The reality is, mail-in voting benefits voters

York Dispatch editorial board

The Republican National Committee last week formally censured two House Republicans — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — for their participation in the House probe of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The move is unprecedented — one of the chief roles of the RNC, after all, is to protect incumbent Republicans, not tee them up for primary challenges — and RNC Chair Rona McDaniel set a new distance record for stretching credulity in justifying the act. The pair, she maintained, crossed a line by joining in “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

That’s quite a fanciful description of a deadly riot. And it shows just how far rank-and-file Republicans have gone in distancing themselves from reality.

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What does all this have to do with the political landscape in Pennsylvania?

As it turns out, plenty.

That same reality-averse mindset is behind the incessant insistence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump owing to … well, voter fraud or ballot irregularities or some other vague shenanigans that have never been identified, let alone proven.

A ballot drop box is located at the York County Administrative Center Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. Voters have until 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 2, to submit their own, individual mail-in or absentee ballot. The drop box is located in the lobby of the center located at 28 E. Market St. in York City. Bill Kalina photo

No matter; this fantasy has been used as an excuse for all manner of new voting restrictions — hundreds of bills across the country, including in Pennsylvania. The latest local attempt took place just last week, when the Republican majority on the state’s five-member Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of a GOP suit to rescind the popular no-excuse mail-in ballot program.

The 14 Republicans who brought the suit, including state Reps. Mike Jones and Dawn Keefer of York County, argue that the measure is unconstitutional. There were no such concerns in 2019 when 11 of those lawmakers (including Jones and Keefer) voted for the bipartisan measure.

But that was before being a Republican in good standing required ignoring impediments like facts and constituents in favor of delusions intended to appease the former president while providing cover for partisan voting restrictions.

And make no mistake: Doing away with mail-in balloting would have substantial partisan repercussions. Of Pennsylvania’s 6.9 million votes in the 2020 presidential election, some 2.6 million came in via mail-in ballot. Of those, approximately 1.7 million were cast by Democrats. 

State Republicans already tried to have Pennsylvania’s 2020 mail-in votes invalidated. Failing that, they’re now seeking to dismantle the process going forward.

Fortunately, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf stands in their way. His administration has appealed the lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court, which leaves the mail-in measure in place for now. 

That’s where it should stay.

By all rights, the state’s no-excuse mail-in law should be celebrated as the bipartisan success it has been. It has eased ballot access, increased voter participation and facilitated a fair, robust and problem-free presidential election in the teeth of a pandemic. These are all victories, not only for voters but for the democratic process. 

Were Republicans truly concerned about the measure’s constitutionality, rather than trying to pull it from the books they would begin the process of placing a constitutional amendment before voters. 

Don’t hold your breath.

The effort to do away with mail-in balloting is another unhappy example of the state GOP’s hostility to widespread voting access. The state Supreme Court must reverse the lower court decision with all due haste.

Primary elections are just over three months away, and voters will decide on a new governor and U.S. senator this fall, along with the state’s congressional representation. No-excuse mail-in balloting enables the greatest number of voters to take part in these vital decisions.

That’s the reality. Republicans may not want to acknowledge it, but they should not be allowed to alter it.