Monday, April 13, 2020

Republicans Making a Mistake in Opposing Voting by Mail in 2020 Election

I am no fan of mail in voting.  While it does increase the possibility of fraud, the far bigger problem is it undermines the American tradition of the secret ballot.  When a voter receives a ballot by mail, there is no guarantee that he or she will be able to fill out that ballot in private.  Employers, union leaders, friends, spouses and other family members can all exert influence on as the voter is casting his or her ballot.  We do not allow that sort of influence, which can bleed into intimidation, during in-person voting.  Rather it is the voter alone in a booth, cloaked off from the influence of others, casting a ballot.

I know the over-simplistic view both parties have when it comes to voting.  Republicans do not want to make voting easier.  They believe the less motivated voters are more likely to vote for Democrats.  Democrats on the other hand want to make voting easier because they believe voters who often do not show up to the polls would favor their candidates.

Republicans think any effort to make voting easier opens the door to fraud.  While that is true, actual cases of voting fraud are rare, and certainly not widespread.  Democrats, on the other hand, oppose reasonable ballot security measures like photo ID requirements and purges from the voter registration rolls of people who have not voted for years, undoubtedly because they had died or moved..  When I worked as a precinct committeemen, I would see the first hand the list of my neighbors eligible to vote in the precinct.  I would estimate maybe 10% to 20% on the list of eligible voters were people who had passed away or moved.

Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos
on his way to work the polls
Republicans complain about "voter fraud" every election. Rarely is it the case.  Democrats claim "voter suppression" ever election. Rarely is it the case.  Both sides cry wolf and, thus, nobody believes them when the wolf actually shows up to eat them.

The election that took place last Tuesday in Wisconsin though was an example of real Republican voter suppression. Although billed as a "primary," it was actually a general election for some races including a hotly contested election for a Supreme Court justice position.  Republicans who control both houses of the Wisconsin legislature, refused to change the law to allow a delay of the election despite the fact that Wisconsinites were subject to a mandatory stay-at-home order.  Initially the Democratic Governor said he had no legal authority to delay the election, absent legislative action, then at the last minute tried to do exactly that.  Courts ultimately found the Governor had acted without authority and allowed the election to take place, a decision that the United States Supreme Court refused to reverse on a 5-4 vote.

Although I have not yet read the decision, I'm inclined to agree with the outcome.  The purpose of the courts is to interpret and rule on the law, not to act when legislative bodies refuse to pass a "good" law.

The result of the decision was that only five voting locations in heavily Democratic Milwaukee were open on election day and voters who had to cast a ballot had to violate the stay-at-home order and risk their lives.  No doubt turnout in the state's urban (i.e. Democratic) areas was dramatically lower which should no doubt help the Republican Supreme Court candidate.

It was such a foolish, short-sighted decision to hold the election.  No doubt the move will probably help the GOP candidate win the Supreme Court seat.  But what will the consequences be long-term for the Wisconsin GOP that insisted that voters risk their health, even their lives, by holding the election in the midst of a pandemic?  Robin Vos, the Republican Speaker, defended the legislature's refusal to delay the election by insisting  that it was "incredibly safe to go out" to vote.  Then he showed up to volunteer a the polls wearing full hazmat gear.  Apparently Vos and his fellow Republicans think Wisconsin voters are really stupid.  My guess though is Wisconsin voters are going to remember the election in which Republicans insisted voters risk their lives to vote and the GOP is going to pay a price for that.

Wisconsin should be a wake-up call for Republicans considering how voters can cast ballots in the general election.    The concerns over Covid-19 might still be present come November, either because we're still in the first wave of the pandemic or are concerned about a second wave.  No doubt, health concerns could cause a substantial decrease in voter turnout.

I know, according to the playbook, lower turnout generally favors Republicans. That though is an oversimplification and it does not apply to the current situation  Older voters tend to be more supportive of Republican candidates, and especially President Trump, than younger voters. The Covid-19 pandemic though hits older voters hardest   If older voters are afraid to go to the polls and cannot vote by mail, that hurts Trump and other Republicans.

