Why Do Republicans Seem So Devoted to Fighting a Problem that Doesn’t Exist?
In a speech on Friday, grandstanding Florida governor Ron DeSantis said that he wants to improve Florida’s election system by increasing transparency, strengthening election security, and improving voter confidence in the system. To do this, he proposed two measures: restricting access to ballot drop-off boxes and banning universal mail-in balloting. DeSantis said this in his speech on Friday:
“We want, obviously, everyone to vote. But we don’t want anyone to cheat. And we want to make sure that we strike that appropriate balance” — Ron DeSantis
Before I illustrate the irrationality of these measures, I’d like to make one thing clear: there was no significant voter fraud during the 2020 election. Yet, likely due to Florida resident Donald Trump’s insistence, the state’s legislature will soon convene to vote on these bills, largely based on those unfounded accusations of voter fraud.
Due to the pandemic this past election, many states instituted universal mail-in balloting, allowing for millions more people to vote. Turnout reached an all-time high, resulting, as we know now, in Joe Biden’s ascension to the presidency. As a result of these results, President Donald Trump tried to challenge the election through a number of campaigns and lawsuits, all of which failed due to a lack of evidence. Nonetheless, state Republicans have carried the mission to their legislatures and are moving to put anti-voter fraud legislation into action.
And yet, there seems to be no reason to do that. According to the Brennan Center, there exist only scarce examples of voter fraud. Everyone from Barack Obama to Ben Shapiro have said that there is no evidence of substantial voter fraud. So why are Republicans attacking a problem that doesn’t seem to exist?
Does Voter Turnout Hurt Republicans?
It seems that strategists from both parties believe that voter turnout hurts Republicans and helps Democrats. But the 2020 election proves that that isn’t exactly true. Republicans netted twelve seats in the House and, at least during the general, held their majority in the Senate. Furthermore, while they lost the presidency, it was by a narrow electoral college margin, and their candidate was historically unpopular.
These strict voting laws, which include voter ID requirements, mail-in ballot access, and lower numbers of ballot drop-off boxes, however, serve a dual-purpose. While they lower African-American and Hispanic turnout that generally helps Democrats, it also limits the participation of older, rural voters that Republicans depend on to deliver them local and state governments.
According to Bloomberg, college-educated voters that, since Trump came into office, have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, are less likely to be affected by new restrictions, given that they tend to be regular voters anyway. That means that down the line, Republicans may be the victims of overbearing voter legislation and would retroactively hurt their cause.
But more than that, photocopied ID requirements serve to lower the turnout for people who don’t have easy access to a printer or copy machine. Apart from low-income, historically liberal communities, that includes rural and older voters, who, once again, are significant parts of the Republican base.
Why Democrats are Angry
More liberal organizations, including the ACLU, argue that voter restrictions target minority communities that have less access to photocopying for voter ID restrictions or post offices for mail-in voting. In fact, Republican-controlled states have been accused of purging voters from the books.
The Georgia Senate runoff election goes further to prove the mixed records of voter turnout. In Georgia, a state long known for having restrictive voter laws, Stacey Abrams led a campaign to fight against the trends that limited them from voting by the means of a large Get Out the Vote drive; Biden won the state in November, which ultimately helped Jon Ossoff and Rafael Warnock carry it two months later.
The strongest argument against the voter turnout restrictions is this: it lowers turnout. A country that brands itself on its freedom and righteous Democratic values should not actively pass laws that contradict this message.
As political theorists have been arguing for decades, if a political group in power does not see a path forward in the existing system, it must destroy that system to stay alive. Republicans don’t see a path forward, legitimately or not, and through mail-in voting, propped up on conspiracies bolstered by former President Trump, they’ve made it their job to falsely combat the Democratic process. It’s why they’ve devoted themselves to the unrighteous cause of imposing voter restrictions in the feeble hope of winning in the future and, thus, why they seem so devoted to a problem that doesn’t exactly exist.