The GOP won the governorship of Virginia under the kind of easy, hassle-free voting system Democrats love and Trump berates.
Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin arrives to speak at election night in Chantilly, Va. Early Wednesday, November 3, 2021, after defeating Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)
Thanks to Governor Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats in the state legislature, Virginia no longer has a voter identification law. Early voting without excuse is available for 45 days. Voters can, with just one application, continuously receive postal ballots for each election. Election day is a public holiday. When you get your driver’s license, you are automatically registered to vote. And thanks to the combined efforts of Northam and his Democratic predecessor Terry McAuliffe, over the past five years, approximately 284,000 ex-criminals have had their voting rights restored.
Under this regime, the Republicans of Virginia have just won all Commonwealth-wide races – governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general – while also taking control of the House of Delegates, with the highest turnout. of all Virginia gubernatorial elections over the past 24 years.
Republicans in Washington should take note. They should embrace, not fear, expanded access to voting rights. They should stop obstructing voting rights bills and start negotiating with Democrats to pass one.
Virginia is just the latest rebuttal to the Republican hypothesis that expanded voting rights will lead to a Democratic landscape of hell. As I detailed here in February, Democrats are also fooled if they think making it easier to vote is a guaranteed path to victory. Strict voter ID laws have backfired Republicans by galvanizing Democrats. Republicans can and have won in the postal voting states. Neither the pool of low propensity voters nor the pool of disenfranchised former criminals is overflowing with Democrats; they are full of white men known for their republican tendency. As Virginia has shown, with ease of access, Republicans can take advantage of the shifting political winds.
Right now these political winds are turning to the right. In Virginia and New Jersey, another state that recently expanded access to the vote, the two Republican gubernatorial candidates scored seven percentage points better than Donald Trump in their states last year. And New Jersey Democratic Senate Speaker Stephen Sweeney lost his re-election, despite getting more votes than he did in his last six Senate elections, because a truck driver Poorly funded Republican was supported by a spike in turnout.
Since 2022 will almost surely be a GOP year, Republicans don’t have to worry about giving Democrats a “win” by passing a voting rights bill. They should celebrate the prospect of liberalizing the vote in time for a red wave. Making it easier to vote should allow more Republican pickups.
Of course, there’s the small question of what exactly should go into any compromise on voting rights in Congress, as Republicans – ostensibly – remain reluctant to regulate states. But Republicans have already agreed to federal laws, such as the widely supported Help America Vote Act of 2002, passed in the wake of Florida’s hotly contested 2000 recount, which included accessibility requirements that encouraged passage of the mail and advance voting. As West Virginia’s secretary of state at the time, Joe Manchin implemented the law and extended early voting in the state, which has only benefited Republicans for years.
I suggested that both sides could agree to a narrow bill that included a not-so-strict voter identification mandate, emancipation of ex-criminals, and harsh prison sentences for electoral manipulation. Tightening the rules regarding the ratification of votes by electoral colleges is also essential to safeguard democracy.
But the Republicans’ victory in Virginia should make them want a bigger bill, which would expand mail and early voting.
Glenn Youngkin understands that early voting is not a Liberal conspiracy. While Trump has said early voting practically amounts to voter fraud, Youngkin knows it best. The New York Times reported that Youngkin’s campaign held rallies near early voting sites, texted supporters asking if they knew the location of those sites, and knocked on doors promoting the ballot candidacy. postal vote.
Youngkin’s efforts have paid off. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, the Republican part of early voting in The city of Manassas and The Town of Fairfax was 11 and 10 percentage points higher, respectively, than in the 2020 presidential election.
To serve the self-interest of their party, Republicans in state government across the country should also stop restricting voter access. It can be fun to “own the libraries” with legislation imbued with the spirit of Jim Crow, but the GOP risks suppressing its own vote by doing so. Of course, that could be difficult for many Republican officials who have internalized Trump’s narrative that they need voter suppression to survive. Youngkin has proven that a Republican can break free from this narrative, even if he still had to wink at Trump by forming an “Election Integrity Task Force.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could be a real leader and help steer his Republicans away from counterproductive suppression tactics. He helped draft the Help America Vote Act of 2002. At the start of his career, he was even known as a civil rights supporter.
Later in his career, McConnell’s only goal in life was to accumulate Republican power. Well, expanded voting access in Virginia has done just that, and can do it elsewhere. Here’s a chance for McConnell to do the right thing while doing the Machiavellian thing.