It is the stuff of recurring nightmares on the right, even three years later: a once-in-a-century pandemic opening the spigots for sudden changes to election law in crucial battleground states which had one thing in common – they all benefited Joe Biden and the Democrats. You remember the landscape: virtually unlimited mail-in voting; reduced signature verification on ballots; unsecured lock boxes; ballot harvesting gone wild; Mark Zuckerberg’s “Zuck Bucks” bankrolling a private army of leftists parachuting into boards of election in swing states and using the historically lax voting laws to generate an almost inconceivable reported turnout of 67% of registered voters nationwide.
Add to that the fact that, unlike Joe Biden who understandably embraced the sudden political opportunities presented by the pandemic, Donald Trump not only refused to urge his supporters to exploit the hastily altered election laws, he spread fear about voting by any means other than in person on Election Day. The result was a suppressed conservative turnout, even as Trump attracted millions more votes than he did in 2016.
While many agree that the pandemic-era laws were, as Trump pleaded, ripe for fraud, the reality on the ground is that a whopping 75% of the COVID-plagued voting public cast their ballots early or by mail. Whether Trump might have won if he had embraced mail-in voting we will never know, but it is something about which we can reasonably speculate, just like the matter of the Hunter Biden laptop strategically discredited by big media. But the Republicans have had four years to try and strike down particularly lax election laws and fight against making them permanent. They have met with mixed results.
How Election Law Has Changed Since 2020
Republican-inspired legislation in various states since 2020 has focused on increasing the number of voter eligibility challenges, stiffening identification requirements, facilitating prosecution of election crimes, more ways to audit elections, increased criminal penalties for malfeasance by election officials, and bans on machines counting ballots. In addition, there has been substantial turnover in election boards across the land following the ugly aftermath of the 2020 election, the effect of which we won’t know until all the votes are counted. But in the swing state of Pennsylvania alone, more than 50 top county election officials have resigned since 2020, a fact decried by Democrats.
There is equal concern among those on the left attempting to cement the 2020 laws into the books. Any attempt by Republicans to return the body of election law to pre-2020 parameters is depicted as trying to suppress the voting rights of minorities and engage in advance “election denialism.” Despite the fact that in Georgia, where new voting laws triggered nationwide protests and led to MLB moving its All-Star Game out of Atlanta, voter turnout in 2022 actually set new records. Nevertheless, according to the Brennan Center for Justice (BCJ), a left-wing election watchdog, state legislators have introduced 150 “restrictive” voting bills, 27 “election interference” bills, and 274 “expansive voting bills,” all of which they presume would favor the right.
At the same time, the left has won its share of victories, including in Michigan, which has expanded early voting to nine days and will accept more forms of identification, and in Nevada, which made permanent the distribution of mail ballots to all voters.
Some legislation introduced by conservatives still driven by rage over 2020 is considered downright radical by the likes of BCJ. It cites a bill proposed in Texas that would allow presidential electors to disregard state election results, and proposed legislation in Virginia that would empower a random selection of residents to void local election results. The Wisconsin GOP removed the state’s nonpartisan head of elections. No doubt, both sides believe the other is trying to pass laws that would threaten their disparate notions of democracy.
It seems almost everyone had some experience of what we might term irregularities in 2020. A friend of this writer in Ohio reported receiving at least half a dozen ballots – he lost count after a time – mailed to at least six different names at a home where he has resided for the entire century. Similar stories abound. It is no exaggeration to say that the integrity of elections themselves is on the line in 2024 – and neither side appears optimistic of the outcome.