President Joe Biden, marking the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, accused his predecessor of continuing to lie about the “stolen” 2020 presidential election. The next week Biden went to Atlanta and himself lied about the necessity of congressional passage of his “Freedom to Vote Act.”
Now, on a party-line decision, the House of Representatives has sent the measure to the Senate. There, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), promises a quick vote to save democracy.
In reality, the sooner Americans get past electoral falsehoods, the sooner citizens can regain faith in election integrity. Ending pre-Covid pandemic voting short cuts—essentially widespread early voting and mail-in ballots—would be the real election reform.
To hear former President Trump tell and retell it, massive fraud purloined his second term. But not even his own attorney general, William Barr, or federal judges he appointed, saw evidence of such thievery.
It’s also true, however, that a flip of roughly 43,000 votes in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin would have left the Electoral College tied at 269 for each man. The then-Republican-controlled House would have picked the winner.
What 2020 reconfirmed is that election integrity matters. Biden in Atlanta warned that evil forces threaten Americans’—especially African Americans and Hispanics—right to vote. Unfortunately, when this president speaks of evil forces, he generally doesn’t mean China, Russia, Iran, North Korea or the Taliban. He means Republicans.
Biden repeated the Democratic mantra of voter suppression, unfounded as Trump’s claims of electoral fraud are unproven. Biden alleged, for example, that voting procedure changes by Georgia’s Republican-controlled state government amounted to Jim Crow 2.0.
Never mind that the Peach State’s new rules are more liberal than those of Democratic-controlled New York state. Or New York City, which now allows 800,000 non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. This dilutes, thereby indirectly suppressing, the votes of actual citizens.
Still, there’s always an audience for well-packaged baloney. A group of overwrought Arizona State University students threatens a second, this time potentially national hunger strike if Congress doesn’t pass the Freedom to Vote Act. The undergrads want the feds to seize election supervision from the 50 states, mandate election-day registration, polling stations on every campus and other steps to block what they fantasize is a GOP drive to disenfranchise minorities.
Let’s see. In the 2000 presidential election, 105 million Americans voted. In the 2020 balloting, 158 million did. Given the relative demographic decline of the white ethnic majority, plenty of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and other minority voters had to cast many of the additional ballots.
But election laws do need reform. Democrat Vice President Al Gore Jr. lost Florida, and the presidency, to Republican Gov. George W. Bush (Texas) in 2000 by 537 votes after U.S. Supreme Court intervention halted the Sunshine State’s prolonged and convoluted recount. And the GOP has yet to forget the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Minnesota, in which discoveries and recounts over five-plus months found just enough ballots to elect Democratic challenger Al Franken over incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.
The Covid pandemic accelerated states’ efforts to let people vote without actually showing up in potentially contagion-spreading polling places on Election Day. As temporary measures, widespread early voting, mail-in ballots, drop-boxes and the rest helped elections continue on schedule. But only as temporary measures.
Early voting contradicts the point of political campaigns. Why pay attention to candidates, their platforms and statements at all when you’ve convinced yourself well in advance you’re going to vote against the Republican, or Democrat, no matter what?
Mail-in ballots? Who do you know who mails money? Voters and election officials are rightly concerned that computer-connected voting machines could be hacked. Assuring the chain of custody of mail-in ballots, including those arriving weeks early, need not pose a similar or greater problem. Not if the only such ballots are limited to absentee votes cast by those who really will be out of their precinct on Election Day.
Oh yes, of course require photo ID’s, just like when renting a car. And, as driver’s licenses must be renewed periodically, purge registered voters who haven’t turned out in recent years.
“Make elections more convenient!” goes the demand. Yet, no one cries, “make jury duty more convenient!” It’s a civic duty. Like voting.
“Increase voter access!” goes a parallel agitation. Okay. Make it Election Days, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and if necessary, the first Wednesday as well. That ought to do it, no matter what Biden or Trump say.
--Eric Rozenman’s new book is From Elvis to Trump, Eyewitness to the Unraveling; Co-Starring Richard Nixon, Andy Warhol, Bill Clinton, the Supremes and Barack Obama!