GOP State Legislatures Are Advancing Bills To Curb Mail-In Voting

Screengrab / Wall Street Journal / YouTube

PMH

Critics say it makes it harder to vote. Legislators claim they only mean to make it harder to cheat.

The Hill reports that as of June 30, Republican state lawmakers in multiple states are advancing legislation that might impede top elections officials from sending absentee ballot applications out ahead of the November election.

  • The Hill notes that this is happening even in some states where top elections officials and secretaries of state are themselves Republicans.
  • Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, secretaries of state in localities like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, South Dakota and Wyoming encouraged citizens to cast ballots from home by mailing out absentee ballot applications.
  • Many states saw increased participation in their primary elections. Some even had record turnout.
  • However, some Republican state legislatures are pushing back against these secretaries’ efforts with bills that would limit their ability and authority to send out similar ballot applications ahead of the November 2020 election.
  • For example, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed a bill that requires the secretary of state to receive approval from a bipartisan legislative council in order to authorize mailing absentee ballot applications. This happened after Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) did so for an earlier election.
  • In Ohio, legislators proposed a bill that would prevent Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) from sending absentee ballot request forms out en masse, in spite of it being a common practice for the Ohio Secretary of State for years. The bill was later amended to instead simply stop the state from being obligated to pay postage for return envelopes.
  • In Georgia, a House committee put forth a bill that would prohibit Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) or any other election official from mailing out absentee ballot applications at all. The measure failed, but Raffensperger has already expressed that he does not plan to send out ballot applications ahead of the November election.

Most secretaries of state have stood by their decision, even in the midst of criticism from their own party. Raffensperger said,

Voters on both sides of the political spectrum agree that sending absentee applications to all active voters was the safest and best thing our office could do to protect voters… Some seem to be saying that our office should have ignored the wave of absentee voters that was clearly coming.

  • Barry Burden, who is director of the University of Wisconsin’s Elections Research Center, said that among election officials there is generally bipartisan support for absentee voting as a practical public health solution.
  • Burden hypothesizes that state legislators who counter this are responding more to President Donald J. Trump than to legitimate concerns.
  • “It’s really legislators who don’t have the direct understanding of the election process who are making these moves,” Burden said. “It smacks more of brazen partisanship rather than pragmatic policymaking.”
  • Austin Chambers, who heads the Republican State Leadership Committee, asserts that accusations that Republicans are trying to suppress voter turnout are “a bunch of nonsense.”
  • Chambers claims that there were issues in primary elections, such as reports of long lines in spite of record absentee turnout. He said, “We want to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
  • Trump has claimed in Tweets that “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.”
  • However, according to a report by the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, multiple studies over the years have repeatedly found that fraud is “vanishingly rare, and does not happen on a scale even close to that necessary to ‘rig’ an election.”
  • And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab reports that although voter fraud appears to be more frequent in mail-in voting than in-person voting, “As with all forms of voter fraud, documented instances of fraud related to VBM are rare.”

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