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Election reform tug of war

Republicans and Democrats with tunnel vision are vying to change election laws across the United States


Voters mark their ballots on Nov. 3 at First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Conn. Jessica Hill/AP

Election reform tug of war
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A remarkable tug of war is playing out between Republicans and Democrats in Georgia, a state President Joe Biden narrowly won in the 2020 election. There, since February—when the state’s legislative session began—lawmakers have introduced at least 75 bills aiming to overhaul election laws.

The bills propose an array of provisions, such as requiring photo ID for absentee ballot requests, banning drop boxes, ending no-excuse absentee voting, curtailing weekend voting, and more. One bill would bar voters who have recently moved to Georgia from participating in runoff elections. Another would have banned voting on Sundays, but Republicans dropped the measure after facing criticism that it was racially motivated. (Historically and currently, leaders at black churches have organized “souls to the polls” events where voters cast ballots together after church, in part because they found it safer to vote in groups.)

Some of the other provisions are now under consideration in omnibus form.

“These bills make it more difficult to vote,” said Darrin (DJ) Sims, a local organizer who works on prisoner reentry, anti-recidivism, and voter access issues. Sims warned the bills would restrict voting abilities for “older individuals, college students, young people, and those who lack access to technology or even just awareness about the law.”

On the other side of the debate, Virginia Galloway is aware of these concerns whenever she commutes to the state Capitol in Atlanta for her job working for a political advocacy group. Nearly every day since the start of Georgia’s legislative session, she’s walked past a protest on the election reform bills, she said.

“They’re outside yelling ‘Voter suppression!’ I would really like to stop and say, ‘Have you ever not been able to vote when you wanted to?’ I think we have made it so incredibly easy to vote—but almost so easy we could let fraud in and may have let fraud in.”

The divide between Sims and Galloway matches the divide across the country: Democratic lawmakers are introducing bills to lower barriers to voting they say will encourage higher turnout. Republican lawmakers, citing concerns of fraud and mistrust in the 2020 presidential election, are introducing bills to tighten voting protocols they say will restore trust in the electoral system. Democrats accuse Republicans of engaging in a form of voter suppression by making it harder for minorities to vote. Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to make it easier for bad actors to exploit vulnerabilities in election systems.

But political analysts and even some lawmakers say reforms can meet both goals: tighten security and make it convenient for people to participate in democracy.

Adam Carrington, an assistant professor of politics at Hillsdale College, says the parties are pulling further apart on what should be a common aim: “Whereas Democrats recognize we are a government by and for the people, Republicans are recognizing we are a government of the rule of law. The rule of law says there are procedures and ways in which people express their views.”

Atlanta voters line up for early voting.

Atlanta voters line up for early voting. Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

IN THE LAST FEW ELECTIONS, Sims, a seminary student at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, has worked with chaplains and other trusted community leaders to be on-site at polling places. They try to help people, often blue-collar workers and minorities, who run into obstacles at the polls.

In 2018, Sims witnessed widespread confusion from people who discovered on Election Day that officials had purged them from voter rolls: “You can request a provisional ballot … but [a lot of people] didn’t know that or didn’t know to ask for that.”

Another challenge for some voters in 2020 was polling places changing from past elections. Georgia has decreased the number of polling places steadily for years. Since 2013, the state has cut nearly 10 percent of polling places, an analysis from Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica found. Sims encountered voters who didn’t know their sites had changed.

“These are people who had taken off work or were going to work late. Many of them had taken the bus to the polling site only to find their polling site had been moved to a few miles up the road,” Sims said.

One such voter, a black man in his 70s, got a ride from his sister to a polling place at a library in southwest Atlanta. Sims helped the man, who was blind, get out of the car, unfold his red-tipped cane, and walk up to the polling site.

“As soon as he gets out of the car he immediately starts telling me, ‘I’m here to vote. I’ve been voting for 50 years and voting is what I do,’” Sims said. But when he checked in, an election worker told him he was at the wrong polling site. She offered him a paper ballot (instead of using electronic voting machines).

“I don’t want a paper ballot,” the man said, according to Sims. “I don’t vote on paper. I don’t trust y’all like that.”

Atlanta voters provide IDs to poll workers to cast their ballots.

Atlanta voters provide IDs to poll workers to cast their ballots. Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Sims and the election worker eventually convinced the man the provisional paper ballot was secure. But Sims says changes that make it harder for voters who already face obstacles will only increase their distrust of election systems.

Galloway, meanwhile, is the regional field director for the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group that advocates for “people of faith and like-minded individuals” to get involved in politics and policy. Her group has worked with lawmakers on several of the measures.

Galloway and other election reform proponents say changes are necessary to restore trust in the security of elections.

