Republicans are responding to their 2020 losses by doing everything they can to restrict the size of the electorate wherever possible, in ways they think will advantage them. To disguise this ugly game, they’ve rolled out all sorts of disingenuous talking points, claiming they want to restore “confidence” in our elections or, even more absurdly, to ensure “election integrity.”

But every now and then the mask slips, making the truth about these efforts even harder to deny.

Such a moment comes courtesy of this great new report by Amy Gardner of The Post, about the new voter suppression bill in Florida that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign. The bill would make it harder to vote by mail in numerous ways, adding curbs on the use of drop boxes and requiring voters to reapply for absentee ballots with each two-year election cycle.

Some Florida Republicans now fear this could unintentionally make it harder for Republican voters to cast ballots. They worry about the provision requiring reapplication for mail ballots every two years — rather than every four years, as previous law had it — fearing it will confuse voters who expect ballots to be sent to them automatically during midterm elections.

This could have a pronounced impact on seniors and members of the military, Republicans fear. Both are GOP-aligned constituencies, and both rely heavily on vote-by-mail.

It turns out some Republicans wanted to address this problem in a surprising way:

One former state party official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay private conversations said some Republicans briefly discussed whether lawmakers could exempt those two groups from the provision requiring voters to request mail ballots every election cycle. “Key lawmakers said, ‘You can’t do that,’ ” the former official said. “It would raise equal protection problems.”
Now, the damage is done, he added. “Now, you’ll have military personnel who might not think they have to request a ballot who won’t get it. And we’ve got senior voters who have health concerns or just don’t want to go out. They might not know the law has changed, and they might not get a ballot, because they’re not engaged.”

This Republican source says Republicans were so worried that this key provision would dampen participation that they talked about getting lawmakers to exempt two of their key constituencies from it, and to selectively apply it to other voters. It wouldn’t pass legal muster and didn’t go anywhere.

That’s quite a glimpse into the mind-set of Republicans supposedly motivated by a pious desire to restore election integrity!

As it is, the new provisions would heavily target African American and newly registered voters, according to University of Florida political scientist Daniel A. Smith, whose calculations show that those demographics disproportionately relied on vote-by-mail in 2020.

However, Smith’s research shows Republican voters also relied to an unexpected degree on vote-by-mail — hence these new GOP fears. As Smith notes: “The GOP leadership has discounted any collateral damage, calculating that the benefit to the party outweighs any harm done to its party faithful.”

The truth here is plain to see: Florida Republicans are trying to make it harder for the opposition’s voters to participate, to the point where party operatives even floated the idea of exempting their own voters from provisions that would accomplish this.

But, unable to manage that, they’re calculating that in the end, any impact on their own voters will be outweighed by the benefits of the impact these efforts will have on the other side. No matter how you cut this, the real aim is to make it harder to vote, and hope for the best.

By itself, this might not mean much, except for one thing: Republicans can’t furnish any genuine public interest rationale for what they’re doing.

Notably, a lead sponsor of the Florida measure was recently pressed on claims of voter fraud that are supposed to justify these efforts. He replied: “I don’t know, but I’m sure it was going on."

Meanwhile, the ubiquitous nonsense that these measures are necessary to “restore voter confidence” in the 2020 election and our electoral system is falling apart.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) was recently asked to justify this, given that Donald Trump and Republicans themselves have relentlessly undermined that confidence. She admitted there’s no basis for doubting the 2020 outcome, and dissembled wildly to explain why voters should nonetheless lack confidence anyway.

And in Arizona, Republicans have commissioned a recount of votes in populous Maricopa County, justified by this same supposed goal of restoring confidence. But the recount is being conducted by a contractor whose chief executive has promoted nonsense about fraud in the election.

Both of these give away the game: The real aim is to continue undermining confidence in our electoral system, often as justification for more voter suppression, not to restore it.

What’s striking is that this effort to undermine their own voters’ confidence in the electoral system is now consuming the GOP. Republicans who dared to vouch for the integrity of the 2020 outcome are facing censure and condemnation, and this is becoming a dividing line in GOP primaries.

“A significant chunk of the Republican primary electorate appears to be driven with incredible intensity by the belief that the election was illegitimate,” Richard Pildes, a professor at New York University who specializes in election law, told me.

Bottom line: The GOP claim that voters need their confidence restored is, if anything, only further undermining that confidence. So this quest to create a fake justification for more voter suppression is also pushing the GOP primary electorate further to the right.

There’s no indication that this ongoing radicalization will abate anytime soon. And one can only guess at the damage it will ultimately unleash.

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