Why We Are (And Should Be) Talking About Voting Rights Right Now

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s Politics Chat. The transcript below has been edited slightly.

Sarah (Sarah Frostenson, Political Editor): Georgia’s new electoral law hit the headlines because it makes voting harder. Nor is it the only state considering such laws. There are almost 20 states where electoral restrictions have already gone through at least one step in the legislative process. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, more than 300 bills restricting voting rights were incorporated into state law this year after former President Trump and his supporters made fraudulent claims for months that the 2020 presidential election had been rigged. (Sixty percent of Republican voters still say the election “was stolen” from Trump.)

Understanding the implications of laws like Georgia’s, however, is complicated. There is not really solid evidence one way or another that this law will harm Democrats or help Republicans. It’s also a point that eludes a more fundamental point: if one party increasingly supports anti-democratic policies, does anything else outweigh that?

Public opinion on electoral laws is also ambiguous – provisions like a ban on giving voters food and water (something Georgian law did) are unpopular, but voter identification laws are widespread. So, let’s turn to politics, public opinion, and research on electoral law to better understand the contours of this debate, and treat this chat in two parts:

  1. First, how important is it that the Republicans’ election security boost is based on a lie? That said, since there is no evidence that large-scale fraud actually took place in the 2020 elections, does that undermine the Republicans’ argument?
  2. Second, how much are Americans interested in the right to vote as an issue?

OK, first – the argument of the Republicans in support of these new laws. What do you want in order to achieve more “security of choice”? And how important is it at this point that there was no large-scale electoral fraud in 2020?

nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, election analyst): IMO, the “Big lieIs key to understanding Republican motivations. Anyone can agree that elections should be safe. But …

… The specific voting methods that Republicans target (nearly half of the voting restrictions put in place regulate postal voting), the states in which they target them (disproportionately vibrating states), and the timing of that vote (after Republicans lose) 2020 elections) all suggest that they are only passing these restrictions because they believe they will help the GOP win future elections.

Why We Are (And Should Be) Talking About Voting Rights Right Now 1

Alex (Alex Samuels, Political Reporter): But on your second question, Sarah, these are the narrative Conservative lawmakers, and a lot of your constituents got involved, right? That the 2020 election was allegedly stolen from Trump?

There was and is no evidence of massive election fraud Trump and his allies stated as fact. But because it has been repeated so often and with such certainty, large parts of the GOP electorate came to believe it.

As long as the “big lie” remains ubiquitous, we will continue to see efforts to overcome these limitations, as Nathaniel notes.

nrakich: Alex, it’s an interesting question whether these Republican lawmakers actually believe that rampant electoral fraud cost Trump the election, or whether they just go along because it’s politically favorable. But I’m not sure whether it matters either. In any case, they are making a policy based on a conspiracy theory.

Sarah: Right, apart from the question of how much Republican politicians buy the “big lie”, it is ubiquitous among Republican voters: In a Reuters poll from March 30th to 31st, 6 out of 10 Republicans said they still believed the election was “stolen” by Trump “because of widespread election fraud.”

nrakich: And ordinary Republicans are accordingly ready to make voting more difficult in order to achieve the desired result. According to the Pew Research Center only 28 percent of Republicans Now it is said: “Everything should be done to make it easier for every citizen to vote,” compared with 48 percent in 2018.

Alex: Republican politicians also seem to recognize the likelihood that they will not win future elections without changing the electoral system. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Fox News This “mail-in vote is a nightmare for us,” although it was not controversial until last year. I think these changes are more about maintaining power than “electoral fraud”.

And on Nathaniel’s earlier point, few Republican lawmakers are doing anything to prevent these bills from being passed. Even the who don’t necessarily believe there was fraud.

julia_azari (Julia Azari, Professor of Political Science at Marquette University and FiveThirtyEight staff): The argument about electoral security boils down to an argument that people voted who shouldn’t have, right? That there were questionable voices.

