Republicans have a math problem, and they know it. Regardless of their candidate, it is nearly certain that more people will vote to reelect President Joe Biden than his GOP opponent.
In 2008, former President Barack Obama received more than 9.5 million more votes than then-U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). In 2012, he bested Mitt Romney by nearly five million votes. Former President Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 2.8 million in 2016 and by seven million in 2020.
Unable to attract the support of a majority of eligible voters, Republicans are left to try to rig the voting rules and exploit election loopholes. Put simply, to ensure their electoral survival, Republicans need to make it harder to vote and easier to cheat.
Their plan is simple and dangerous. First, Republicans want to make voting as difficult as possible for minority and young voters. Second, the GOP seeks to bolster the election denier movement to undermine the accurate counting and certification of election results.
Left unchecked, we will face a 2024 election where eligible voters are turned away and lawful votes are left uncounted. Results will be set aside by partisan certification boards. Trump and his allies first tried — and failed — to achieve this result through litigation brought across the country after the 2020 election. They now aim to achieve the same goals preemptively, through restrictive voting rules and election processes designed to allow the will of the people to be subverted.
Just last week, House Republicans unveiled the American Confidence in Elections Act, an omnibus voter suppression bill, which includes a whole host of provisions designed to make it harder to vote. From banning private funding of election administration to implementing stricter voter ID and mail-in voting laws, the bill not only summarizes the GOP’s playbook heading into 2024, but also mirrors what many states have already signed into law.
Already this year, Ohio enacted a law that shortens the period to apply for, and return, an mail-in ballot. It removes a day for early voting and severely restricts the use of drop boxes. Another portion makes it illegal for election officials to provide prepaid return postage for mail-in ballot applications or completed ballots. None of these provisions prevent cheating. All of them make it harder to vote.
Florida passed a law that hobbles nonpartisan organizations from registering voters and shortens the deadline to request a mail-in ballot by one day. Nebraska adopted a new voter ID law while Idaho banned college IDs as an acceptable form of identification to vote — despite having accepted them, without incident, for as long as Idaho has had voter ID. Georgia made it harder for cash-strapped counties to receive private funding to run elections.
North Carolina Republicans are poised to enact a new law that would require counties to adopt and deploy software to match signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes with the voters’ signatures on file. North Carolina law already requires voters to have their mail-in ballot signatures witnessed by two different people who then must sign the ballot return envelopes affirming under criminal penalty that they witnessed the voter sign it. In addition, the voter must include a photocopy of their valid identification.
There is simply no rational justification for also now requiring that the same voter’s signature be “verified” by software. It will not make the process more secure, but it will result in thousands of voters having their ballots rejected due to normal variations in their signatures and the inability of any signature verification system to accurately “verify” every person’s signature. History shows that minority and young voters will bear a disproportionate brunt of those mismatch rejections.
Rejecting lawful votes is not a byproduct of North Carolina’s new law. It is the purpose.
At the same time, Republicans are making it harder to vote through state laws, they are also redoubling their efforts to enlist the judiciary in this project as well. In Arizona, the Republican Party asked a court to eliminate early mail voting for most voters in Arizona. Over 80% of Arizona voters used an early ballot in the 2022 election. Its current mail voting system has been in place for over thirty years.
Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Republicans have repeatedly sued to repeal Act 77 — the bipartisan 2019 voting law that permitted no-excuse mail-in voting — because it makes it too easy for people to vote by mail.
Virginia’s MAGA governor changed state policy that had automatically restored the rights of formerly incarcerated individuals. The result will disenfranchise an estimated 312,540 Virginians — nearly half of whom are Black. At the same time, Republicans in Minnesota are challenging a new law that would enfranchise over 50,000 formerly incarcerated individuals.
Making it harder to vote is familiar territory for the GOP. Unfortunately, however, in 2024 it is only half of their strategy. The more dangerous part of the Republican plan is making it easier for them to cheat if they don’t like the results.
Nevada Republicans are suing to block a state law that prohibits interfering with or harassing election officials. This expands on their failed efforts in the courtroom last election cycle to facilitate harassing voters at the polls.
Texas enacted two new election laws that target Democratic stronghold Harris County, and only Harris County. Among the new provisions, one of the laws abolishes the office of county election administrator. Now, elections in the third largest county in the country will be divided between the tax assessor and county clerk. If the Republican governor doesn’t like how Harris County is running its elections, his handpicked secretary of state can take over election administration.
Republicans in Texas and North Carolina have successfully pushed through changes that will make it easier for them to place partisan operatives inside the polls. Republicans elsewhere are sure to follow.
For years, Republicans justified mass voter purges on the grounds that they want clean, up-to-date voter rolls. Yet eight Republican-controlled states have left the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) — an interstate compact that facilitates sharing voter information to avoid duplicate registration and voting. At least three other states are considering following suit. By any measure, leaving ERIC will make cheating easier and detecting fraud harder.
Exercising majority power with only the support of a minority of the electorate is the GOP’s paramount objective. To do that they need to rig the system. Claiming otherwise is just another in the GOP’s long list of lies they tell to undermine democracy.