The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republican anti-voting hysteria isn’t winning over voters

Ken Bennett, former Republican Arizona secretary of state, at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 22, during setup of a 2020 election audit. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Republican politicians have not stopped peddling the “big lie” that the 2020 was stolen, nor have Republican voters given up their fantasy that President Biden lost.

A new Monmouth poll shows: “One-third (32%) of Americans continue to believe that Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 was due to voter fraud — a number that has not budged since the November election.“ In addition, “When all Republican identifiers and leaners are combined, the number who believe Biden won only because of voter fraud has been fairly stable (63% now, 64% in March, 69% in January, and 66% in November).” Republican voters marinating in right-wing media and imbibing their elected leaders’ lies still buy into this hokum.

Few outside the GOP cult, however, believe in any of it. Likewise, Republicans’ fake audits are failing to convince voters other than those already certain the election was stolen. Monmouth reports: “Most Americans (57%) see audits of the 2020 election results that are ongoing or planned as primarily partisan efforts to undermine valid election results. One in three (33%), though, say these are legitimate efforts to identify possible voting irregularities.” Aside from Republicans, “just 14% say the audits are legitimate with 55% saying they will actually weaken our democracy.“

Although there is a big partisan divide, even a majority of Republicans favor national standards to ease early and mail-in voting. “Easing in-person early voting access and requiring photo IDs both have bipartisan majority support. Approval of making early voting easier stands at 89% among Democrats, 68% among independents, and 56% among Republicans.“

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Finally, voter ID requirements are overwhelmingly popular among voters of all partisan affiliations. It is noteworthy that Democratic politicians have been more careful recently in explaining what they oppose on this issue, a nod to public opinion. As voting rights activist Stacey Abrams recently acknowledged, “No one has ever objected to having to prove who you are to vote. It’s been part of our nation’s history since the inception of voting.” While some advocates have inveighed against any voter ID, in fact the fight often has been over what sort of voter ID is acceptable. In court cases, Democrats have argued that insisting on driver’s licenses has a disproportionate impact on poor and minority voters. My colleague Aaron Blake reports:

Abrams, for instance, opposed a Georgia bill mandating voter ID for absentee ballots in April by saying, “Voters without a driver’s license or state ID must surrender their personal information and risk identity theft just to receive an absentee ballot.” [Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael] Warnock said in 2015, “Dealing with these voter ID laws — this is not about voter verification, this is about voter suppression.” … Both Abrams and Warnock emphasized last week that they didn’t oppose voter ID out of hand, but rather that they just opposed specific types of more-restrictive voter ID such as the ones Republicans proposed in recent years.

The voting reform compromise from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), in that sense, does represent a consensus view in the country at large. In general, the public wants voting to be easier, but accompanied by reasonable voter ID laws.

However, consensus is not attractive to Republicans. Step outside D.C., and it becomes clear that Republican efforts to undermine democracy have not changed public opinion, but have merely solidified their base’s delusion of the “big lie.” They have convinced their base that what others recognize as voter suppression are merely “voting security” measures. They are doing a bang-up job of diminishing confidence in elections among their own voters, a tactic that appeared to backfire in the Georgia Senate runoffs when Republicans lost interest in an election they were told was rigged.

For Republicans, voter suppression, cynicism about democracy, paranoia about election professionals and enraged MAGA cult members are essential to their election strategy. Fewer voters overall and more angry Republicans are the key to the success for a party wildly out of step with the views of a majority of Americans.

Democrats would be wise to embrace Manchin’s solution and make clear that Republicans are finding ways to suppress voting and create doubts about the functioning of our democracy. The question remains whether Manchin will eventually lose patience with disingenuous Republicans who have no interest in robust debate and compromise.

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