by Steve Haner
With the 2021 General Assembly receding in the rear view mirror, the voting rules for this year’s Virginia elections are set. Republicans who are whining that the deck has been stacked against them are making a mistake. Every change the Democrats see as a benefit to them is of equal benefit to Republicans.
If your locality is one of those that agrees to open the in-person early voting process on a Sunday, who is to say which churches will load up the buses and fill the line? Every conservative evangelical pastor can now set up a “Souls to Polls” drive, right after the sermon in which a candidate was carefully not endorsed. Why not?
One of the largest mistakes former President Donald Trump made a year ago was his clear message to discourage his own voters from using the no-excuse absentee or other early voting process in their states. He was seeking to manipulate a larger lead in the Election Day overnight counts, which we all knew would shrink or reverse once absentees were counted in the days that followed.
But standing in long lines in the pre-dawn cold is not fun. Add in a pandemic, and quite a few people intending to vote Republican would have greatly preferred the early- or absentee-voting method. Some who feared infection may have skipped voting because of Trump’s bad advice. Maybe many.
If the Republicans in 2021 are not as or more aggressive as the other party in encouraging the alternative voting methods, shame on them. With reasonable time limits, voter verification and firm deadlines, there is no objection to early in-person voting or no-excuse absentees. The rising turnout tide should lift both boats.
By what evidence does one believe that every felon being released from a Virginia prison and returned to voting will vote for Democrats once registered? If Republicans fail to match the other party’s outreach to that newly-enfranchised population, they will be actually throwing away votes. Certainly if only Democrats reach out, that party will reap the biggest advantage.
There is every reason to believe that former felons are just as likely to respond positively to candidates promising lower taxes, less regulation and improved local education. They might be just as worried about crime getting out of control. If Democrats have their way, some of those restored voters will have run afoul of gun laws and be itching to vote against the party that passed them.
Too many Republicans these days would rather complain about the rules than learn to use or even exploit them. The best example remains the aversion to primaries, with the idiot notion that only members of the inner, insular club should be allowed to pick nominees. Republicans pay taxes to cover the coming June 8 primary, which they refused to participate in.
Right now local GOP units are combing their convention delegate filing lists to identify anyone who might have voted in a recent Democrat primary. These are called swing voters, the people who actually determine the election outcome. Republicans keeping them on the outside is all the explanation anybody needs for how Virginia has turned blue.
Credible polling indicates that the vast majority of Americans, including a majority of Democrats and even a majority of black Americans, support presenting identification before voting. But Republicans need to be just as aggressive as Democrats in telling people that lack of identification is no longer a bar to voting if you will take the extra time to fill out a provisional ballot.
Do Democrats want absentee ballots with little or no security? Great. Make sure all voters also know that no witness signature is required anymore. Ballot harvesting is way harder to catch without that.
The process of reviewing and “curing” absentee ballot errors has no partisan edge, especially if sufficient Republican activists are inside registrar offices and polling places as volunteers or observers. This is another area where Democratic energy demonstrated in 2020 needs to be matched or exceeded by Republicans now. The main defense against fraud is that army of trained observers.
Allowing people to register to vote on Election Day itself is another change that will cut both ways if the Republicans are willing to take full advantage. It is still a concern that large numbers of such folks may show up in a busy precinct and back up the lines. There could be mischief, but an equal opportunity for mischief.
From some will come this response: But we must stand on principle! It would be wrong for us to behave like the Democrats! Pray tell, which behavior of the Democrats worries you? Winning? The rules are set. Use them.