April 19, 2021

Democrats: Watch Out for the Most Profoundly Sinister Provision in the New GOP Voter Suppression Laws.

The entrance of major business corporations into the struggle against the wave of GOP voter suppression initiatives is a major positive development. In the current hyperpolarized political environment opposition to voter suppression by Democratic base organizations can only have a limited effect. Opposition by major business organizations, with their ability to withhold campaign contributions, on the other hand, is a potent threat.  

But the dozens of voter suppression bills with hundreds of specific provisions that have been introduced in states across the country make it difficult for defenders of democracy and voting rights to decide which issues they need to prioritize. Learning from the experience in Georgia, the GOP will increasingly remove some of the most blatantly racist provisions in these new bills and add a few others that will allow them to falsely claim that they actually enhance voter access.

There is one particular initiative, however, that is particularly crucial. All of the GOP measures are designed to make voting harder and reduce the turnout of minorities and other pro-Democratic groups but one key strategy is quite literally designed to turn American elections into meaningless, completely empty rituals like they are in police state dictatorships like Russia.

Writing in the strongly anti-Trump conservative publication The Bulwark, the author Jonathan Last defines the danger clearly:

… [The GOP can] Get fewer votes and fewer Electoral Votes and still win if they can prevent the official counting and certification of the Electoral Votes—and then win a majority of state delegations when the contest is shifted to Congress.
You can win the presidency even while getting blown out in both the popular vote and the Electoral College, provided your party (1) Controls the House and Senate. (2) Constitutes a congressional majority in 26 states AND (3) Has sufficient raw political will.
Five years ago this scenario would have sounded like a nightmare designed to scare children; democracy’s version of the Baba Yaga.
Today it’s just an alternative path to power.
…Just go by the numbers: It is likely Republicans will have majorities in the congressional delegations of at least 26 states for the foreseeable future. They have a greater than 50 percent chance of winning the House in 2022 and a pretty good shot at flipping the Senate.
So the first two preconditions for winning the presidency while losing the election are very much on the table. Which leaves just one project: Mustering the political will to move past both the popular vote and the Electoral College.

Last argues that this is the reason why the GOP is ruthlessly and systematically purging every state election official who objected to Trumps attempt to steal the 2020 election and why GOP legislators are introducing bills like Arizona’s HB 2720.

Here’s the relevant section of the bill:

The Legislature retains its legislative authority regarding the office of presidential elector and by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration may revoke the Secretary of State’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election.

In short, under this legislation GOP state legislators would be able to simply throw the millions of votes that were cast in their state into the nearest garbage can and choose whichever candidate they prefer.

Last then comments:

This is how authoritarianism starts. A society goes from the rule of law, to rule by law—where the minority gets just enough power to change the laws so that they can amass more power.
And here is a serious question: If Republicans managed enough votes to sustain an objection to counting Electoral Votes, what would our recourse be? Crossing our fingers and hoping that the Supreme Court steps in?

This is why, amid the many nasty provisions of the new GOP laws, exposing and loudly denouncing these particular initiatives needs to be a major priority for all the pro-Democracy forces that are opposing voter suppression.

As Last says:

What we are seeing—in broad daylight—is that If you have two parties and one of them is openly attempting to subvert democracy . . . well, good luck.
The time to fight against authoritarianism isn’t December 2024. It’s now.