Friday, May 7, 2021

Trump's ''Big Lie" Drives GOP's Foot Soldiers

Leading Republicans stepped up their efforts at voter suppression last week by advancing new restrictions on absentee and mail voting in two states that President Trump carried in November: Florida, with 51 percent of the vote, and Texas, with 52 percent of the vote.

In Florida, the state’s ambitious Republican governor Ron DeSantis turned the signing of what he called the nation’s toughest election security measure into a nationally televised event on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning [May 6]. DeSantis used the Fox News Channel booking as an excuse for excluding local news organizations from the event, but a Fox spokesperson denied that the network or the program had asked for exclusivity.

Florida followed three other Republican-controlled states in enacting new restrictions on voting against the backdrop of President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that Democrats and left-wing groups stole the 2020 presidential election through widespread voter fraud. Trump has pursued those claims in more than fifty court cases since the Nov.3 election, and no court has validated any of the allegations.

In Florida, DeSantis in fact touted the state’s administration of the election until the Republican-majority legislature began moving the bill known as S.B. 90. The measure limits the use of drop boxes to receive ballots in advance of Election Day.

Some Republicans voiced buyer’s remorse about the bill by noting that the state GOP has encouraged mail voting over the past three decades and that mail voting has been critical for successful GOP candidates, including DeSantis in hjs 2018 race for the governorship.

The Florida law also requires voters to request a mail ballot every two years, instead of every four years. Local election supervisors opposed that provision because of the added administrative burdens.

In Texas, the Republican-majority House of Representatives completed action on an election reform measure on Friday [May 7] after Democrats used parliamentary tactics to secure some softening amendments.

As in Florida, evidence of any election irregularities or voter fraud in the 2020 election is all but non-existent. The state attorney general’s office reportedly spent 22,000 hours looking for voter fraud in 2020 but found only sixteen cases of false addresses on registration forms, according to coverage in the Houston Chronicle.

The Texas bill includes provisions specifically applicable to metropolitan areas with populations of one million or more, such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, carried those counties in the 2020 election.

The Texas measuree still awaits reconciliation with the version of the legislation approved earlier by the state Senate. Texas’s Republican governor Greg Abbott, who described election security as a priority for the current legislative session, is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

The Texas bill would prohibit election officials from sending mail ballot applications to voters unless a voter asks for the ballot first. Among other provisions, the bill would give poll watchers more authority to challenge would-be votes. Democratic opponents of the measure say that provision will lead to partisan intimidation of voters.

Georgia was the first of the states in this legislative cycle to enact a broad election reform measure. Georgia’s measure drew critical scrutiny in news coverage because of a provision making it a crime to provide food or water to voters awaiting in line to cast ballots.

Republican legislators’ interest in enacting new restrictions on voting shows that the party’s foot-soldiers are fully committed to Trump’s “big lie” that he would still be president today but for widespread, never substantiated fraud in critical battleground states, such as Georgia.

In a recent poll conducted by Reuters in early April, 55 percent of Republicans said they believe Trump’s loss resulted from vote fraud or election rigging. The same poll, however, found that 81 percent of respondents think it important for the government to make voting easier.

Trump pressured Georgia’s chief election official in an hour-long recorded telephone call on Jan. 2 to recount ballots in the Peach State and “find” the 11,780 votes he needed to beat Biden in the final tally. The state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, firmly rejected Trump’s allegations of irregularities and has continued to defend the count that showed Biden the victor as fair and accurate.[655]

Meanwhile, Arizona’s Republican-controlled state Senate has hired a private contractor with no experience in administering elections to conduct an audit of the presidential election results in Arizona’s most populous metropolitan area, Maricopa County.

Biden won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes on the basis of an 10,457-vote margin in the popular vote count. Biden beat Trump in Maricopa County by 45,000 votes out of more than 2 million votes cast. Thus, a significant recount after the audit could conceivably change the statewide result in Arizona, but Biden would still have a comfortable Electoral College majority.

A ranking Justice Department official, Pamela Karlan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, notified the Arizona Senate by letter on Wednesday [May 5] that the auditors may be violating federal law by failing to safeguard the security of the ballots.   

The Arizona audit has itself become an article of faith for foot-soldiers in Trump’s Republican Party. New York’s Trump-supporting congresswoman, Elise Stefanik, bolstered her claim to succeed Liz Cheney as the House’s third-ranking Republican by voicing full support for the audit in an interview on Thursday [May 6] with Trump loyalist Steve Bannon on his “War Room” Podcast.




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