“They’re doing it as we sit here,” replied Robert S. Mueller III when asked in his testimony Wednesday whether Russia will again interfere in our elections. “And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”
The fact that Russia’s assistance to the Trump campaign got such high-profile discussion gave Democrats an opportunity to push a pair of election security bills in the Senate on Thursday. Here’s what happened next:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked two election security measures on Thursday, arguing Democrats are trying to give themselves a “political benefit.” …
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had tried to get consent Thursday to pass a House bill that requires the use of paper ballots and includes funding for the Election Assistance Commission. It passed the House 225-184 with [one] Republican voting for it.
But McConnell objected, saying Schumer was trying to pass “partisan legislation.”
“Clearly this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent,” McConnell said.
Guess what: McConnell is right! Legislation to secure our elections is partisan. And the fact that it’s partisan shows just how pathological the Republican Party has become in its determination to hold on to power.
So here are some things that, in our system today, are “partisan” in the sense that if we were to do them they would advantage the Democratic Party over the Republican Party:
- Securing our voting systems from foreign hacking
- Allowing every American to vote
- Making it as easy as possible for Americans to vote
- Ensuring that all votes count equally
Now consider what it says about your party if doing those things would make it much more likely that you’d lose.
Republicans have quite plainly looked at our current state of electoral dysfunction and concluded that it’s working pretty darn well for them. Donald Trump is president, isn’t he? Why would we want to mess with a system that’s producing such wonderful outcomes?
The legislation to which McConnell refers, the one that passed the House, is pretty straightforward. It requires voter-verifiable paper ballots and voting machines that don’t connect directly to the Internet, so that recounts can be done accurately and there’s less vulnerability to hacking. It gives states money to secure their systems. It instructs the Election Assistance Commission to do a study to determine optimal ballot designs to minimize voter confusion and errors.
You wouldn’t think there’s anything there that would particularly advantage one party over another. But that’s only if you didn’t know how voting really works in this country.
That’s because so much of what plagues our election system works to the advantage of Republicans, in part because their voters tend to be older and wealthier, and in part because of all the effort Republicans have put into erecting obstacles in the path of Democratic-leaning constituencies attempting to vote, not to mention the gerrymandering that makes Republican votes worth more and the electoral college that does the same.
And of course, let’s not forget that the leader of the Republican Party said publicly that if a foreign power offered him help in his reelection bid, he’d accept it. Republicans just aren’t willing to impede the progress of any thumb on its way to the electoral scale, especially if the thumb belongs to Vladimir Putin. We don’t know if there are any hostile foreign governments ready to hack our elections in order to defeat Trump, but there’s at least one that is probably ready to help him.
So yes, securing our elections is partisan. So is making it easier to vote, because as Republicans surely know, the population of nonvoters as a whole is younger, less white and more liberal than the population of voters. If every American voted, more Democrats would win. Anything Republicans can do to keep them from getting the polls, they’ll do.
That’s where we are today: The last thing Republicans want is elections that are secure, fair, free and open. And they’ll make sure that’s not what we have.