Voter suppression has long been a Republican interest, but now they’re getting really serious about it.

So serious, in fact, that they’re starting entire organizations dedicated to finding ways to keep Democrats from the polls.

Ken Cuccinelli, the far-right former attorney general of Virginia and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump (that was his actual title), has formed a group called the Election Transparency Initiative. Its goal: to make sure election laws aren’t changed to make it easier for people to vote, especially people who might vote for Democrats.

Its initial focus is on defeating H.R. 1, the voting rights bill Democrats hope to pass through Congress. Here’s how one article described the need that gave rise to Cuccinelli’s effort:

The legislation they oppose would create automatic voter registration nationwide, expand early voting, and make it easier to vote by mail. It is the exact opposite of what conservatives want, and it is coming at a moment when conservative faith in the integrity of elections has never been lower.

None of that has anything to do with “transparency,” but it’s an accurate description of the problem as Republicans see it. Conservative faith in the integrity of elections has indeed never been lower, because conservatives have come to believe that elections Democrats win are fraudulent by definition, and since Democrats recently won key elections, the system must therefore be lacking in integrity.

This belief is not just the province of gullible retirees watching hour upon hour of Fox News and Newsmax every night. It extends all the way up to the Supreme Court, where Justice Clarence Thomas just wrote a dissent recycling inaccurate claims about mail ballots being rife with fraud. It goes to Republican congressional leaders who won’t admit that President Biden won the 2020 election fair and square.

Cuccinelli is being joined by former Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, who apparently took two lessons from her defeat in the recent runoff election: Too few Republicans turned out to vote, and too many Democrats did.

So Loeffler has launched her own organization in the state, committed to registering Republican voters and seeking “transparency and uniformity in our election process.” “We had unprecedented changes to our election laws in 2020 because of the pandemic,” Loeffler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And we need to take a really hard look at the impact of those changes and why it drove trust in our elections so far down.”

Of course, it wasn’t changes to the election laws that led Republicans to believe the election was stolen from them, and in Georgia the only relevant change was a consent decree made by the state’s Republican leadership that reduced the number of legitimate absentee ballots being thrown out. What drove down “trust” was the relentless lies and propagandizing of Trump, aided by people like Loeffler.

But her fellow Georgia Republicans saw Biden win the state and then watched as Democrats won two Senate seats there, and they have now sprung into action. Republicans in the state legislature have introduced a sweeping series of voter suppression measures, including eliminating early voting on Sundays (when Black churches often mount “Souls to the Polls” voting drives), requiring photo ID to both request and return absentee ballots, and limiting the use of drop boxes.

Drop boxes are probably of no particular benefit to Democrats. But Trump somehow got it into his head that they were the locus of conspiracies of fraud, so now all Republicans have to pretend they’re a terrible threat to democracy.

If you can explain why it’s “transparent” to allow early voting on Monday through Saturday but not “transparent” to allow it on Sunday as well, you have a future as a Republican legislator. But this has long been the pattern of Republican voter suppression: Take an example of fraud — vanishingly rare, or even nonexistent but hypothetically possible — then use it as justification to make voting more difficult for huge swaths of the population, so long as those affected will be more likely to be minorities, young people, urban dwellers and anyone else who might vote for Democrats.

The operating philosophy is that if we must disenfranchise 100,000 people to keep one guy from filling out the absentee ballot of his mother who died before Election Day, then we ought to do it. So long as most of the disenfranchised are, you know, the kind of people we’d rather not have voting in the first place.

Something tells me these aren’t the last conservative organizations we’ll see devoting themselves to fighting the expansion of voting rights and promoting voter suppression. The GOP’s policy priorities are widely unpopular, and its most well-known elected officials are the targets of revulsion and ridicule.

The Republican Party knows that it cannot win a national majority if voting is easy and smooth for everyone. So election laws must be shaped to make it harder for some people than others. It’s about the most important political project Republicans have.

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