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EDITORIAL: GOP’s latest push: Voter restrictions

York Dispatch editorial board
In this image from video, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., speaks as the House debates the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania, at the U.S. Capitol early Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (House Television via AP)

Georgia’s Republican state officials did the nation proud in the months following the 2020 presidential election. In the face of unrelenting political pressure — including ethics-breaking, law-bending entreaties from former President Donald Trump — they defended their state’s elections officers, stood by a vote count that went against their own party’s presidential candidate, and defended the integrity of their state’s and, by extension, the nation’s elections process.

That was then.

Those same officials are now using the fraudulent claims they fought so hard against — those baseless fantasies of voter irregularities that were laughed out of every court they besmirched — as an excuse to push for new voter restrictions.

Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and, yes, Pennsylvania are among the states where Republican lawmakers are falling all over themselves trying to make voting more difficult. No coincidence, those are all states captured by Democratic victor President Joe Biden. But red states like Texas and Alaska are also on board with this unfortunate and undemocratic trend.

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Pennsylvania’s voter-suppression efforts include a voter ID law and reversal of bipartisan legislation that allows early voting by mail.

Fans of humor might want to avail themselves of a memorandum on the Voter ID bill written by its sponsor, Lycoming County Republican Rep. Jeff Wheeland, the first sentence of which reads, “The premise behind voter ID laws is to ensure that individuals are not misrepresenting themselves when voting and, thus, potentially negating the votes of others.” Then recall Wheeland was among 64 state GOP lawmakers calling on Congress to negate the vote of all Pennsylvanians by rejecting the state’s electoral ballots.

While Republicans in Pennsylvania and across the nation couch their proposals in words like “update” and “reform,” make no mistake: their efforts are intended to complicate and suppress voting among the young, the poor and those in communities of color — populations perceived as less favorable toward GOP candidates.

Don’t take our word for it. Here’s Alice O’Lenick, Republican chairwoman of the Gwinnett County, Ga., board of elections in suburban Atlanta: “I’m like a dog with a bone. I will not let them end this session without changing some of these laws,” she told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so that we at least have a shot at winning.”

That’s what it all about for Republicans: Winning. Not free and fair elections. Not voting rights.

Not election integrity. Winning.

The shame of it is, this fall’s election was, as the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declared, “the most secure in American history.” Turnout was the highest in at least a century both in Pennsylvania and nationwide despite a raging pandemic. That was largely due to the expansion of absentee and mail-in balloting.

But instead of embracing these new, common-sense efforts to promote and broaden voter participation, Republicans — who themselves did well at the polls, despite the decisive failure of their standard-bearer — continue to cast vague, baseless assertions of fraud. And when their relentless whining about non-existent voting irregularities chips away at public confidence in the elections process, they cite that decline in confidence as yet another reason for voter-restriction campaign.

It’s a craven, dangerous game, and it has already led to bloodshed.

“The attack on our Capitol was the direct result of disinformation and lies — lies that were intentionally spread to subvert the free and fair election and undermine people’s faith in our democracy,” Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar told the House State Government Committee during a hearing on elections practices last week.

There’s one sure way to fight back. However difficult Republican lawmakers make it to cast ballots, voters must answer the challenge, run whatever voting gauntlet is put before them and use their ballots to punish those Republican lawmakers.