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How the Republican claim about election integrity is helping Vladimir Putin

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“Election integrity” is the right’s mantra these days. In more than 40 states, Republican legislators have collectively introduced more 250 bills to restrict voting access in the name of election integrity; the Republican National Committee recently formed a “Committee on Election Integrity”; and the conservative American Principles Project and Susan B. Anthony List have started an “election transparency” campaign. Their idea is that “confidence in our elections” can be restored if we eliminate or at least limit expanded voting measures such as mail-in and early voting.  

The election integrity campaign offers a rallying cry for Trump voters, it is a potentially potent Republican fund raising tool and, as I will shortly explain, it furthers a priority objective of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

But first, just where did the need to protect the integrity of the elections from expanded voting measures come from? It’s not as though Republicans have any proof that mail in or early voting led to fraud or significant irregularities in the 2020 election. More than 80 judges, nearly half appointed by Republicans, rejected virtually every Republican lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results.  

That should have been the end of the debate because the courts, as neutral forums, exist to resolve disputes like this. Instead, the right treated the adverse court rulings like a speed bump. They quickly pivoted to leveraging, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other senators did, their own “unprecedented allegations” of a stolen election into a justification for delaying the Electoral College certification pending an “audit” of the swing state votes to ensure “election integrity.” That failed effort morphed into the election integrity campaign to reduce expanded voting.            

According to a recently declassified intelligence assessment, there is a real threat to election integrity in America but it is not from expanded voting measures. The threat comes from Russia and a handful of other countries such as Iran and Cuba. Putin directed Russian organizations, for the purpose of re-electing Trump, to spread false information about Joe Biden as part of his long-standing goal of “undermining [American] public confidence in the electoral process.” Iran, for the purpose of electing Joe Biden, mounted a covert campaign to hurt former President Trump’s reelection prospects.             

If Republicans were truly concerned about election integrity, one would think they would have been in an uproar over the foreign interference. But there has been no noticeable outcry from Republicans to punish Russia, as President Biden promised to do, or the other culprits. In other words, election integrity really is camouflage for a different agenda, which is to make it harder for Democrats to vote.        

Last year President Trump, in objecting to a stimulus bill’s funding for absentee and mail in voting, candidly said, “they had levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Before the November election, Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston (R) approvingly referred to Trump’s remark and said that such expanded voting would be “extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” In fact, one of the most aggressive Republican campaigns to limit mail in voting, as well as “Sunday voting” when many Blacks vote, is in Georgia, which Republicans are desperate to take back.         

Despite the overwhelming judicial rejection of the Republican challenges to the 2020 expanded voting, a recent CNN poll found that 53 percent of adults believe that the biggest challenge to election integrity is that the rules are not strict enough to stop illegal voting, while only 39 percent say the biggest problem is that the rules make it too difficult for eligible citizens to vote. As Mark Twain once said, “how easy it is to make people believe a lie . . . and how difficult it is to undo that work again!”             

Final irony: Studies both before and after the 2020 election found that expanded voting measures do not favor one party over the other. Therefore, the most lasting legacy of the election integrity campaign may only be to make it harder for Americans to vote and to damage their confidence in the electoral process, which happens to be what Vladimir Putin is after. 

Gregory J. Wallance, a writer in New York City, was a federal prosecutor during the Carter and Reagan administrations, where he was a member of the ABSCAM prosecution team that convicted a U.S. senator and six representatives of bribery. He is the author of “America’s Soul in the Balance: The Holocaust, FDR’s State Department, and The Moral Disgrace of an American Aristocracy.” Follow him on Twitter at @gregorywallance.

Tags 2020 election 2020 election interference Donald Trump Early voting Joe Biden Postal voting in the 2020 United States elections Ted Cruz Vladimir Putin Voter suppression in the United States Voting

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