and belief in democracy, they would be challenging his false claims every day. Instead, they recognize they can benefit from the conspiracy theories that are being spread and use them to remain in office for years to come.

Every politician should be fighting to expand voting rights. It should be a no-brainer for those in office to want to create a more just and democratic system of government. If they believe that they have the power to win based on the policies they’re proposing and their popularity amongst voters, they should have nothing to worry about. In America in the 21st century, it shouldn’t be the case that elected officials are able to change the rules, or employ tactics that intimidate or prevent people from accessing the polls, to keep those officials in office.

The Republican Party’s attacks on voting rights are as transparent as they are without merit. It’s clear that this isn’t tackling “fraud”. It’s about the GOP’s fear of free and fair elections. Americans should stand up to these attacks, as their ancestors once did, and repel anti-democratic forces to ensure that the US is, once again, a nation that can pride itself on being the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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Opinion // 2020 / Donald Trump / Elections / Republican Party / Voter Suppression / Voting