The Dishonesty of Restrictive Reforms

The fixes worsen the stated problem (more on Iowa and other states' attempts to restrict voting).

Iowa State Representative Bobby Kaufmann (R), one of the co-sponsors of the elections bill I wrote about earlier today, defended the bill and its need thusly(Iowa Republican lawmakers fast-track bill to revamp elections, embracing false claims about voter fraud):

“The ultimate voter suppression is a very large swath of the electorate not having faith in our election systems, and for whatever reason, political or not, there are thousands upon thousands of Iowans that do not have faith in our election systems,” he said.

Here’s the thing about that quote: by passing legislation that addresses made-up problems, Iowa’s legislature is helping to confirm, not dispel the lack of faith that Representative Kaufmann is supposedly trying to combat.

By making vote-by-mail harder and calling that an increase in “security” and “integrity,” the state legislature is simply lending credence to the unwarranted fears of citizens who were convinced that there was a problem in the first place. After all, if the adage is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” then allegedly fixing it is confirmation that it was broken.

In other words, instead of actually making people feel better about a process that worked, they have simply fed into the narrative that there was a problem.

It’s as if they aren’t being honest about their motivations or something.

Aaron Blake at WaPo (which is where I first saw the quote above) goes on to point out that the provisions that were addressed in the law, beyond driving a false narrative, don’t even address stated concerns in that narrative: What the GOP voting restrictions actually do vs. what proponents claim.

For example, how does limiting early voting days or cutting an hour off election day combat either electoral fraud or the perception thereof?

Answer is, of course, that it doesn’t.

Or, he notes, in regards to new restrictions related to mail-in voting:

And most states require that mail ballots be received by Election Day. But if your justification is to combat perceptions of fraud, it’s not clear how these address that. (Accepting postmarked absentee ballots later doesn’t change how valid they are; it merely extends the counting process.)

If there are real problems, let address them, but it is dishonest to cast any change to election laws as having to do with security and integrity when mostly they are just new restriction on how voters can vote and when.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics, Voting
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    There’s a line in “Darkest Hour,” when Churchill is talking to Roosevelt over a problem with the delivery of some fighter planes, where Churchill says “But we paid for them, with the money you loaned us.”

    I’m reminded of it whenever I hear Republicans complain about this issue. “But we must secure the elections, from the perception we made up that they’re not secure.”

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  2. Loviatar says:

    If there are real problems, let address them, but it is dishonest to cast any change to election laws as having to do with security and integrity when mostly they are just new restriction on how voters can vote and when.

    —–
    While this thread is in reference to retiring Republican senators, it can also be applied to most Republican lawmakers and their attacks on our voting rights.

    Oh all these people are uniformly cowards. It’s why so many of them continue to lie to their voters

    There may be different flavors, but I think at the heart it’s all of them having nothing of value in their lives other than political office

    When you’re terrified of losing an election – because you don’t know what you’d do with yourself – you start doing dumb sh*t to stay

    2
  3. steve says:

    Liberal hotspots like Kansas, Texas, Mississippi and West Virginia have been accepting votes days after the election as long as they are postmarked by election day. Was not an issue in the past. Now it is since it is perceived by Trump supporters that this somehow causes fraud.

    Listened to a Georgia Republican on drive to work. When asked he didnt want different cities or counties to be able to decide what works best for them so they could avoid long lines. He didnt want local decision making, he wanted it at the state level. Then asked why he didnt like HR1 and he said he opposed centralized decision making. Pretty clear they dont care if decision making is centralized, they just want the decisions they favor.

    Steve

    Totally aside here but we really need the equivalent for news shows of MST 3000. Some commentary in the background by a couple of sharp clowns to ridicule our public servant clowns.

    10
  4. Gustopher says:

    And most states require that mail ballots be received by Election Day. But if your justification is to combat perceptions of fraud, it’s not clear how these address that. (Accepting postmarked absentee ballots later doesn’t change how valid they are; it merely extends the counting process.)

    With a poorly educated (or deliberately misinformed) populace, seeing vote percentages swing after the election absolutely looks like fraud. Obviously, there are good and bad ways to address that, but pretending that there isn’t a perception of fraud isn’t one of them.

    We have a (manufactured) crisis in confidence in our elections. And we need to fix that, along with the very real problems of voter suppression.