And so reforms based on the “big lie” depend on the 2020 elections showing such irregularities. People couldn’t come out and say it was because people of the wrong skin color voted – they might say people should have been ineligible due to changes in the rules for early voting or whatever. But in the context of both the history of the disenfranchisement of African Americans and recent fears about people living in the country voting illegallythe implication is pretty clear. If the solution is to tighten the voting rules, you’ve implied that the problem is with the wrong people voting.

nrakich: Yes, Julia, you can tell by how surgically some of these provisions are targeted. For example, the Georgian legislature originally proposed banning the early voting on Sunday in order to end the “Souls to the Polls” initiatives so popular in the black churches. That provision was not passed, but a provision banning food and water bans to voters in line will disproportionately affect urban areas, where there are both more lines and more color voters.

Alex: Myrna Pérez from the Brennan Center told us something similar, Julia. The bills we see now reflect “a real fear of the tanning of America and the people trying to protect what they have and keep power to themselves.”

Sarah: And as you all say, it is sometimes difficult to see that these restrictions are intended, as some of the more draconian measures are unsuccessful and the exact language of the measures that are successful is not quite as explicit (i.e., “This voting measure is intended to disenfranchise black Americans. “).

Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times argued this in his essay that it is not an exaggeration Compare the current election restriction surge to the Jim Crow era. That said, many of the ramifications and bigger purposes behind these calculations weren’t immediately clear until all the pieces were brought into line. “[T]The special thing about Jim Crow is that it was only “Jim Crow” one day, ”writes Bouie.

However, at this point in time, do Republicans need the “big lie” to push this agenda through?

That said, it seems like a shift is emerging here with Republicans increasingly distancing themselves and focusing more on the elections stolen in 2020 Points against like democrats now characterize the laws (i.e. Jim Crow 2.0).

In fact, we’ve already seen some of these rephrases in Republican politicians criticizing major league baseball players Decision to pull his all-star game out of Georgia on the new electoral law with Mitch McConnell, Chairman of the Senate Minority warns CEOs to “stay out of politics. ”

What long-term strategy are the Republicans pursuing?

nrakich: However, many of the new arguments that Republicans are making are malicious. For example, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp claimed the new Georgia law actually extends the right to vote because it enables early coordination. But that completely ignores that much more objective restrictions in the lawFor example, less time to request a postal vote and the need for postal voters to produce a voter’s ID – not to mention what is arguably the most affected part of the law, the part that allows the state election committee to remove local electoral officials.

Alex: I agree. Republicans’ motivation seems to be anti-democratic in the long run. Even Trump rejected proposals to facilitate voting last year. Now, the post-Trump strategy seems to be focused on how best to win elections, and while Republicans may not have specifically stated that they cannot do this without overhauling the current systems, it appears to be the case be what happened.

nrakich: McConnell’s call for companies to stay out of politics is also pretty funny – it sounds like Bernie Sanders! What McConnell means, of course, is that he wants companies to stop disagreeing with him politically. (Company were closely linked to politics for hundreds of years.)

Sarah: It’s a difficult position for a party traditionally pro-business to adopt this attitude as well.

nrakich: Exactly, Sarah; It’s disingenuous Republicans have historically wanted corporations to be More involved in politics – e.g. B. when they have defended the right of companies to give money to political campaigns.

julia_azari: I mean, part of the Republican Party’s founding ethos was to create a strong economy based on free (as opposed to slaves) labor. 19th century Republicans saw that Purpose of government to be able to grow American business strongly.

So I read McConnell’s statement as “stay out of politics that challenges existing power agreements”.

Alex: Isn’t the Republican argument against MLB that it exaggerates what Georgian law does?

nrakich: What do you mean alex

Alex: Maybe my bias is showing up in Texas, but Governor Greg Abbott said that yesterday He wasn’t going to knock out first place at the Texas Rangers home game after the passage of the MLB “which turned out to be a false narrative about the reforms of the electoral law in Georgia”. (This is evident from what he said.)

