Democrats would rip up election law under the guise of a COVID emergency

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters after hearing from President Biden at a Democratic caucus luncheon at the Senate Russell Office building to discuss voting rights and filibuster reform on Thursday, January 13, 2022.
Greg Nash

Democrats’ push to make permanent the voting rules put in place during the pandemic is a near last-ditch effort to keep their 2024 hopes alive. Should the Democrats not be able to preserve COVID-related, “emergency” voting measures by passing the Freedom to Vote Act, many voters who only came out because of automatic or early balloting in 2020 will be less likely to cast ballots in 2024. The combination of reversion to pre-pandemic voting measures and shifting demographics means that without a thumb on the scale in the next elections, they lose.

Pandemic emergency voting measures such as mass mail-in voting, often involving unrequested ballots sent by states and ballot drop boxes, fundamentally transformed the electoral landscape in 2020. Such efforts are key to Democrats’ hopes in 2024 — last election, 58 percent of Joe Biden voters voted by mail; this was almost double the rate of Donald Trump voters. However, concerns about mass mail-in balloting are not new. Mail-in ballots are difficult enough to police for small numbers of active-duty service members and absentee voters; when mail-in balloting becomes the norm, the potential for voting fraud explodes. Don’t take my word for it —  ask the New York Times circa 2012. That year, the paper of record cited that mail-in votes are rejected by officials at a rate of double those cast in person. This 2 percent rate is enough to easily have swayed the electoral vote in several crucial states in 2020. 

The proposed Freedom to Vote Act is a stale rehashing of 2021’s For the People Act. The Democrats’ goal is simple: a one-size-fits-all federal mandate, permanently enshrining many of the temporary measures taken because of COVID. The act would overturn existing state laws regarding a number of issues. For example, states would be required to accept ballots postmarked by Election Day, up to seven days after an election. Voter ID laws also effectively would be gutted through a federal mandate that would allow people to vote without photo ID, while a blanket same-day registration requirement would be forced on all states. 

Similar efforts at the state level have been fraught with disaster. California’s 2018 automatic voter registration resulted in over 100,000 errors, including 1,500 votes cast by ineligible individuals. Adding more variables to close elections will not make results clearer, and will only further undermine Americans’ faith in the electoral process.

Such measures help political actors plant and farm votes. States such as California send automatic ballots without proper controls, which effectively let anyone who collects a household’s mail to fill out and return the ballots. Ballot harvesting and automatic ballots may increase overall voter turnout, but are vehicles for potential fraud while increasing the number of politically disinclined voters. Rather than cracking down on “voter suppression,” Democrats are attempting to unsettle decades of electoral precedent to push votes that normally would not be cast legally under pre-pandemic law.

The only thing standing between a federalized destruction of states being able to independently run their own elections is the filibuster. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has remained a sane voice in the Democratic Party beset by anti-Trump mania. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) must realize that there isn’t a limit to a filibuster “carve out” just for this bill. As Harry Reid found out with the judicial filibuster, precedents are made to be followed.       

The impact of Democrats’ efforts and Republicans’ ability to block them — barring an assist from Manchin and Sinema — likely will be decisive in 2024. President Biden’s declining poll numbers mean that his 44,000 total vote margin in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin is in major jeopardy. Losing any number of less-likely voters, especially as the president’s approval ratings crash to incredible lows, would be devastating to the political left.  

Without creating new, and increasingly reckless, election law, Democrats will not be able to count on millions of citizens who would not, of their own volition, normally take the time and effort to vote for their candidates. And don’t expect left-wing activists to stop with overturning voter ID or preventing voting rolls from being cleaned up — the movement likely will lead to momentum for minors to vote. A ballot proposition failed by a narrow margin in San Francisco and allowed 16-year-olds to vote in Oakland school elections. A federal bill for 16-year-old suffrage failed in the House in 2021. After all, the Democrats will say, it soon will be law in Germany

Republicans must stop the Democratic steamroller before the very concepts of adulthood and citizenship are meaningless. The law and the Constitution must be supported because they are the backbone of our nation. Should the slippery slope continue, we’ll break Ben Franklin’s dictum and fail to keep our republic.

Kristin Tate is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and a libertarian writer whose latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.

Tags Donald Trump Elections Electoral fraud Filibuster For the People Act Harry Reid Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Voter ID laws Voting

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