EDITORIAL: Return reality to America’s ballot boxes

York Dispatch editorial board
Ann White of Roswell, Georgia, holds protest signs on the North Wing stairs of the Georgia State Capitol building on Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Atlanta. The governor signed into law a sweeping bill that imposes new voting restrictions later Thursday. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution /TNS)

Not nearly enough is being done to counter the wave of partisan efforts across the nation, including in Pennsylvania, to restrict and suppress voting rights.

From stricter ID laws to winnowed ballot locations to arbitrary policies that enable state lawmakers to oversee (and overrule) elections, the rights of Americans to exercise their franchise — already diluted by gerrymandered legislative districts, ballot purges and other antidemocratic tactics — is under all-out assault.

Nowhere is this attack more blatant, more partisan and more divorced from reality than in Arizona, where the Republican-dominated state legislature has ordered a so-called “audit” of ballots from the 2020 presidential election.

Not all ballots, mind you — just those from Democratic-leaning Maricopa County. State Republicans seized the roughly 2.1 million ballots and handed them over to a private company with no experience in elections audits. (The company’s credentials for the job seem to be little more than a CEO connected with election-fraud theories.)

That’s a sorry first in America. But it wouldn’t be a last if former President Donald Trump has his way.

“The Democrats are desperate for the FRAUD to remain concealed because, when revealed, the Great States of Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, New Hampshire, and the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, would be forced to complete the work already started,” Trump wrote of the Arizona chicanery.

There should be no need to restate the fact that there was no fraud in the 2020 elections — in Arizona, Pennsylvania or elsewhere. The president’s lawyers, in bringing dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits — in Arizona, Pennsylvania and elsewhere — unintentionally confirmed the accuracy and credibility of November’s elections. This is simple reality.

But reality has long since been dismissed in the fantasy world of the right — and no longer solely on the fringes. Efforts to cast doubt on election results and trample voting rights are all part of the GOP’s embrace of the fiction known as the Big Lie, i.e., that Trump won the 2020 election.

This is the single biggest example of Trump remaking the Republican Party in his own image. For four years, administration officials labored to bend reality to the president’s whims. From downplaying a pandemic to Sharpie-doctored hurricane maps, there were few issues on which Trump & Co. embraced facts, norms or evidence.

He even claimed the 2016 election was “rigged,” establishing a presidential commission to root out evidence. The fact that such evidence did not exist still meant something four years ago. That’s not the case any longer, as huge swaths of the party parrot the fabrication that the previous election was tainted.

GOP lawmakers rebrand this refusal to acknowledge reality as a lack of faith in the elections process, which they then use to justify egregious voting restrictions. The most recent effort, in Texas, was stymied this week when Democrats fled the statehouse, denying Republicans the quorum they need to enact new prohibitions and penalties (which, as in many other states, would unduly burden Black and Latino voters).

In Pennsylvania, Republican efforts to revise voting laws, including stricter ID requirements and signature verification for mail-in ballots, would have to get past Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto pen. Still, in a state where dozens of state GOP lawmakers urged Congress to reject their own constituents’ presidential votes, there’s no guarantee against efforts to grant Trump’s wish that “the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would be forced to complete the work already started.”

All of which is why the U.S. Senate must follow the House’s lead and pass the “For the People Act,” which would strengthen voting rights by, among other initiatives, creating automatic voter registration and expanding access to early and absentee voting.

Passage of the act would set the nation on a stronger course toward free and fair elections — not to mention reality.