Opinion by Fred Lucas, Washington Examiner, 9/23/22
President Joe Biden, Democrats, and much of the media have happily pushed a narrative that democracy itself is on the ballot in November.
Such alarmism erupted in 2021, when about two dozen states passed common sense laws such as expanding voter ID to absentee ballots, having more accurate voter registration lists, and curbing ballot harvesting. Democrats labeled these popular election integrity measures as voter suppression. But my book, The Myth of Voter Suppression: The Left’s Assault on Clean Elections, fact-checks these absurd claims.
Here are some of the Left’s biggest lies.
Lie: Republican state legislatures enacted voter suppression legislation across the United States.
Truth: The Left attacked state election reforms as “Jim Crow 2.0.” If suppression was the goal, Republicans did a lousy job.
It’s still early to judge every law comprehensively. But the most controversial laws have been in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, which the Biden administration’s Justice Department has sued to stop. The best yardstick so far is primary turnout in 2022 compared to primary turnout in the last nonpresidential year.
In Georgia, voting soared to about 850,000 ballots cast in the 2022 primary — a 168% increase from the comparable off-year Georgia primary of 2018. In Texas, turnout was 17.7% in 2022, about 3 million votes compared to 17.2% in the 2018 primary, or 2.59 million ballots cast. The 2022 Arizona primary had a record primary turnout of 35.12%, or 1.4 million ballots cast, compared to the 33.3% turnout in 2018, with 1.2 million ballots casts.
Lie: The new state election laws are part of a slow-motion coup to return former President Donald Trump to the White House.
Truth: Democrats and media outlets mainstreamed this scary notion, with the Atlantic running the headline “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun” and the left-wing Mother Jones running a piece titled, “The Coming Coup: How Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork to Steal Future Elections.”
Political tensions are growing. What is the state of American democracy?
The pieces claim Republicans are seizing state and local boards of elections. But these boards have no power to overturn the will of the voters. For example, the much-maligned Georgia law gives the state legislature authority to replace members of the boards, but the boards won’t be stacked with partisans, as Georgia Public Broadcasting explained: “The new chair would be nonpartisan but appointed by a majority of the state House and Senate. … The chair would not be allowed to have been a candidate, participate in a political party organization or campaign or [have] made campaign contributions for two years prior to being appointed.”
The Atlantic piece says: “Republicans are promoting an ‘independent state legislature’ doctrine, which holds that statehouses have ‘plenary,’ or exclusive, control of the rules for choosing presidential electors.”
The Constitution has always empowered state legislatures with appointing electors in any way they choose. In the early elections of the republic, few states even had popular voting for president. That changed in the era of Jacksonian democracy. No state will move in reverse.
Today, states still decide how to apportion electors, as 48 states have a winner-take-all system, while two states, Maine and Nebraska, award electors based on congressional districts. Also, 32 states have laws that impose fines and penalties for “faithless electors” that opt to vote against their state’s popular vote choice. Sure, state legislators could claw back the power of voters to pick electors, but it would be political suicide for any politician who wants to win reelection.
So far, the only legislatures that have passed laws to ignore the will of their state’s voters have been members of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact who commit to awarding their electors to the candidate that carries the popular vote regardless of the votes of their state residents.
Lie: The Georgia law bans water while waiting in line.
Truth: The law allows election workers, as opposed to campaign workers, to provide water to voters. Specifically, the law says: “No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink … within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established.” New York and Montana have similar laws.
Lie: That Texas law allows Republicans to intimidate voters and election officials. Biden said, “In Texas, for example, the Republican-led state legislature wants to allow partisan poll watchers to intimidate voters and imperil impartial poll workers.”
Truth: The Texas law gives partisan poll watchers “free movement” at polling places as long as it’s not in the voting booth when a voter casts a ballot and makes it a crime for an election worker in Texas to obstruct the view of a poll watcher. In the 2020 election, there were verified cases across the country of local election officials removing or obstructing election observers.
To be clear, a bully can’t show up at a polling place and declare himself an election observer but must be legally precertified. Democrats and Republicans have historically monitored voting procedures.
The 2005 Carter-Baker Commission report says, “All legitimate domestic and international election observers should be granted unrestricted access to the election process, provided that they accept election rules, do not interfere with the electoral process, and respect the secrecy of the ballot.”
Fred Lucas is the manager of the Investigative Reporting Projects at the Daily Signal and author of the newly released The Myth of Voter Suppression: The Left’s Assault on Clean Election.