In red states across the country, GOP legislatures are pushing ballot measures that would pacify those who believe the 2020 election was riddled with fraud. Much pilloried by the left, the efforts include curtailing mail-in ballots, removing vote drop boxes, and restricting Sunday voting. The issue at stake is whether the Republican Party can convince enough of Trump’s base that it is serious about voting reform in time for the all-important 2022 midterms.
The states involved include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, and Wisconsin, several of which were instrumental in Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. But is this just a sop to the base, or are lawmakers actually determined to ensure electoral integrity?
A Divided Strategy
As President Trump said to Fox & Friends last year, if mail-in voting were expanded, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” It was perhaps these words that spurred Republican lawmakers all over the nation to announce that they would be forming a commission to address electoral integrity. The commission’s stated goal is “to restore the American people’s confidence in the integrity of their free and fair elections” by “making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.” John Merrill, the Alabama secretary of state who is leading the push on this, said:
“While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to anything, every state in the nation should be working to assess and improve their respective election laws.”
The 2020 election results and subsequent failure of Senator Ted Cruz’s efforts to launch a bipartisan investigation into the numerous allegations – few of which were addressed or even presented in the courts – culminated in a record number of voters believing that the American electoral system is broken.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey conducted in late November found that just over 60% of respondents trusted the results, meaning almost 40% did not. Most notable is that only 25% of Republicans surveyed thought the election was honest and above board.
It is not just Democrats who are opposed to the new ballot measures being examined. A number of notable GOP members also suggest that these efforts will amount to nothing. But perhaps the whole point is not that they will make an electoral difference per se, but that they will re-engage voters who suspect the last general election was not the “most free and fair in modern history,” as had been asserted.
The fact of the matter is that unless something is done to encourage voters who believe the last election was rigged – rightly or wrongly – back to the fold, President Trump’s prediction may turn out to be startlingly accurate. If the Republicans’ core base of voters see their ballots as wasted, why would they bother casting them? And perhaps more importantly for the opposition party, why would they bother donating their hard-earned dollars?
In a recent Newsmax TV interview, Donald Trump said that he was not yet sure if he would be taking a shot at 2024. RMG polling for John Solomon’s Just The News site discovered that a “Patriot Party” (likely headed by Trump) would receive 23% of the national vote, and the Republicans a mere 17%.
It seems that the GOP commission is not genuinely looking to make substantial reforms but rather to convince Trump voters that the Republicans are still a viable party. From a Republican perspective, Mitch McConnell et al. need to get the base back on side in time for the 2022 midterms and gain one more seat in the Senate; if folks stay home and keep their wallets closed, that’s not going to happen. Perhaps conservative voters have been bitten one too many times and are not willing to play Charlie Brown to the pernicious Lucy any longer.
Read more from Mark Angelides.