3 May 2021
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
The Republican Party has reacted to its defeat in November with a rash of laws designed to make it harder for American citizens to vote in American elections. At a moral level, this is unforgivable. Each has a stake in the democracy, so each must be allowed a voice in its operation. However, at a political level, it is beyond silly. Many of the people they are hurting are the very people who put them in office. The law of unintended consequences is in play here, and the Republicans may be doing themselves more harm that good when it comes to counting votes.
The play that the party is making is based on demography. The Republican voters tends to be older, white and more male than the electorate as a whole. Their thinking is that any change in the law that makes it harder for younger, browner and more female voters to case a ballot benefits them.
Naturally, they deny that is what they are doing. They claim they merely want to make sure the electoral process is secure. The handful of voter fraud cases turned up in the last election were all cases involving Republican voters. The truth is that American vote counting is exceedingly secure because it is exceedingly decentralized.
The Republicans have long had a love affair with absentee ballots. This goes back at least to 1988 when they scored a US Senate seat in a tight election in Florida on the strength of absentee ballots that went 3-1 their way. Republican Connie Mack beat Democrat Buddy McKay by 34,518 votes as a result.
The Washington Post says, "So began a long and fruitful relationship between the GOP and absentee voting. Republican campaigns invested millions of dollars encouraging their supporters to cast ballots by mail. State legislators passed laws making it easier. Over the ensuing decades, GOP voters in Florida became so comfortable with casting ballots by mail that in 2020, nearly 35 percent of those who turned out did so, according to state data compiled by University of Florida political science professor Daniel A. Smith."
In the most recent elections, the Democrats have figured out the game, and they managed to secure two US Senate seats in Georgia by using early voting and mail-in ballots. Rather than work to win over people who vote Democratic this way, the GOP is working to restrict the methods by which the ballots are cast. However, they are harming their own Get Out the Vote efforts by doing so.
For instance, in 2002, Florida's GOP abolished the existing absentee voting system and replaced it with no-excuse mail-in voting. In 2018, the party was still backing early voting by requiring a mail-ballot drop box at every polling site.
The WaPo says, "Over the past decade, more Democrats have taken to the practice of voting by mail, cutting into the Republican advantage. But as recently as 2018, that advantage still existed, albeit more narrowly, with 1,080,000 Republicans and 1,027,000 Democrats voting by mail that year. That was still a meaningful gap: In the U.S. Senate race that year, Scott defeated incumbent Bill Nelson (D) by 10,033 votes, and in the contest for governor, DeSantis's winning margin over Andrew Gillum (D) was 32,463."
What the GOP is missing here is the fact that the Democrats have almost caught up, but the Republicans still hold an advantage. If the laws eliminate 100 votes from the pile cast, and if the votes were 55 for the Republican and 45 for the Democratic candidate, the law will have succeeded in keeping 45 Democratic votes from being cast. The cost, though, is the loss of 55 Republican votes, hardly a winning plan. The Republicans are wagering that they can be more precise in who gets to vote, making sure the hypothetical 100 votes are 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans. Yet what will happen is the Democrats will adapt, as they have before, to the new rules.
Disenfranchisement as a strategy is a short-term fix at best. The cost to denying people the ballot is life-long hostility to the party that did the deed. The law of unintended consequences will create a permanent minority party out of the GOP. That is not good for the party nor for the American Republic. It also seems inevitable.
© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.