The GOP won the governorship of Virginia with the kind of easy, hassle-free voting system that Democrats love and that Trump scolds.
Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin arrives to speak at a night party in Chantilly, Virginia on Wednesday, November 3, 2021, after defeating Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)
Thanks to Governor Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats in the state legislature, Virginia Not anymore has a voter identification law. No-excuse early voting is available for 45 days. Voters can, with a single question, receive permanently ballot papers for each election. Election day is a national holiday. When you get your driver’s license, you are automatically registered to vote. And thanks to the joint efforts of Northam and his Democratic predecessor Terry McAuliffe, some 284,000 former criminals have gained the right to vote in the past five years. restored.
Under this regime, Virginia Republicans have just won every Commonwealth race – Governor, Deputy Governor, and Attorney General – while also taking over the House of Delegates, riding the maximum turnout for any Virginia government election in the past 24 years.
Republicans in Washington should take note. They should embrace, fear not, extended access to voting rights. They should stop stonewalling voting rights laws and start negotiating with Democrats to pass one.
Virginia is just the latest refutation of the Republican assumption that the expansion of voting rights will lead to a Democratic hell. like me detailed here in February, even Democrats are deluded if they think that making voting easier is a guaranteed path to victory. The strict voter identification laws have backfired on the Republicans and galvanized the Democrats. Republicans can and have won in states by mail order. Neither the pool of low-inclination voters nor the pool of ex-criminals with no rights is overflowing with Democrats; they are full of white men who are notoriously skinny Republicans. As Virginia has shown, Republicans can take advantage of shifting political winds with ease of access.
Right now, those political winds are shifting to the right. In Virginia and New Jersey, another state that recently expanded voting access: Both Republican gubernatorial candidates scored seven percentage points better than Donald Trump in their states last year. And the president of the Democratic Senate of New Jersey, Stephen Sweeney, re-election lost, despite garnering more votes than he got in any of his last six state senate elections, because an underfunded Republican truck driver was buoyed by a spike in turnout.
Since 2022 will almost certainly be a GOP year, Republicans need not worry about handing Democrats a “victory” by passing a voting rights law. They should celebrate the prospect of liberalizing the vote in time for a red wave. Making voting easier should allow for more Republican pickups.
Of course, there’s the small matter of determining what exactly should go into any congressional voting rights compromise, as Republicans – apparently – remain reluctant to regulate states. But Republicans have already accepted federal laws, such as the widely supported Help America Vote Act of 2002, past in the wake of the hotly contested Florida recount of 2000, which included accessibility requirements which encouraged the adoption of the post and early voting. As West Virginia secretary of state at the time, Joe Manchin enforced the law and introduced early voting in the state, which only benefited Republicans in subsequent years.
I have suggested that both sides could accept a restricted bill that included a not-so-rigorous voter identification mandate, the emancipation of former criminals, and stiff prison sentences for election manipulation. Tightening of the rules on voting by the Electoral College ratification it is also fundamental to safeguarding democracy.
But the Republicans’ victory in Virginia should make them want a bigger bill, one that expands the stakes and early voting.
Glenn Youngkin understands that early voting is not a liberal conspiracy. While Trump claimed early voting was pretty much equivalent to election fraud, Youngkin knows best. The New York Times reported that Youngkin’s campaign held rallies near early voting sites, sent messages to supporters to ask if they knew the location of those sites, and knocked on doors to promote the call for mail-order voting.
Youngkin’s work paid off. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, the Republican share of early voting in City of Manassas Other Fairfax city was, respectively, 11 and 10 percentage points higher than in the 2020 presidential election.
To serve the self-interest of their party, state government Republicans across the country should also stop restricting access to voters. It can be fun to “own the libations”, with legislation imbued with the spirit of Jim Crow, but by doing so the GOP risks suppressing its own vote. Sure, it might be difficult for many Republican officials who have internalized Trump’s narrative that they need voter suppression to survive. Youngkin proved that a Republican can break free from that narrative, even if he has yet to give a nod to Trump’s diehards forming to the “task force for the integrity of the elections”.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could be a true leader and help keep his Republicans away from counterproductive crackdown tactics. He helped write the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Early in his career, he was also known as a supporter of civil rights.
In his later career, McConnell’s only goal in life was to amass Republican power. Well, widening access to voting in Virginia has done just that, and it can do it elsewhere. Here’s a chance for McConnell to do the right thing while also doing the Machiavellian thing.