In Statehouses, Stolen-Election Myth Fuels a G.O.P. Drive to Rewrite Rules

Feb 27, 2021
In The News

Led by loyalists who embrace former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election, Republicans in state legislatures nationwide are mounting extraordinary efforts to change the rules of voting and representation — and enhance their own political clout. At the top of those efforts is a slew of bills raising new barriers to casting votes, particularly the mail ballots that Democrats flocked to in the 2020 election. But other measures go well beyond that, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules for the benefit of Republicans; clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives; and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections, which were crucial to the smooth November vote.... The national Republican Party joined the movement this past week by setting up a Committee on Election Integrity to scrutinize state election laws, echoing similar moves by Republicans in a number of state legislatures.... The avalanche of legislation also raises fundamental questions about the ability of a minority of voters to exert majority control in American politics, with Republicans winning the popular vote in just one of the last eight presidential elections but filling six of the nine seats on the Supreme Court.... The push also comes as Democrats in Congress are attempting to pass federal legislation that would tear down barriers to voting, automatically register new voters and outlaw gerrymanders, among many other measures. Some provisions, such as a prohibition on restricting a voter’s ability to cast a mail ballot, could undo some of the changes being proposed in state legislatures. Such legislation, combined with the renewed enforcement of federal voting laws, could counter some Republican initiatives in the 23 states where the party controls the legislature and governor’s office. But neither that Democratic proposal nor a companion effort to enact a stronger version of the 1965 Voting Rights Act stands any chance of passing unless Democrats modify or abolish Senate rules allowing filibusters. It remains unclear whether the party has either the will or the votes to do that. On the legal front, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in an Arizona election lawsuit that turns on the enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That section is the government’s main remaining weapon against discriminatory voting practices after the court struck down another provision in 2013 that gave the Justice Department broad authority over voting in states with histories of discrimination.