Republicans should compromise with Democrats and support mail-in voting for the November 2020 general election. The negative, i.e. the possibility of increased voter fraud, doesn't begin to outweigh the positive, i.e. ensuring that older people, who are more inclined to support Republicans, be able to vote.


Anonymous said...

“ We do not allow that sort of influence, which can bleed into intimidation, during in-person voting. Rather it is the voter alone in a booth, cloaked off from the influence of others, casting a ballot.”

Have you seen how Democrat PCs operate when they are serving as election judges? The ones I worked with over the years do everything but fill in the circles for the voters.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 6:34,

What you describe is not necessarily illegal. In Indiana, a voter can ask a relative or friend to accompany him or her into a voting booth to provide assistance. An affidavit of assistance should first be filled out, which affidavit is in the voting supplies. If such a person is not available, the the voter can also ask an election worker to assist. In that case, there is supposed to be both a Democratic and Republican worker present. So, yes, a voter can ask a Democratic judge can help a voter fill out a ballot if requested. There should be a Republican poll worker there though.

Anonymous said...

Right, Paul. You know damned well in some of the wards - particularly the Center Township wards - there are NO Republican poll workers in the polling locations. Granted it's not a matter of who gets the vote, that's a given. It's all Democrat votes. Its just a matter of how many.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 10:40 pm, I agree that in several precincts in Indianapolis, Republicans have trouble getting people to work the polls. (I suppose there are some precincts in affluent areas of Hamilton County where Democrats might have trouble finding people to work, but the problem is much, much worse in heavily Democratic areas.) I certainly wouldn't say the lopsided votes in those precincts are the result of fraud though. Republicans just aren't popular with African-American voters, unfortunately, even more so in areas where poverty is prevalent.

The situation you cite though is why I 100% support the old precinct voting system getting replaced by vote centers where people can cast a vote at any of the centers in Marion County on Election Day. Think fewer, but larger voting locations. Staffing 400 or so precinct voting locations (multiple precincts are often vote at the same location) in Marion County with R and D workers has become increasingly difficult, if not downright impossible. Replacing those with 75 voting locations that can all be staffed with workers of both parties would greatly enhance election security and allow more convenience for voters. Unfortunately, the Marion County Republican and Democratic parties have fought against vote centers. Nonetheless, I believe last I heard vote centers were coming to Marion County, maybe on a trial basis. I sure hope so.

Anonymous said...

>>Republicans just aren't popular with African-American voters<<

Of course not. LBJ bought them off with the Great Society programs.

>>Staffing 400 or so precinct voting locations<<

Remember when it was over 800 locations with 914 precincts before wards were consolidated?

>>Unfortunately, the Marion County Republican and Democratic parties have fought against vote centers<<

We know why the Dems don't like them. Surprising the GOP now doesn't like it considering it was Todd Rokita during his tenure as SoS whose administration came up with the idea.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 7:44,

The big switch in blacks supporting Democrats happened in 1936 with FDR. (In 1932, a majority of black voters voted for Hoover over FDR). Still the GOP was getting 1/3 of the vote until the 1964 Goldwater-LBJ election. It's been about 10% ever since.

I think you mean consolidated the precincts. I thought it was kind of weird to consolidate the precincts for the purpose of reducing the # of polling places and workers needed. I didn't like the huge precincts that were created in terms of servicing that precinct as a PC. Yes, Todd Rokita, was pushing vote centers. But whether to adopt them was made a county decision and both parties in Marion County resisted them. Both parties locally want to be able to have their district candidates and their supporters passing out literature at precinct voting locations where the voters are all voting on those candidates' race. When you have vote centers there are a lot of people voting who may not live in the candidates' district. So handing out literature to those going to the polls is much less effective.