Sarah: Right, Republicans are now attacking Democrats for covering up their hand in describing what the laws actually do. But Nathaniel hit this earlier – while Georgia may technically have a longer early voting period, there is less time to request a postal vote, and it’s harder to get a postal vote because a voter must show a voter ID.

julia_azari: The inconsistency of the arguments used by the GOP to defend its position is wild.

nrakich: Yes, Julia, it’s so bizarre! If you really believe that “voting should not be easy” is an acceptable position, you should make this point (e.g. for security reasons).

But instead it’s a lot of Republicans insist that they are the party expanding the voting rights, suggesting that they agree to the premise that restrict Voting is the wrong side of the debate.

julia_azari: I think this shows a key asymmetry (or at least a potential one). Democrats can exaggerate their hand by indignant and indignation at their supporters You end up being accused of being wrong or exaggerated. Republicans, on the other hand, seem to have no effect if they change the logic of their arguments. Instead, they seem to have found a strategy to “break culture” attack when they are scrutinized.

Sarah: Also, what is so hard to untangle in laws like Georgia is that two things really happen at the same time. First there is actual changes to the voting processBut then there are also changes that affect the way elections are conducted, and in the case of Georgia Facilitate politicians to meddle.

Nathaniel mentioned it earlier, but adopted that part of Georgian law that now allows the Republican-appointed State Election Committee to remove local electoral officials and essentially remove the role of the secretary of state in ensuring the fair conduct of elections.

We know that Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger refused to go along with Trump’s request in the 2020 presidential election he finds “11,780 votes” but now that guardrail is gone.

Much of what we are talking about here, however, is controversial if the Democrats are able to prevail their Comprehensive Voting Reform Act, H.R.1.

julia_azari: I’m on the “nothing else matters” team as soon as we’ve crossed a certain anti-democratic threshold. And the electoral management provisions in Georgian law deserve a lot of attention – even if it is not clear what they will mean in practice.

The period between the 2020 elections and the inauguration was presented many attempts to compete with the votes of the electoral college. There was real drama about certification in Michigan, for example. They see a step – albeit a minor one – in the direction that people shouldn’t actually be voting on their electoral list or where state legislation can have a stronger hand in the process. It’s like the early 19th century.

Sarah: Is the right to vote something Americans care about?

Alex: Taking this into account is something Some people have fought for the law for decadesI would say yes. However, others may have a different answer as not everyone is voting.

nrakich: In the past, the right to vote was not an issue that motivated many voters. it barely cracks the list of major problems the country is facing Gallup poll. It’s difficult to upset people about shaky regulations such as: B. whether people should be able to register to vote on election day or sometime before, or whether there should be a week early voting against two.

But I think defining these shaky issues as questions of right and the health of our democracy can be very motivating. Especially when some voters (i.e. colored people) feel that their rights are being curtailed.

Alex: And I think that’s what the Democrats have done so far: framing What’s happening in Georgia and other states as “Jim Crow 2.0”?

This is also probably easier to understand – and more motivating – than explaining the key actions in each individual invoice.

nrakich: Check out what happened in North Dakota in 2018. The state has passed a law that required voter ID cards with residential addresses – something that many Indians who live on reservations did not have. But the law seems to have backfired; The Native Americans were highly motivated to exercise their right to vote in spite of the law, and Native American voter turnout skyrocketed.

julia_azari: Yes, that’s a pretty well-documented phenomenon. However, I want to make sure we make it clear that we are using this as an example of how important the right to vote is to the people, and not in the sense of “These laws are fine because there is always counter-mobilization!” The latter caused so scared on twitter over the weekend as answer to Nate Cohn’s analysis of Georgian law by the New York Times.

Alex: I was torn by the counter-mobilization argument because I saw it uses the same logic to Talk about black voters (i.e., efforts to make voting harder will motivate more people and backfire against Republicans). But people shouldn’t have to overcome unconstitutional hurdles in order to vote!

