Republicans Work to Block Voting Changes as COVID-19 Interrupts Election Season
“This is about making sure that we’re able to conduct our democracy while we’re dealing with a pandemic.”
COVID-19 has already disrupted several Democratic primary elections, forcing some states to postpone the contests until May. President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are looking ahead to the November general election, however, and attempting to block voting changes.
Keeping Democracy Alive During COVID-19
By attacking initiatives on a state-by-state basis, the RNC is working to prevent changes, such as vote-by-mail and voter identification laws, POLITICO reported. Other ideas like drive-thru voting have similarly sparked court battles from the Republican Party.
Some of the proposed changes came as a result of efforts by Congressional Democrats who are trying to preempt possible low voter turnout levels due to the coronavirus. In the CARES Act stimulus package, Congress approved $400 million in state assistance to make changes to the election process. However, Democrats wanted billions.
“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said of the bill.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Democratic candidate Joe Biden has encouraged states to rethink how they handle the November election.
“This is about making sure that we’re able to conduct our democracy while we’re dealing with a pandemic,” Biden said. “We can do both. There’s a lot of ways to do it, but we should be talking about it now.”
Vote From Home
The mail-in ballot is a strong point of contention between Trump and Democrats. Georgia and Pennsylvania tried pursuing an option to automatically send every registered voter a ballot. State officials in Pennsylvania, in coordination with the White House, managed to downscale the plan to simply be minor proliferation of absentee voting.
Democrats and Republicans in Georgia agreed to send all voters applications for mail-in ballots, but like Pennsylvania, were unable to send the ballots themselves, POLITICO reported.
In addition to GOP resistance to vote-by-mail, voters in some states are also encumbered by closed polling centers. Over the past six years, 13 states have shuttered a combined 1,700 voting locations. Following the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, many protections of the Voting Rights Act were removed, specifically for predominantly colored communities.
Purges to voter rolls, especially in Georgia, are another issue affecting millions of would-be voters, Slate reported. Taken in tandem with COVID-19, a lack of polling places, dismantled voter rolls, and no viable alternative could all drive down the voter turnout in November.
Trump and Republican operatives argued such measures like beefed-up voter ID laws protect against illegal voting. A few months after Trump took office, he appointed former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as leader for the Commission on Election Integrity. Although the panel was folded less than a year later, Trump and the RNC have continued to pursue its goal of cracking down on fraudulent voting.
“It is beyond disgusting that the Democrats are using this crisis to try to dismantle the integrity of our voting system,” said Justin Clark, a senior Trump campaign counsel. “The American people won’t stand for this, and the campaign and the party intend to fight with them for a free, fair, and open vote in November.”
The Trump campaign announced in February that it would devote an initial $10 million to combat legal challenges to state voting laws. The RNC is also on-board with the idea of preventing voting changes at the state level.
“Democrats know they cannot beat President Trump at the ballot box, so they are trying to use the courts to beat him,” said Richard Walters, RNC chief of staff. “We are going to use the full resources of the RNC to stop them.”
COVID-19 has temporarily changed the way many of people live. Cafes, restaurants, and cinemas are luxuries of a simpler time and it’s uncertain when they’ll return. Voting, a hallmark of the American republic, may also suffer a setback due to the disease. Older voters are more likely to vote. Consequently, those who are most likely to show up on Election Day, may choose not to, resulting in a decrease in the voter turnout.
Some states are trying to expand voting access, primarily with vote-by-mail initiatives, but Trump and the Republican Party are objecting to these on the grounds that they could lead to an increase in voter fraud.