Why are conservatives — even in Vermont — so intent on undermining so many Americans’ ability to vote by continually parroting false, nonexistent claims of voter fraud?
Right-wing individuals and groups, such as Vermont’s Ethan Allen Institute, continue to trot out fear-mongering tactics to cast suspicion on Vermont’s long record of conducting fair and scandal-free elections. Perhaps they are spurred on by President Trump’s creation of his misguided Commission on Electoral Integrity — led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a man with ties to white supremacist groups and a troublesome and sketchy history when it comes to disenfranchising voters — and Trump’s repeated claims that between 3 million and 5 million undocumented immigrants cast illegal votes in the last election.
Voter fraud in America is a myth, and trying to pass it off as anything other than a myth has just one purpose: to make it more difficult for certain folks, mostly people of color, the poor and college students — groups that historically pick Democrats at the polls — to vote.
Study after study has concluded there is no voter fraud problem in this country. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, who has been tracking cases of voter fraud since 2000, has found 31 bona fide cases of fraud, some unintentional, out of more than one billion votes cast during that period.
The real question should be: Why do conservatives lack so much confidence in their own ideas? Can’t they win elections based on those ideas? The answer is clearly no. If the GOP and its partisan hacks worked to make it easier to vote and to ensure fair elections, instead of creating false narratives, it’s likely that a majority of voters would NOT turn back the clock on equal pay for women, abortion rights, affordable health care for all Americans, gay rights, separation of church and state, sensible tax policy for all income groups, not just the wealthy, and on and on.
Simply put, too many people are voting.
Frankly, ID laws meant to combat the nonexistent problem of voter fraud do not have any effect on the real threats to our elections, like the hacking by the Russians in 21 states during our most recent presidential election. Where are the Republicans on that real threat? Absent.
A second front in the GOP’s battle to take decision-making away from voters is gerrymandering, the drawing of congressional voting districts based on the political makeup of an electorate, rather than logical districts based on geography. The result is a growing number of safe seats for members of Congress in both political parties; while less widespread, Democrats use the technique as well. All of those noncompetitive seats in Congress mean less competition among ideas, less moderation, more hyper-partisanship, and dysfunctional government.
We should standardize the drawing of congressional districts nationwide, using nonpartisan commissions; move to expand, not restrict, voting rights and access to polling places; reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965; stop cutting the number of polling places in minority districts; strengthen safeguards to prevent foreign powers from meddling in our elections; and stop playing partisan games with our electoral systems, the backbone of our republic.
In Vermont, we make voting easy and accessible and then safeguard the process by running our polling places in a nonpartisan and professional manner. But even here we need to remain vigilant and reject partisan calls for “reform.”
The editorial represents the opinion of the newspaper’s management.