Across the country, state legislatures are introducing hundreds of bills aimed at restricting, or limiting in some way, the right to vote. In Georgia, there’s a bill that not only places more restrictions on absentee ballots but also limits ballot drop boxes, and even limits voting on the weekends. This is insidious because it appears to target some Black voters’ efforts to go to the polls after Sunday services, an event known as “souls to the polls.” There’s even a bill in Arizona which would prevent mail ballots from being processed if they are not postmarked on or before the Thursday before Election Day. Voter turnout in the 2020 election was the highest it has been in decades. By making it harder to vote, proponents of these bills are all but ensuring voter turnout will be driven down, believing in the idea that lower turnout means greater political success for their side.
A substantial number of these vote restricting bills are being introduced in states where President Trump lost. In Florida, where Trump won by over 300,000 votes, only two bills aimed at restricting voting access have been introduced since the election. In Georgia, where Trump lost by only about 12,000 votes, 22 bills aimed at restricting voting access have been introduced since the election. Proponents of these bills often cite the need to improve trust in elections. It is not difficult to see, however, that many proponents of these bills are not doing so in good faith. Additionally, much of the faith lost in elections this year can be attributed to the lie spread by former President Trump and some of his supporters that the election was stolen from him. Upset their preferred candidate lost, some state legislators are throwing the kitchen sink in an effort to make voting harder in their state, so as to suppress the vote of their opponents in the next election.
Such suppression efforts are not only misguided in principle, but also in practice. Can the United States or its citizens claim to have free and fair elections if state legislators openly try to suppress the vote of their political opponents? Such actions are un-American and undeserving of being taken seriously.
John Kavanagh, a Republican state legislator from Arizona and a proponent of vote restricting bills, framed the argument succinctly. He said:
“There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote, but everybody shouldn’t be voting… Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues. Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”
Kavanagh’s argument starts with pushing the lie that Democrats do not care about election integrity. Democrats have long sought to protect U.S. elections from fraud and interference. Most recently, the Democrat-sponsored “For the People Act”, which contains various provisions that would protect elections both at the ballot box and against cyberattacks, was passed with only Democratic support. Kavanagh’s argument proceeds by explaining that some voters should not be able to vote because he deems their vote to be uninformed and lacking quality. It is unclear if all Republican state legislators pushing vote restricting bills hold the same view, but given the ease with which Kavanagh shares his ridiculous, undemocratic views, it is not difficult to imagine many other legislators agreeing with him.
In practice, it is laughable that many of these voter suppression bills are aimed at only suppressing the vote of those belonging to the opposing party. Voters in all parties use absentee ballots and vote early. Introducing bills aimed at outlawing both of those voting methods, or making the burden of using such methods too heavy to bear, not only hurts the integrity of elections generally, but also hurts Republicans and Democrats alike. In 2020, Republican officials in Florida had to stop President Trump from raging against mail voting because his comments were suppressing Republican mail ballot requests.
Fighting against voter suppression bills does not mean one supports Democrats, it means one supports democracy. Supporting voter suppression bills, does not mean one supports Republicans, it means one doesn’t support free and fair elections. Voter suppression efforts are an insult to the progress the United States has made on voting rights since its foundation. The voting process is not meant to be an obstacle course that gets harder every time Republicans lose a major election. It is a right which must be protected and strengthened.