From recounts to courts, evidence is clear: There’s no need to clamp down on voting.
There’s no shortage of issues facing Wisconsin. Continuing coronavirus concerns. Economic fallout. Getting kids back in classrooms. The achievement gap in education. Crumbling infrastructure. Street violence.
Yet what do Republicans and Democrats in positions of authority choose to occupy their time? Fighting over self-serving nonsense for the sole purpose of gaining or preserving partisan advantage.
Wisconsin state government’s primary contribution to pandemic debate has been waging political war over declaring emergencies. Democrat Gov. Tony Evers thought he had the power. Republican legislators said he didn’t. The Supreme Court arbitrated the feud.
Did any of that make a difference for people who were sick or worried about getting sick? Not a bit. Just inside baseball for the partisans.
Now the issue is election law and voting rights. Republican legislators propose an overhaul package, suggesting the integrity of elections is at grave risk. Democrats consider it a non-issue, driven not only by Donald Trump’s loss last November but a Democrat sweep of statewide offices two years earlier. Here’s the script, for those who would rather tune out the rhetoric. Republicans in the Assembly and Senate will pass restrictive bills. Evers will veto them. Republicans lack a two-thirds majority. The vetoes will stand.
Similar situations are playing out all across the country. More than 250 voting restriction bills have been introduced in 43 states by Republican legislators.
And don’t even get us started on what comes next, with partisan redistricting battles looming over the 2020 census.
Is it any wonder the vast majority of Americans—more than 80 percent—say they do not trust politicians?
Partisan excesses come on both sides of the aisle, depending on which side is in power. The far left and the far right are not the solution; they are the problem. Both are extremist. Neither is interested in sharing authority or working toward common ground.
Today we focus on voting access because (1) it’s the topic before Wisconsin government now and (2) it’s the most fundamental building block of American representative democracy. Yet the right has been contested since the founding of the nation, when only landed White males could cast a ballot. America, sadly, has always fought over who gets to vote.
The drive across the country to tighten voting access takes place in the shadow of a lie, namely, that the 2020 election was stolen. The election was the most litigated, most recounted, most examined by legislative hearing in American history. Dozens of lawsuits were adjudicated—many by Trump-appointed judges—and all but one, dealing with a minor issue, were tossed. The U.S. Supreme Court considered multiple Trump appeals and dismissed all, even with a 6-3 conservative majority including three Trump-appointed justices.
Are all those institutions and people involved in some super-secret conspiracy? That’s just silly.
Every American should agree vote fraud is a crime and should be prosecuted. The catch there is that to prosecute requires proving facts in court. The distance between proving a case under law and spreading wild unsubstantiated opinions is, indeed, wide.
Of course election integrity matters. We’re for it and have, for example, supported requiring voter identification.
At the same time we believe nothing is more important to democracy than voter access and encouraging maximum participation through processes that enable rather than impede voters. It is surely suspect when one political party insists—only after an electoral loss, never after a win—that elections are rife with fraud. And it also says something when the traditional base of that party—business and the executive suite—is becoming increasingly vocal in opposition to measures intended to tamper with voting access.
Two decades into the millennium the power struggle is so divisive neither side can accept defeat. Trump won in 2016 fair and square via the Electoral College. Democrats never accepted him as legitimate. Now Republicans seem to embrace only two possible election outcomes—we win or you cheated.
If democracy is to survive, that kind of intellectual incontinence must be penalized by the people.
Either we believe in the sanctity of voters’ decisions, or we believe the American experiment has run its course.
What is happening in Madison, and elsewhere, is shameful.