There were no “significant voting irregularities.” There were irregularities, sure, but there always are. Those in the 2020 presidential contest, which forced Pence to seek new employment, were definitionally insignificant given that they were no more or less substantial than in years past. What Pence is doing is what so much of the traditional Republican establishment has been trying to do since Pence’s old boss began insisting that he wasn’t an electoral loser: convert the sweeping sense of concern whipped up by President Donald Trump into something politically usable.
Pence goes on to practice the two-step we’ve seen so often since a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and shouted that they wanted to murder him, claiming that the real issue at the heart of the mob’s concerns were changes to voting policies at the state level. This is laughable, of course; the mob was told that the election was stolen through fraud and wanted to hang Pence because they thought he was acquiescent. But the goal of Republican legislators at the moment is to pass new laws restricting that access — and hopefully rewinding recent Democratic success — and so Pence makes a now familiar rhetorical pirouette.
It’s important to recognize the scale of the legal limitations that have emerged or been reintroduced since the 2020 election. Analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice shows that more than 240 pieces of legislation have been introduced nationally. The states in which the most new laws have been proposed are Arizona and Georgia — two states that had been reliably Republican-voting until 2020.
If you’re skeptical about the partisanship at play here, please accept the explanation of Michael Carvin, the attorney representing Arizona in a Supreme Court fight over voting rules. Carvin appeared before the court on Tuesday, where he was asked why it was important to maintain a particular rule for disqualifying some ballots.
“Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” Carvin replied. “Politics is a zero-sum game. And every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretation of Section 2 hurts us; it’s the difference between winning an election 50 to 49 and losing an election 51 to 50.”
This can certainly be read as a more thoughtful articulation of one of Trump’s sloppy allegations from the post-election period, that states should count only legal votes — implying a dingy pool of illegal votes from which nasty people sometimes draw. But the fact is that such a pool doesn’t exist.
After the election, ABC News reached out to elections officials nationally to find out what sort of alleged fraud they were tracking. Most reported finding nothing. Some were investigating (or had already disposed of) a handful of allegations. The number of cases still pending as possible voter fraud were minimal, particularly in the scale of an election that brought in more than 158 million votes.
It takes a while for criminal charges to emerge after incidents of fraud, which is why a lengthy list of election fraud referrals sent from the Georgia secretary of state to prosecutors includes alleged offenses largely related to prior election cycles. The secretary of state’s office touted the “more than 300 cases” it had pointed out, but only one — a woman in Trion, Ga., who allegedly forged an absentee ballot for her dead husband — was both in 2020 and the sort of fraud that Trump so frequently complained about.
Trion, if you’re curious, is largely Republican. Often, fraud allegations that emerged during the period shortly before and then after the 2020 election weren’t, as the former president liked to claim, centered among Democrats.
It’s tricky to cobble together a complete picture of fraud allegations nationally since it involves prospective legal action from across 50 states. You will not be surprised to learn that one conservative publication does so assiduously, compiling a database of numerous instances of voter fraud or (mostly) voter registration crimes.
In that database, compiled by the Heritage Foundation, there is precisely one example of alleged voter fraud from the 2020 election. Paul Parana, a registered Democrat, was charged with forging a signature on an absentee ballot. That’s it. That’s the entirety of what the Heritage Foundation has pulled together. And yet we have these hundreds of new voting restrictions that have been introduced.
In his essay for the Daily Signal, Pence supported such efforts.
“To restore public confidence in our elections, our leaders should uphold the Constitution, reject congressional Democrats’ plan to nationalize our elections,” he wrote, “and get about the serious work of state-based reform that will protect the integrity of the vote for every American.”
Perhaps Pence didn’t know that the Heritage Foundation had found only one example of the sort of fraud that is purportedly the basis of that loss of public confidence. But the editors at the Daily Signal should have.
It’s run by the Heritage Foundation.