    I think disbarring the Trump lawyers might be a good first step.

    And then tracking down the white, conservative voters caught up in the voter suppression schemes and publicizing their cases far and wide so white people get scared of their vote being taken away by the same schemes used to disenfranchise blacks. And then solve those white people’s problems in ways that are universal.

    Most Americans aren’t open racists. They won’t support openly racist policies when they understand them. They do need to be slapped around a little to get them to pay attention though.

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  5. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think this is precisely what Karl Rove was referring to when he said, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

    They have created a reality where voter fraud is a scourge precisely so that they could create more voting restrictions. It’s dishonesty taken to the next level. It’s also standard practice for many businesses, the innovation was in applying them to government.

    3
  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    It’s as if they aren’t being honest about their motivations or something.

    I thought their motivations were quite clear. I heard “Kneegrows voting causes a very large swath of voters [the white swath] to lose faith in the system.” Did I get that wrong or something?

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  7. Mu Yixiao says:

    I’m going to lay a healthy (though minority) portion of the blame on the doorstep of the Democrats–because they’re absolutely tanking on marketing and PR.

    The Republicans are whipping people into a panic and the Democratic response has been “Um… No. That’s not… don’t believe them. They’re…. umm… that’s not true.”

    Why isn’t the DNC blasting the airwaves* with messages showing that Republicans in charge of elections said that the elections were legit? “These are your people. Trust them.”

    Why aren’t they bragging about the numbers? 6 fraud cases per election in Iowa? Show a map of the state and the question “how many cases of voter fraud were there?” Zoom in to a county. “Nope”. Zoom in to a city. “Nope”. Zoom in to a football stadium. “Nope”. Zoom in to a restaurant. “Nope”. Zoom in to a family of 6 at the dinner table. “Yep”.

    In the 1960s, Alka-Seltzer doubled their sales by using the slogan/jingle “plop plop, fizz fizz”. Two plops instead of one.

    The Republicans understand how to manipulate people. Trump is a master at it (though he has no clue what to do once he has them). The Democrats keep trying to present a rational proposal and hope that people understand it.

    Wag the dog.

    * I’m old school. Replace “airwaves” with whatever’s appropriate these days.

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  8. Scott F. says:

    Part of the problem is that Kaufman can make such a statement during a public hearing and apparently no one laughed in his face or pointed out how he clearly doesn’t understand big words like “suppression” or “electorate” or “faith” or “do.” It’s become so profoundly easy for a politician to full on lie that I long for the quaint old days when it was only about false narratives. Complete alternate facts are a thing now and it’s not a both-sides phenomenon.
    @Mu Yixiao:
    There is no countering bald face lying with PR. Expecting Democrats to meet Republican manipulation with something other than rational proposals (irrational conspiracies, maybe?) is misdirection from the real problem.

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  9. Bill says:

    Early voting should be for invalids, period. Trying to make it about the very few at the expense of the rest is just as stupid as it sounds. Voting is not like passing basic math, it’s so easy….even for Democrats.

  10. Mimai says:

    by passing legislation that addresses made-up problems, Iowa’s legislature is helping to confirm, not dispel the lack of faith that Representative Kaufmann is supposedly trying to combat.

    By making vote-by-mail harder and calling that an increase in “security” and “integrity,” the state legislature is simply lending credence to the unwarranted fears of citizens who were convinced that there was a problem in the first place. After all, if the adage is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” then allegedly fixing it is confirmation that it was broken.

    [donning my generous perspective-taking hat]Here is how I suspect they might counter: “These changes make for a stronger system regardless of whether the original system was broke. If the original system wasn’t broke, these merely make the new system more robust than the original. If the original system was broke, these changes fix the problems and make the new system more robust too. It’s a win-win. How could you be against that?!”

    Can I peer into their hearts/souls (insert snarky reply here) to discern their true intent? No. Are my priors based on them having nefarious intent? Hells to the yes.

    3
  11. steve says:

    I work long hours sometimes, especially if there is a really bad OR/ICU case. I have missed a couple of elections because of that. I think it would be great if we could switch to all mail in voting. Early voting on weekends would be second best. If you dont have a job and you can stay home all day watching re runs of Trump’s greatest hits I guess in person voting isn’t a big deal but I am all in favor of government making things like the right and ability to vote easier.

    Steve

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  12. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Bill:

    Early voting should be for invalids, period.

