Absentee Ballots, Article I, Ballot Harvesting, Brennan Center for Justice, Chain of Custody, Conrad Black, Covid-19, Election Security, Elections Clause, For the People Act, H.R. 1, Hans von Spakovsky, Jim Crow Laws, Mail-In Voting, Nullification, Omnibus Election Transformation bill, Signature Verification, Steve Baldwin, Supreme Court, Tenth Amendment, Vaccine Passports, Vote Fraud, Vote Suppression, Voter ID, Voting Rights
Do a search of “suppression” on Twitter and you’ll be treated to an uninterrupted stream of lefty hallucinations and shrieks about GOP efforts to bring back Jim Crow, subvert democracy, and deny people their right to vote. Every state-level initiative to shore up election integrity is labeled suppression. Well, what we should suppress is the country’s headlong plunge into ballot debasement and jobbery. Election fraud is not new, as the Supreme Court noted in 2008. Ballot harvesting is not new. And we knew well ahead of the 2020 presidential election that the usual safeguards against election fraud were being severely compromised. These changes leveraged vulnerabilities that were of concern to the Left in the not too distant past. Now, any mention provokes indignance!
You Gotta Get Up To Participate
Voting is usually a hassle, but the right to vote does not mean voting must be made effortless; it does not relieve the right-holder of obligations to exert what effort might be necessary, including minor inconveniences to verify that their vote is legitimate. COVID-19 gave momentum to those seeking to eliminate certain obligations associated with voting. After all, exposure to a deadly virus at a polling place would have represented more than a minor inconvenience. In response, 28 state governments instituted changes to expand mail-in voting in 2020 in addition to compromises such as allowing late ballots to count, and the changes were often made without legislative authority.
Predictably, these changes enabled widespread fraud, Even now, after many lawsuits over 2020 election fraud were dismissed on procedural grounds, there remain a large number of election fraud cases in the courts. A substantial share of the voting public believes that fraud occurred on a massive scale. The perceived illegitimacy of the 2020 election represents a real threat to the stability of our Republic.
For the People?
It’s unfortunate that relieving the minor inconveniences imposed on voters creates major opportunities for fraud, but it appears to be in the interest of some factions to loosen those screws. Thus, we have a piece of federal legislation called the “For the People Act”, or H.R. 1 (the omnibus election transformation bill), which has passed the House on a strictly partisan vote and is now in the Senate. The bill would completely usurp the primary (though not exclusive) power of states to regulate elections under the Elections Clause of Article I of the Constitution. The breadth and reach of H.R. 1 would be deemed unconstitutional under any sane interpretation. Here is Hans von Spakovsky:
“H.R. 1 would mandate same-day and automatic voter registration, and encourage vote trafficking of absentee ballots. It would eviscerate state voter ID laws and limit the ability of states to verify the accuracy of their voter registration lists.”
And there is much more in the bill that would undermine the integrity of elections, including registration of the many disenfranchised 16- and 17-year-olds who have long been denied votes. A somewhat more detailed summary of H.R. 1 is provided by Conrad Black. It would:
“…compel states to accept mailed-in votes for 15 days prior to and 10 days after Election Day; set up automatic and online voter registration; prohibit review of the eligibility of voters; compel acceptance of ballots cast in the wrong precincts; bar the removal of the ineligible voters from the rolls; permit ballot harvesting; ban any voter identification laws; consign to unelected officials the redrawing of congressional districts; infringe upon free speech by the imposition of ‘onerous legal and administrative burdens on candidates, civic groups, unions, and non-profit organizations’; and establish a disturbingly named ‘Commission to Protect Democratic Institutions’ in order to end-run the courts.”
IDs Required When It Suits Them
We are told that the disenfranchised can’t be expected to produce identification. Is that so? But identification is required in most jurisdictions in order to receive a COVID vaccination, and there are discussions of how we’ll need to produce cards or “vaccine passports” to participate in a wide variety of activities. But an ID for voting is “suppression”?
Lacking identification, how are individuals expected to become “enfranchised” as a functioning members of society? Yes, if they are citizens then they have a right to vote. But one person, one vote requires some means of verified identity. If they know so much as to vote their pocketbooks, yet will not fulfill a simple obligation to produce identification in order to exercise that right, should they be accommodated?
Of course, there are individuals who need a “helping hand” in order to obtain proper identification, but short of inserting subcutaneous microchips, those individuals must be entrusted to keep it in their possession. That certainly doesn’t provide an excuse to cast aside rules intended to safeguard election integrity.
Is it unfair to expect everyone to vote on Election Day? There must be exceptions for those away from home or unable to appear at a polling place for health reasons. Absentee ballots have long been a feature of our voting system, but they must be mailed on time to prevent the gaming we witnessed in 2020. Having the resources to process all voters in one day might be challenging, so perhaps it’s not unreasonable to allow in-person voting over several days. I would also support a holiday for national elections.
Federalism Vs. Centralized Power
Again, it’s no secret that loosely controlled mail-in ballots are ripe for fraud. A drastic expansion of vote-by-mail facilitates efforts to harvest ballots and even manufacture votes. In 2020, deadlines for ballot delivery were extended indiscriminately. Signature verification was sidestepped. Ballots were shredded. Documented chains of custody were often lacking. Despite all that, even now there are many bills in state legislatures that would expand “voter access” in various ways. These are usually steps that would expose the public to more fraudulent elections and devaluation of legitimate votes.
But there is pushback: as of late February, there were 165 bills in 33 states designed to tighten election security, according to the Brennan Center for Justice:
“These proposals primarily seek to: (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) slash voter registration opportunities; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges. These bills are an unmistakable response to the unfounded and dangerous lies about fraud that followed the 2020 election.”
Conservative states can also resist federal efforts to control elections via nullification: arguably unconstitutional attempts by the federal government to regulate elections should not be recognized and enforced by states. Steve Baldwin asserts that the Tenth Amendment gives states the power to do so:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
There is, however, some ambiguity in Article I regarding the federal government‘s power to regulate elections. Despite the “secondary” nature of that federal power, it has certainly been invoked over the last 150 years, primarily in establishing voting rights previously denied on the basis of race and gender. H.R. 1 does not represent an unambiguous defense of voting rights of that kind, however. Instead, by facilitating fraud, it represents wholesale debasement of voting rights.
Let’s hope traditionally conservative states are aggressive in pressing their primary power to regulate elections on multiple fronts: legislative, nullification of federal overreach, as well as court challenges. And let’s hope H.R. 1 goes down to defeat in the Senate, but it will be tight.