“COVID-19 changed so many things and brought a lot of faults to the surface … the accusations of impropriety had a lot of people convinced that there was a problem that needed to be fixed,” she said. The aim of such reforms is to help voters “have full confidence that their vote counts and is not shoved aside by an illegal vote or a fraudulent vote.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and the State Election Board have considered and sent dozens of cases of election law violations to state authorities for criminal prosecution in February.

“Fortunately, these individual cases aren’t large enough to change the outcome of a statewide election,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “Their prosecution is an example to others who may contemplate skirting the rules that protect election integrity in Georgia.”

A Heritage Foundation database of election fraud cases shows very few cases from the 2020 election have resulted in criminal conviction so far. There’s no widespread evidence that fraud was enough to change the election’s outcome, but problems that did arise helped spur the election reform bills in Georgia and elsewhere.

Cue the court battles. The U.S. Supreme Court in February rejected a review of Pennsylvania election cases, over the objections of some of the conservative justices. In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said that would leave “election law hidden beneath a shroud of doubt” and “invite further confusion and erosion of public confidence” around elections. In Pennsylvania, a court overrode state law to allow absentee ballots that came in three days after Election Day to count. According to Thomas, the court’s decision “does not appear to have changed the outcome in any federal election. … But we may not be so lucky next time.”

The high court is also considering whether two Arizona state laws violate Section 2, a provision of the Voting Rights Act that bans racial discrimination in election law. The state is arguing to preserve laws that allow ballots cast in the wrong precinct to be thrown out entirely and that ban third-party ballot collection (also known as ballot harvesting).

When Judge Amy Coney Barrett asked lawyer Michael Carvin, who represented the Arizona Republican Party, why he wanted to keep the laws on the books, he said that any loosening of the laws “puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.” He added: “Politics is a zero-sum game. And every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveils H.R. 1, the For the People Act, on the steps of the Capitol.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveils H.R. 1, the For the People Act, on the steps of the Capitol. Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Redux

ON MARCH 4, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRATS passed H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” a nearly 800-page bill that would drastically overhaul election laws across the country. It would implement a single federal standard for many aspects of election administration that states currently decide individually. Not a single House Republican voted in favor.

H.R. 1 mandates automatic voter registration, requires 15 days of early voting, compels states to send out absentee ballots, sets limits around how states clean voter registration rolls, allows ballot harvesting, and includes a host of other provisions.

Democrats say this is their answer to a Republican-led push to change state laws. But Democrats first introduced H.R. 1 after retaking control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, suggesting that this is the party’s overall position on election administration. Right now, the bill has little chance of becoming law as long as Democrats can’t get around a filibuster in the Senate.

At the state level, the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice has tracked 253 bills that would largely restrict access to voting in 43 states, and 704 bills that would expand access in 43 states. The Brennan Center notes that some bills have provisions that would both restrict and expand access.

Yuval Levin, a political and constitutional studies expert at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a National Review op-ed that “most states are in both categories at once, and most of these bills in both categories aren’t going anywhere.” Levin pointed out that some of the bills in the restrictive category would simply roll back voting laws to where they were pre-pandemic.

Levin also pushed back against the idea that higher turnout is bad for Republicans: He noted that thanks to higher turnout, 11 million more Republicans participated in the 2020 election than in 2016, though Democrats got a bigger increase, with more than 14 million additional voters.

“The 2020 election offers strong evidence against the entrenched Republican view that high-turnout elections are only good for Democrats,” Levin wrote. “But the election was close enough that it should suggest to both parties that making it easier for more people to vote and bringing out more people to do so can enable them to win—a thought that would be unfamiliar to too many Republican politicians.”

“The election was close enough that it should suggest to both parties that making it easier for more people to vote and bringing out more people to do so can enable them to win.”

BUT THE GENERAL ELECTORATE may not be clamoring for all-or-nothing reforms. Kevin Kosar, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that politicians may be more polarized on the issue of voting than the majority of Americans: “Most Americans want to be able to vote early, they want the option of voting in person if they choose, and most people want the option to vote absentee.”

A 2016 Gallup poll found that 4 in 5 Americans support both early voting and voter ID laws. One state several experts have pointed to as charting a third way is Kentucky: Politicians are working along bipartisan lines both to expand voter access and implement security measures.

Kentucky’s Republican-dominated Legislature approved a measure in March that would both expand voter access and tighten security measures. The bill makes permanent many of the emergency changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It allows three days of no-excuse, early in-person voting, including a Saturday. The bill would also allow counties to establish vote centers where voters in the county could vote regardless of their precincts. And the bill creates an online portal for voters to request mail-in ballots, while maintaining restrictions around who can request an absentee ballot.

