As the coronavirus raged around the world, lawmakers in the US were faced with a monumental task: holding a presidential election in the midst of a pandemic unique in a century.
Concerned about the possibility of the virus spreading in polling places, Democrats lobbied the federal government to approve more funding for states to expand early and absentee voting options.
But Donald Trump was against the idea for one reason only: He thought it would be harder for Republicans to win. Trump said in a Fox News interview in March last year that if early and absentee voting options were expanded as the Democrats wanted, “a Republican would never be elected again in this country.” Other Republicans I have repeated Trump’s argument in recent months, as the party has pushed through hundreds of bills to restrict voting access in dozens of states.
But voting experts now say that the restrictions being passed in Republican-led states may not help the party’s chances in future elections, and in some cases, laws may even prevent its own supporters from going to the polls. . Simply put, by trying to suppress the vote, Republicans may be shooting themselves in the foot.
Republican lawmakers across the country have taken aggressive steps to restrict access to the polls this year as Trump has continued to spread the “big lie” that there was widespread fraud in the presidential election. According to the Brennan Center for JusticeAt least 389 bills with restrictive voting provisions have been introduced this year in 48 states, and 22 of those bills have already been enacted.
The Republican bills especially target voting by mail, after supporters of Joe Biden used the voting method in disproportionately high rates in the 2020 election. However, it is unclear whether restricting voting by mail will help Republicans in future elections.
A. recent study Conducted by a team from the California Public Policy Institute found that while facilitating voting by mail increased overall turnout, it did not necessarily result in better election results for Democrats. In fact, many models indicated that easy access to voting by mail resulted in slightly better results for Republican candidates.
This may be partly because older voters, who lean toward Republicans, are more likely to vote by mail. According to census data, nearly 54% of Americans 65 and older cast their ballots by mail last year.
“This can affect people regardless of their political affiliation,” said Kathleen Unger, founder of the group VoteRiders, which helps people navigate voter identification laws. “There are a lot of people, including obviously Republicans, especially seniors and older voters, who are used to voting by mail. Making it more difficult to vote by mail creates a very real barrier for all of these people. “
The new voting restrictions may also deter lower turnout constituencies that have been leaning more toward the Republican Party in recent years. Studies have indicated that Americans with a higher level of education are more likely to report that they have participated in elections, and those voters have recently been moving toward the Democratic Party. An analysis of the progressive firm Catalist found that white voters without college degrees made up 58% of Trump’s voters in 2020.
“There has been a growing educational gap between the two parties. And it is the case that voters with less education are less likely to vote, and it is more difficult for them to vote in a wide variety of ways, “said Robert Griffin, research director of the Voter Study Group of the Democracy Fund. . “Raising additional barriers to voting is not always the best idea if your coalition increasingly relies on less-likely voters.”
Republican lawmakers are clearly counting on the idea that these voting restrictions will affect Democratic voters more than their own supporters. In fact, voting rights groups say that many of the provisions in the new laws specifically target black voters, 90% of which supported Biden in November.
For example, a provision in Georgia’s controversial voting law requires that anyone requesting an absentee ballot have a driver’s license or state-issued ID on file. If the voter does not have a Georgia issued ID, they must send a photocopy of an alternate proof of identification to the state to obtain an absentee ballot.
Existing voting records indicate that this requirement would have a huge influence on black voters, who are less likely to have a state-issued ID. However, Unger noted that the provision could also negatively affect older voters who may not have a valid driver’s license because they no longer drive. And in a state like Georgia, which Biden won by about 12,000 votes out of nearly 5 million votes cast, every lost voter matters.
Christina Harvey, CEO of the grassroots voting rights group Stand Up America, argued that Republicans were “surgically targeting these laws to have the greatest impact on black and brown voters,” but acknowledged that they would impact all voters. .
“The point is that everyone should have equal access to the ballot no matter what they look like, where they live or how they prefer to vote,” Harvey said. “Policies that aim to disenfranchise black and brown voters or even Democratic voters can disproportionately affect those people, but they also undermine everyone’s freedom to vote.”