EDITORIAL: On voting, GOP takes a holiday from its senses

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE - In this June 27, 2017 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump raised the possibility Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 that McConnell should step down if he can't muscle health care and other legislation through the Senate, taking an extraordinary swipe at the man with the most power to steer the White House agenda through the chamber. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

If there was any doubt that the Republican game plan for maintaining elective majorities is to suppress the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did his best to lay it to rest this week.

Speaking on the Senate floor, the Kentucky Republican decried a House bill to make Election Day a national holiday as a “political power grab” by Democrats, whom, he charged, want to “rewrite the rules of American politics for the exclusive benefit of the Democratic Party.”

In McConnell’s eyes, making it easier for Americans to vote would benefit Democrats. So, who benefits when it is more difficult for Americans to vote?

“This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy?” McConnell brayed. “A brand-new week of paid vacation for every federal employee who would like to hover around while you cast your ballot?” 

We’re not sure where he come up with a “week of paid vacation”? The bill would make a single day — Election Day — a federal holiday. McConnell must be thinking of the Senate schedule, with its four-day weekends and month-long holidays.

But, yes. Making it easier for more Americans to cast ballots does restore — or, at the very least, shores up — democracy. It benefits neither Democrats nor Republicans, but voters.

Of course, it is not democracy that concerns McConnell or many other GOP office-holders. As far as they’re concerned, the more difficult they can make it for voters to exercise their franchise, the better chance Republicans have of staying in office.

Thus, in recent years, we have seen Republican shenanigans like:

  • Wholesale purging of voters from registration rolls for seemingly insignificant matters such as not recently voting or having a minor discrepancy (i.e., leaving out a middle initial) on an application.
  • Candidates overseeing their own elections. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, for example, was the arbiter of last fall’s gubernatorial race, in which he was the GOP candidate (and eventual, if controversial, victor). And, yes, he moved to purge more than 50,000 voters.
  • The closing of polling stations in urban and college communities, perceived strongholds of Democratic support.
  • The use of unfounded claims of voter fraud to justify strict voter ID laws. (Ironically, the only serious case of such fraud involves allegations a campaign worker for the Republican candidate in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District tampered with ballots last fall. That election remains unresolved and a new vote may be required.)
  • Trump administration efforts to include a citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census survey, which critics argue would diminish the response rate among those wary of disclosing their immigration status — subsequently diluting their political representation.
  • Obscenely contorted political districts designed to maximize Republican representation. North Carolina, Wisconsin and Texas are among the worst offenders, and Pennsylvania was among their ranks until the state’s highest court redrew fairer political maps last year.

Ideally, a federal holiday would be just one tool in a voter-encouragement arsenal. Early voting, online balloting and same-day registration would similarly boost the nation’s often-disappointing elections turnouts.

Symbolically, setting aside Election Day as a holiday might also lend some much-needed patriotism to the world of politics. At the very least, it would accommodate voters in states like Florida and Missouri who are forced to wait in line for hours to cast their ballots.

True public servants should have nothing to fear from free and fair elections. They should encourage every voter to vote and every vote to be counted. They should take any steps necessary to encourage robust voter participation.

To do any less is not only self-serving, it subverts the will of the people.