    Like overseas military ?

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  13. Gustopher says:

    @Bill: Are you willing to scale out the voting infrastructure by a factor of 10 to 20?

    Early voting reduces lines, and makes it easier for people to vote. Once the lines on Election Day are routinely under an hour, everywhere, we can talk about reducing early voting.

    4
  14. Gavin says:

    @Bill:

    Early voting should be for invalids, period.

    Nope. It’s not remotely difficult.

    Ballot dropbox at city building. Security cameras on it and city cop parked shining headlights on it 24/7. Mail the ballots out so they’re received by residents ~6 weeks before election date. Start and stop dates all over the ballot and local news. The larger the city, the more locations.

    The above is public knowledge to anyone who spends time in a state that actually believes in democracy.

    The fun, of course, is that Republicans are the only ones who commit voter fraud. They’re also, clearly, the Party of Big Ideas!

    2
  15. Nightcrawler says:

    This is why I’m so afraid these lunatics will wrest back control of both houses of Congress in 2022, then full power in 2024.

    Despite what Biden says, America being “back” is only temporary. Other countries shouldn’t trust the U.S. to keep its promises. This country doesn’t make promises. It makes “promises.” A “promise” from the U.S. and $1 will buy you a cup of coffee at Wawa.

    3
  16. Nightcrawler says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Or people who travel extensively for work, or work insane hours, like doctors and nurses, or people who aren’t “invalids” per se but have great difficulty getting around. Think cancer patients on chemo or people recovering from accidents.

    2
  17. Bill says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: That’s a different animal, and making the “exception” the “rule” isn’t the answer.

    The fun, of course, is that Republicans are the only ones who commit voter fraud. They’re also, clearly, the Party of Big Ideas!

    That’s hysterical, no need to even research this….

    Or people who travel extensively for work, or work insane hours, like doctors and nurses, or people who aren’t “invalids” per se but have great difficulty getting around. Think cancer patients on chemo or people recovering from accidents.

    Once again, dragging out the few exceptions and trying to make it the norm.

    1
  18. mattbernius says:

    Nothing like knowing who, if this was a 1950’s letter to the editor column, would be writing defenses of poll taxes and quizzes. The “they would find a way to do it if they wanted to vote badly enough” defense has a long and sordid history here in the states.

    5
  19. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Bill:

    trying to make it the norm

    I propose that the “norm” ought to be facilitating every eligible voter access to exercise their franchise.
    Every obviously includes all exceptional voters: invalids, out-of-towners, transportation challenged, employment challenged, etc.

    Apparently you disagree, what the “norm” should be.

    7
  20. @Bill:

    Early voting should be for invalids, period.

    I’ll bite: why? Why do you have this position (and are you aware that there are some states that have been doing vote by mail for years?).

    3
  21. @Bill: And why are you opposed to making it easier for all citizens to exercise this very fundamental action of citizenship?

    2
  22. @mattbernius:

    The “they would find a way to do it if they wanted to vote badly enough” defense has a long and sordid history here in the states.

    Yup.

    4
  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Bill: When the list is getting as long as it’s become, perhaps it’s time to stop calling them “the few exceptions.” Just sayin’. 😉

    3
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @Bill: And why are you opposed to making it easier for all citizens to exercise this very fundamental action of citizenship?

    You’re asking this question? Of Bill? Really? I wish I had your generosity of spirit. (I mean, I used to for my students, but even then, it was a challenge a fair amount of the time.)

    1
  25. JohnMcC says:

    @mattbernius: If they really, REALLY wanted to vote they’d know how many jelly beans are in that fish bowl.

    4
  26. Nightcrawler says:

    @JohnMcC:

    And how many barbers are in NYC, and how many golf balls can fit inside a 747.

    1
  27. Nightcrawler says:

    As an aside, who in the hell still calls ill and disabled people “invalids”? That went out the door with words like “barren,” “colored,” and “retarded.”

    As it should have. It’s insulting. The ill and disabled aren’t “valid” people?

    1
  28. NW Steve says:

    @Bill:

    Trying to make it about the very few at the expense of the rest is just as stupid as it sounds.

    So how exactly is it “as the expense of the rest”. I presume that you mean that having people vote in ways other than your preference constitutes an “expense” for you. I’d be happy to hear your differing interpretation.