EDITORIAL: Republicans declare war on voters

York Dispatch editorial board
A Pro-Trump mob storms the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images/TNS)

We can’t say it often enough: Last year’s presidential election was a marvel of competence and organization. Held amid a global pandemic and threats of cyber-meddling, state elections officials — Democrats and Republicans alike — revised balloting practices to both protect public safety and accommodate overwhelming voter participation.

The results speak for themselves: A record turnout during an election that were virtually free of outside tampering and irregularities.

Many of the tenets adopted to ensure the public could vote safely — expanded mail-in voting and the like — should be put in place permanently as the vote-encouraging practices they are.

Except …

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Except for the unfortunate fact that, despite picking up seats in the House and overcoming an unfavorable electoral map to battle to a tie in the Senate, Republicans saw their front-runner, former President Donald Trump, trounced at the polls.

And despite the overwhelmingly large margin of Democratic victory — more than 7 million ballots and 70-plus electoral votes — the sorest of losers continues to insist the election was stolen.

And despite the failure of dozens of lawsuits challenging the election results, a majority of Republicans — both elected and registered — also refuse to accept the election results.

And despite the fact that he incited a deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol before finally slinking out of office, Trump continues to hold the Republican Party hostage to his political whims and whimsy.

A party that can’t stand up to a petulant bully among its own ranks is certainly not going to stand up for the rights of everyday citizens. So rather than complimenting elections officials for a job well done and codifying the many measures that led to a robust turnout and a problem-free election, Republicans are instead working to undermine those successes.

Working overtime! More than 250 new laws have been proposed in 43 states — including in Pennsylvania — to make it more difficult to vote. The all-out assault on ballot access includes limits on early, absentee and mail-in voting; stricter voter ID laws; reduced voting hours and rigid new eligibility requirements.

Republicans peddle the tired excuse that they’re shoring up public confidence in the integrity of elections. That confidence, of course, would be fine were it not for baseless allegations by the GOP and its leader that the November elections were somehow fraudulent.

It will come as no surprise that many of the proposed restrictions are directed at voters who don’t exactly fit the conservative profile. One example: A bill in Georgia to ban early voting on Sundays — a clear swipe at “souls to the polls” voter drives led by Black churches and one of several measures the Brennan Center for Justice says will harm Black voters in the state disproportionately.

At least one observer senses a whiff of desperation in such measures.

“If your base is ninety percent white, and you’re losing Asian-Americans by two to one, the Black vote by nine to one, and the Hispanics by two to one,” political scientist Thomas Patterson told the New Yorker, “voter suppression becomes the only viable strategic option.”

Viable, perhaps, but also pitiable.

These tactics — and the hundreds of similar suppression efforts that have preceded them in previous years — are facilitated by an egregious 2013 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated key parts of the 1965 Voter Rights Act.

It is now up to Congress to rectify that damage. The House just passed a sweeping voter rights bill but Senate Republicans stand in the way. A separate measure, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, doesn’t go as far as the House legislation, but it does reinstate protections eroded by the Supreme Court.

Democrats should start there and push hard. And every patriotic American who cherishes the notion of free and fair elections should be pushing right along with them.