I’m not saying you are making that argument, Nathaniel, I’m just saying that I’ve seen some people argue that voter suppression is not real because a participation gap did not / did not materialize as expected.

nrakich: I agree 100 percent, both with you and with Julia. Even if a law does not prevent a single person from voting, it can still be restrictive if it creates additional difficulties for existing voters.

For example, even if people are ready Wait hours in line making sure their vote is cast may cause inconvenience non-voting consequencesB. if you have to pay extra for childcare or if you lose your wages in your hourly job.

Sarah: The most important thing, of course, is that people have the right to vote without it being a burden. But I would also like to come back to this question of the impact on the elections, because research is Really mixed on it.

Some studies have suggested that postal voting didn’t help the Democrats in 2020, or as Cohn’s analysis of Georgian law suggests – it’s really hard to know if this will negatively affect turnout in future elections. However, in the research for our 2020 forecast, we found that when we factor in changes, how easy it is to vote based on a in each state Cost of the voting index Researchers have found that states with higher electoral barriers tend to do better for Republican candidates, while states with fewer barriers tend to be Democrats.

nrakich: I think there are many nuances involved in trying to answer this question of the impact on the elections. Discussions like this often summarize different types of voting restrictions (or extensions), but not all voting reform is created equal.

For example, I am convinced of the studies that show that changes to postal voting laws are unlikely to change the outcome of an election. But political scientists have found that things like prohibition / establishment Voter registration on the same day can actually have a significant impact! This thread by political scientist Charlotte Hill was very educational in that regard:

Sarah: It also seems like it would be easier to make the vote easier become an increasingly polarized topicNow, far more Republicans are reluctant to say that “everything possible” should be done to facilitate the vote.

julia_azari: Yes, on the issue of polarization, this debate will not necessarily always be directly related to which laws help which parties, but how voters understand these laws in relation to their own party political motivations – what they dislike about the other party, like their own Identity motivates their partisanship.

This thread by political psychologist Christopher Federico linking support for restrictions to racist attitudes is also useful.

Sarah: Where do you think the struggle for voting rights is headed next?

Alex: Whether Democrats can actually agree on something and H.R. 1 insist is a big open question. But there’s also how many of those restrictive bills will actually pass and where the Republicans will be two years later.

If Republicans only pass a few dozen of these bills, will they keep pushing them in future legislative sessions? (I bet the answer is yes, but I’m excited to see how this plays out over time.)

julia_azari: A couple of questions I’ve been thinking about: First, Trumpism within the Republican Party is about winning elections without winning a majority of multi-ethnic voters, and second, the usual political hardball and the onset of anti-democracy is ending.

And at the risk of sounding stupid, knowing these things are so closely related at this point, I also wonder how to think about what is partisanship and what is race. A truly cynical attitude would suggest that elite Republicans are harnessing the importance of these demographic issues to bring about institutional changes to consolidate power.

nrakich: I just think that voting rights is an extremely nuanced issue where people have to acknowledge a lot of realities at once.

  1. Some voting restrictions are unlikely to affect turnout or who wins.
  2. But others could.
  3. But play / counter-effects can also mess up this calculation.
  4. The electoral impact, however, is only a small part of the reason these laws matter.
  5. They play a role in how they affect the convenience of voting.
  6. Regardless of the impact, intent is important (e.g., it is important for Republicans to push over the election restrictions soon after losing a big election and screaming “electoral fraud”).
  7. It is normatively important that it has become the position of one of the two main political parties that it should be more difficult to vote.
  8. Regardless of the impact, the context is important (e.g. it is not the first time that a state like Georgia has tried to make it difficult for certain people to vote).
  9. It is important to recognize the racist effects / motivations of these laws.
  10. “Voting Restrictions” (or “Voting Extensions”) is an extremely broad term that encompasses a set of more specific proposals that should probably be judged on their own merits, as they each have different implications and are just or unjust to different degrees.

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