By Marissa Yelenik
This past election was a tense one for both of America’s primary parties, resulting in many Republicans struggling to come to terms with the results. The now-former President Donald Trump lost to President Joe Biden, and while this was a relief to some, others found it to be not only an injustice, but a blatant attack on democracy, touting lines such as “Stop the Steal” to show their support for Trump and try to pressure Congress into reversing the results of the election. This resulted in extreme discourse, even causing the Capitol insurrection.
The 2020 loss for Trump came as a shock to many Republicans, with Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin all flipping from their votes for Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020. Some of these states were extremely close, such as Georgia, which was split 49.5% for Biden, 49.2% for Trump.
The close nature of this election was bound to result in recounts, but everything went further than that. Republicans demanded that votes should no longer be counted after Election Day despite being cast on time, as well as red states not allowing mail-in votes to be counted ahead of time, attempting to prevent the count of millions of votes that had been cast well within the rules of the election, and prior to the deadline.
This was a result of the extremely partisan nature of mail-in voting. While Democrats mostly endorsed it, and a significant portion of them used the tool in the wake of COVID-19, the majority of Republicans used in-person voting. The use of absentee and early voting widely increased voter turnout throughout the country. This past election had 66.7% of the population vote, which is the highest percentage since 1900, where 73.7% of the eligible population voted. As many as 70% of voters cast their ballots before Election Day this year as reported by the Associated Press.
Preventing these votes from being counted would hit Democrats, aka majority Biden voters, the hardest. This is not only amoral because of the clear attack against one party, but would discount millions of voters that cast their votes legitimately.
Now that Biden has been inaugurated, his supporters in office have moved past overturning the results of the election and over to preventing a loss like this again. In the name of “election integrity,” they wish to strengthen voter ID laws, namely in Georgia, other states that flipped, and some more traditionally red states as well.
For context as to what that might mean, it’s essential to look at states like Texas, where Republicans already have a lot of control. While voters that are registering can use a driver’s license or handgun license to vote, they cannot use a student ID. This can be seen as a direct target to attempt to get specific types of people to vote and not others. The state does not allow online voter registration or broad mail voting either, making it less accessible overall. Requirements for each state are provided by ballotpedia.org
This is in contrast to a highly Democratic state such as Maryland which allows a driver’s license, student ID card, employee ID card, passport or other government-issued ID, or different types of official identification such as utility bills or bank statements. These forms of identification are significantly broader and allow for more people to register with ease.
These laws disproportionately affect the poor, elderly, and people of color in America, and spreading them to other states will do nothing but harm their citizen’s abilities to partake in their right to vote.
Some of those in power have been outright in why they wish to do this, with Politico reporting Alic O’Lenick’s words regarding changing the rules, “They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so that we at least have a shot at winning.” Alice O’Lenick is a Republican on the board of elections in Gwinnett County Georgia.
The Associated Press details how Republicans in Georgia’s state government are preparing to implement new laws that make mail-in voting more difficult by requiring voters to “make copies of their photo ID and mail it to the election officials twice in order to cast an absentee ballot.”
In another vein, a bill was introduced to eliminate no-excuse mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, another of 2020’s battleground states.
Similar endeavors have been made around the country by different Republicans.
Members of the GOP are attempting to strengthen the requirements to vote and make it more difficult to vote through the mail-in system and absentee ballots; this would harden America’s democracy, and push out less-prioritized groups that have fewer opportunities to make their voices heard. Isn’t the very point of democracy to hear every voice, no matter how big or how small? It is imperative that those with less power are protected, and that voter ID laws do not turn into voter suppression, which could happen so easily.