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Trump's 'big lie' has become the GOP's newest voter suppression weapon

The GOP’s war against voting rights continues.
Photo illustration of an elephant sitting over a fallen voting booth
The GOP is still making it harder to vote — specifically for people who aren't voting Republican.Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

If there’s one thing the GOP hates, it’s “cancel culture.” Republicans have cited their opposition to cancel culture to justify their defense of just about everything, from refusing to rename military bases and monuments that bear the names of Confederate generals to defending former President Donald Trump during his recent impeachment trial, which they dubbed “constitutional cancel culture.” Their distaste for the phenomenon is the theme of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference.

There’s one thing that Republicans have long loved to “cancel:” voting by non-Republicans.

At one point, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, called cancel culture the “most dangerous thing happening in the country today.”

And yet, there’s one thing that Republicans have long loved to “cancel”: voting by non-Republicans. Since Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, the GOP has taken this love to new heights — or lows, if we’re to be accurate.

The Brennan Center, a nonpartisan policy institute, says in a report that 33 states have “introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access.” That is more than four times the number of bills introduced this same time last year, the center says, calling it “an unmistakable response to the unfounded and dangerous lies about fraud that followed the 2020 election.”

Trump's biggest lie of 2018

Dec. 25, 201807:59

That means that despite Trump’s loss, his “big lie” is now being weaponized by the GOP as justification to suppress voting in key battleground states that Trump lost, such as Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. These efforts range from making it harder to register voters to ending early voting days to limiting mail-in voting and beyond.

For an overview of the GOP’s cancel-palooza, let’s start with Georgia, which President Joe Biden won by a little over 11,000 votes. Despite the state’s GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger declaring after the 2020 election that “Georgia’s voting system has never been more secure or trustworthy,” the state has introduced 11 bills that restrict voting under the guise of “voter integrity.”

On Feb. 18, new legislation was introduced by a leading GOP member of the Georgia Legislature, which voting rights activists say was designed to make it harder for people in “larger, minority-heavy Democratic strongholds of the state” to cast their ballots.

One proposal would end early voting on Sundays, which, as local activists noted, is intended to undermine the “souls to the polls” get-out-the-vote effort organized by Black churches across the country that takes place on Sunday mornings during election season and serves a demographic that overwhelmingly votes Democratic. Nancy Flake Johnson, president of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “By seeking to eliminate Sunday voting, you are targeting people of faith whose jobs and economic circumstances make it hard for them to get to a polling place.”

Despite Trump’s loss, his “big lie” is now being weaponized by the GOP as justification to suppress the vote in key battleground states.

In Arizona, which leads the nation with 19 bills introduced to restrict voting, the proposals include mandating that mail-in ballots be notarized in order to count. This is despite the fact that the GOP member of the Arizona Legislature who introduced the bill conceded that many people don’t have access to a notary. Notarization can also require a fee, making it in essence a new form of poll tax that makes it more challenging for lower income Arizonans to vote — again, a group that tends to vote Democratic.

But that’s nothing compared to another Arizona GOP proposal that comes as close to a literal manifestation of canceling Americans’ votes as you can get. This one would empower the Republican-controlled state Legislature to override the will of the voters and appoint electors to support the presidential candidate of their choosing. The GOP is not going to let a little thing like democracy get in the way of acquiring political power.

In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, the GOP-controlled state Legislature in 2019 installed no-excuse voting by mail, making it easier for people in the state to vote. In the 2020 election, registered Democrats used mail-in ballots three times more than Republicans, helping propel Biden to victory. It’s no surprise that GOP members of the Pennsylvania Legislature now want to cancel no-excuse absentee voting.

Even in Iowa, a state Biden did not win in 2020 but is still regarded as a battleground for the future, Republicans are doing their best to cancel measures they think increase access to the ballot box for non-Republican voters. On Feb. 18, GOP-controlled committees in the Iowa Senate and House agreed to reduce the dates allowed for early voting. That’s no surprise given that, as NPR has noted, “in-person early voting tends to lean Democratic.”

There’s no good faith reason to enact these bills.

There’s no good faith reason to enact these bills. After the 2020 election, Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, stated, “We have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election." That was backed up by Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, which called the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

We don’t have to guess why these changes are happening. Alice O’Lenick, the GOP chair of the board of elections in Gwinnett County, Georgia, told us why in January when she said, “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.”

At this rate, it feels like we are just one more big GOP loss away from Republicans proposing voting measures that only allow registered Republicans to legally cast a ballot.

That’s why the same Republicans who claim cancel culture is the worst thing facing America are all too happy to cancel your vote. Next time you hear the GOP whine about cancel culture, remember they only hate it when it affects one of their own — if it helps them politically, that’s another story.