The bill also bans ballot harvesting, begins a process for replacing electronic-only voting machines for those that create paper trails, and eases the process for removing ineligible voters from voter rolls. Prior to last year, the state did not allow early voting or mail-in voting unless someone met certain age, illness, disability, or geographical requirements.

Meanwhile, Democrats have joined with nearly every Republican in voting for the measure. If it clears a reconciliation process in the Kentucky House of Representatives, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, will likely sign it into law.

“It’s a really good reflection of the fact that while other states are bickering over voter access and Congress is bickering over security, we’re a national example of reform both enhancing voter access and election security,” Michael Adams, Kentucky’s Republican Secretary of State, told WORLD.

“You don’t have to make it hard for people to vote to make elections safe, and you don’t have to do the opposite,” Adams said. “Unfortunately on the left there’s a myopic focus on access but not much about security, and on the right you’ve got the opposite—concerns about security and a real blindness to access.”

—WORLD has updated this story since its original posting to correct the title of Kevin Kosar.


Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C.

@HarvestPrude

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Blw

This article's brief treatment of H.R.1 without mentioning that it would replace election provisions the Costitution specifically assigned to the states is incomplete to the point of being misleading.  Most problematic is that voter I.D. requirements would be eliminated, Combine this with mail-in ballots to be distributed to all, massive illegal immigration, prevention of voter roll maintenance, automatic registration of everyone 16 years and up, and elections will have no integrity and we will have no trust in our government.

Tim Miller

"No reasonable person would believe" Sidney Powell's claims, according to her own lawyers. 

Salty1

Did you read anything that I posted? I don't think so!  But then again you know there was no election fraud because Big Tech told you and they would never lie to you! They even provide disclaimers telling that the election wasn't rigged on websites that spread conspiracy theories. How convenient! 

 

And we know the Time article tells everything what happened and it says the left was just stopping Trump from stealing the election. They were just pushing for every vote to count - including the ones the ballot harvesters collected. We know they would never lie about filling out voter ballots without the voter knowing. They were just helping voters! How kind can you get!  With Biden as president we know the MSM would never lie about him. The leftist media is so honest - not like the Republicans and conspiracy theorists 
 

 

FIMIKI

I get the sense that what many conservatives want is PROOF that the election was sound, and until every allegation of fraud - however baseless - is proven beyond doubt to be wrong, they are going to assume that the election was stolen as one of the most audacious criminal acts in American history.  So whatever happened to the presumption of innocence that underpins our criminal legal system?  Even non-criminal law starts with the assumption that the defendant is innocent unless the prosecution can provide enough credible evidence that shifts the burden of proof.  Those that argue fraud ignore the fact that many of the cases that were dismissed did examine the merit of the evidence brought forward... and found it sorely wanting, as in the Georgia case where the judge dismissed the accusation that lack of rigor in absentee ballot signature matching resulted in fraudulent votes being counted, because the signature rejection rate had in fact hardly changed at all between the 2018 and 2020 elections!  Judges aren't obliged to move cases into legal discovery when the accusations and evidence are meritless.

As long as there are secret ballots and more than two people voting for something, there will be a scenario you can construct that allows for the possibility of those votes being manipulated.  We live in a world of uncertainty.  There are certainly things we can and should do to improve transparency and integrity in the voting system, and the Democrat's push ban voter ID laws is baffling and extremely counterproductive.  On the other hand I don't see how many of the laws being proposed in Republican-controlled legislatures would have prevented the most salacious accusations of fraud that came out of the 2020 election.  In the end you can't legislate trust, and it's the lack of trust - and the fear that drives it - that's undermined confidence in the institutions that underpin American democracy.

OlderMom

Tom Hanrahan, can you provide some examples of testimony that fell apart up on scrutiny? As far as I have heard, the allegations have been brought to light, but courts have refused to rule on the merits. Where they have ruled on the merits, Trump advocates have been winning. (http://wiseenergy.org/Energy/Election/2020_Election_Cases.htm)

This whole year has been suffering from a lack of actual discussion, where both sides get to present evidence and people get to make up their own minds. From one side, I am seeing all kinds of statistics, affidavits, and common sense (how does anyone win an election by more than Obama by sitting in a basement?) while on the other side I am seeing name-calling ("Q-Anon conspiracies") and false debunking ("they are called ballot containers, not suitcases" - who cares what they're called, the question is why were they hidden under a table and brought out in the middle of the night?) I am hearing demands for proof from one side (and then refusal to look at the proof when it's shown) but then if election machine companies just say their machines are perfect, their statement is accepted without question.

The burden of proof should be on those who say the election was fair, to show how it was faIr. Instead, we have Maricopa County ignoring subpoenas (what would happen to me if I ignored a subpoena!?) and Green Bay officials saying they are "too busy" to come testify about their actions before the state legislature. 

