If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
MARC LEVY Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republicans have succeeded this year in passing a range of voting restrictions in states they control politically, from Georgia to Iowa to Texas. They’re not stopping there.
Republicans in at least four states where Democrats con-trol the governor’s office, the legislature or both — California, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania — are pursuing statewide ballot initiatives or veto-proof propos- als to enact voter ID restric- tions and other changes to election law.
In another state, Nebraska, Republicans control the governor’s office and have a majority in the single-house legislature, but are pushing a voter ID bal- lot measure because they have been unable to get enough lawmakers on board.
Republicans say they are pursuing the changes in the name of “election integrity,” and repeat similar slogans — “easier to vote, harder to cheat.” Democrats dismiss it as the GOP following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that widespread fraud cost him the election. They say Republicans have tried to whip up distrust in elections for political gain and are passing restrictions designed to keep Democratic-leaning voters from registering or casting a ballot.
“It’s depressing that this is the way that (the Trump) wing of the Republican Party thinks they have to win, instead of trying to win on issues or beliefs,” said Gus Bickford, the Democratic Party chairman in Massachusetts. “They just want to suppress the vote.”
A common thread
requirements, both for in- person and mail voting.
In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Republicans are trying to get around Democratic governors who wield the veto pen. Wisconsin Republicans say they also are considering such a strategy.
In California and Massachusetts, Republicans are a minority in both hous- es of the legislature. In Republican-controlled Nebraska, the hang-up is an officially nonpartisan legisla- ture where more liberal law- makers can derail legislation that enjoys broad conserva- tive support.
The road to gain voter approval is uphill in California and Massachusetts, but there’s a clearer path to success in the other states.
The leader of the California effort, Carl DeMaio of Reform California, said his organization is pur- suing a ballot initiative because Democratic law- makers will never take up his group’s proposals.
“That would mean they’re validating Donald Trump, and they have so much hatred for Donald Trump that they don’t even want to acknowledge that there’s even a problem here,” DeMaio said.
Trump’s baseless election fraud claims aside, DeMaio said Trump’s message is res- onating with people who have had doubts about the election system based on their own experience, such as getting duplicate ballots mailed to them at home.
Voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and when it’s attempt- ed is typically caught by local election offices.
In any case, Democrats say voter ID laws will do nothing to prevent the little fraud that exists. Rather, it will serve only to force the elderly, poor and disabled to go to unnecessary lengths to get proper government- issued identification cards they may not have, they say.
Despite Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, his own Justice Department and scores of recounts have debunked them, and courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court have swept aside such assertions. The government’s own cybersecurity agency declared the 2020 presiden- tial election the most secure in U.S. history.
No state legislature has produced evidence of wide- spread election fraud. Even so, at least 10 Republican- controlled states have enact- ed laws so far this year that toughen voter ID or signa- ture requirements or pare back opportunities to regis- ter to vote or cast a ballot.
Putting voter-related mat- ters to a statewide vote is nothing new.
In recent years, for exam- ple, voters in California and Florida restored felons’ right to vote. In 2018, Michigan voters approved a constitu- tional amendment allowing people to register on Election Day and request absentee ballots without having to give a reason.
The difference this year is Republicans using the process in an attempt to enact restrictions they couldn’t pass otherwise.
In California, Massachusetts and Nebraska, Republicans are trying to gather enough sig- natures to get their propos- als on ballots in next year’s general election.
In Michigan, Republicans are using an unusual provi- sion in the state constitution to gather enough petition
signatures so the GOP-con- trolled Legislature can pass a veto-proof voter ID bill.
Among other things, the Michigan initiative would prohibit sending mail-in bal- lot applications to people who did not request them, with backers saying it sowed confusion and mistrust in 2020.
“Democratic leadership is out of step with their voters,” said Jamie Roe, a Republican campaign con- sultant and strategist with the Secure MI Vote initiative.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is preparing to veto similar legislation on her desk, telling reporters this month that there was not one “scintilla” of evi- dence of widespread voting fraud in last year’s election and that Republicans are simply unhappy over Trump’s loss.
“Our elections work. You don’t like the outcome? Well, then you run in the next election and try to win and earn people’s votes — not cut out a segment of people that cast their ballot as Americans and have a right to do that,” Whitmer said.
In Pennsylvania, which allows no direct access to the ballot for citizen initia- tives, the earliest the Republican-controlled Legislature could put its election changes on the bal- lot — through a proposed constitutional amendment — is 2023.
The Pennsylvania proposal is among several that would go beyond changes to voter ID.
As Trump allies go state to state, pushing partisan reviews of last year’s presi- dential election, the measure in Pennsylvania would require election results to be audited by the state’s audi- tor general. It would require paper ballots to bear a watermark and be open to “public inspection” after an election is certified.
The measure is awaiting a vote in the state House, per- haps as early as next week, before it can go to the Senate. Its sponsor, Republican Rep. Jeff Wheeland, said it will “give back to the voters surety” that their elections are safe and secure. Another Republican, Rep. Eric Nelson, said it would let vot- ers ”address what many feel is a frenzy of mistrust in our current election system.”
Democratic Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, referring to Trump’s loss in the battle- ground state, said the only reason the measure is com- ing up “is because some are disappointed in the result of the election.”
Under the proposed initia- tive in California, counties would be required to do more to clean up voter regis- tration rolls, evaluate wait times for in-person voting in every election and show how they will fix “unreasonably long” waits.
In Nebraska, groups including Black Votes Matter and the League of Women Voters have joined forces to oppose the Republican- backed ballot initiative.
John Cartier, director of voting rights for Civic Nebraska, said the initiative would violate Nebraska’s constitutional protections for voting access. He said there has never been a single con- viction for voter imperson- ation fraud in the state’s his- tory.
Besides, he said, states such as Arizona and Georgia already have tough voter ID laws “and people don’t really trust the system there,” Cartier said. “So passage of a voter ID law doesn’t do anything for trust. If any- thing, it hurts it.