I think the vast majority of people are actually highly suspicious of the election, but you're  not hearing it because social media giants have decided you can't say the words "election fraud". Which in itself is highly suspicious - WHY AREN'T WE ALLOWED TO EVEN TALK?

Tom Hanrahan

Cyobrg and others, testimony (quoted below) of individuals is known to be frought with error. We saw this over and over in 2020 as "testimonies" of Trump advocates fell apart upon scrutiny. If the allegations below were true, they would have been brought to light. Instead, these and many many others were debunked when corroborating evidence ("two or three witnesses") was not found. It is *possible* that one of the items mentioned is true? Sure. But there are good reasons now the vast majority who have looked at the evidence believe that the election was not stolen. 

Salty1Tom Hanrahan

And why is this evidence not as good as the evidence by Big Tech and the liberal MSM? Yes, if you didn’t notice I did provide two witnesses many times over if you look at the witness testimony. Sadly the links attached to the past World articles were lost (intentionally?). Or is World going to fix this anytime soon? I doubt it!

I was hard on Harvest Prude the last article but I lay the blame on the editorial board who should provide guidance to their writers. I take issue with the claim that that there wasn't enough corruption to change the election. Here is my previous post showing the corruption:
 
Defeating Trump with an organized effort is not the same as stealing an election. Tim Miller
You assume the methods they use were above board. The extent of the stolen election is debated, but if we are honest the stealing of the election is not of debate. At the very least we can say that election law was circumvented, where officials of both parties allowed the mail in ballots, extending the allowed time for receiving ballots, the disallowing of Republican monitors to contest ballots, and a number of other violations all against state law and state constitutions. The Democrats used the mantra “count all votes” to justify allowing the subversive of the state law and state constitutions of many states. Mail in ballots of several states would have turned the election toward Trump if state laws and state constitutions were followed.
 The leftist subversive group described in Time Magazineintentionally worked to see Trump was not elected by manipulating our political process and pushing these illegal activities that violated state laws and constitutions. In some cases they were able to have state laws changed to allow these new voting rules but mainly they just steam rolled their agenda through by using the nonprofit organizations funded by Zuckerberg with $400 million pledged and more by other rich leftists. They used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to push their agenda. They filled the courts with lawsuits to make it easier to commit voter fraud. Particularly disturbing is how they used the money from Zuckerberg et. al, and gave it to states so that these groups could place their people in key positions and control the election process. The money came with many strings attached where they even specified drop locations to collect ballots, where these were concentrated in Democrat districts  (see here at time 5:57; at the link look down below and you can click on the time to hear the specific details).

“Getting out the vote is not stealing an election.” 

It is illegal to hold raffles for people who voted for Biden where some prizes were as much as $500. They did this at a Nevada Indian Reservations promoting the vote for Biden (see here at time 8:27; at the link look down below and you can click on the time to hear the specific details). This was done at a number of Indian Reservations.  Trucking filled out ballots from NY to Pennsylvania is illegal when you manufacture the ballots.

“Making it easier for voters to vote is not stealing an election. “

It is when the nonprofits were able to put the ballot drop off locations predominantly in Democratic districts!  Going through hospitals and rest homes in Wisconsin to harvest ballots from people who are not fully aware or who are comatose may make it easier to vote but is it legal?  Is this the getting out the vote you want? 

It is interesting thatAmazon did not allow mail in ballots in the vote to unionize because they thought it was too easy to allow voter fraud. Ironically, many states allowed mail in ballots even though it is conducive for voter fraud.
 
“Even unethical campaigning and lying, as bad as that is, is not stealing an election.”

Harvesting ballots is not stealing elections? How exactly do you know a real person was behind the vote? 

“The initial claims of widespread election fraud have been thoroughly debunked, and the new line of attack is that the election was unfairly influenced. “

Tim you keep propagating these lies but here is testimony from Michigan- your state showing the widespread abuse.
The first is a lady who contracted for the Dominion company and alleges that thousands of vote were given to Biden by the workers which were not trained to use the voting machines correctly (or were purposely cheating for Biden). They counted in her estimate 30,000 ballots up to 10 times. A congressman asked how this would be aligned with the voting book and the lady laughed and said the ballots don’t align with the book and she suspected the books were manipulated. 
Here is the testimony of an East Indian woman (US citizen) that saw the fraud happening at the Detroit facility. She is a credible witness with her background in computer science and she is a Christian also.

You live in your alternate universe to say there was no stolen election! Here is a PA man who witnessed USB cards uploaded to voting machines 24+ times where 47 USB cards went missing. 

We should also not forget the impact that Big Tech had on the election where they purposefully helped Democrats and hurt Republicans. When they can censor the political views of one party over another, then that is unfairly controlling elections!