With the Senate poised to vote as early as today on voting rights, Senate Republicans have taken to the chamber floor, arguing that legislation such as the Freedom to Vote Act is simply unnecessary. The American Independent noted yesterday:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) complained on Tuesday that Democratic efforts to protect the right to vote are really just about making Republicans look racist. And though GOP-run states passed dozens of bills to make it harder to vote in just the past year, he said the issue is completely "manufactured."
"As to voting rights itself, I think this is the most hyped, manufactured issue in a long time," the South Carolina Republican argued. "It's not a problem in search of a solution, it's a manufactured problem."
This dovetails with the line Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed last week: "[T]he big lie on the other side is that state legislatures are controlled by Republicans are busily at work trying to make it difficult for people to vote."
I'll confess, this isn't the line I expected GOP officials to take. My assumption was that Republicans would say the wave of voting restrictions imposed at the state level was necessary to "restore public confidence" and prevent fraud.
Instead, GOP senators have effectively been reduced to saying, "What wave of voting restrictions?"
None of this is constructive. This is an issue at the heart of our democracy. It's worthy of a great debate. No one benefits from senators pretending not to notice the 19 states where Republican officials made it more difficult for voters to cast ballots — with more anti-voting efforts on the way in 2022.
Texas Republicans spent part of 2021 making it even harder to vote, banning drive-through voting, restricting voting by mail, banning voting in overnight hours, empowering partisan poll watchers, and restricting absentee voting. Around the same time, Florida Republicans did the same thing, making it harder to use ballot drop boxes, creating new powers for partisan poll watchers, and making vote-by-mail more difficult.
This happened. The real-world effects on the electorate matter. Lindsey Graham may see it as a "hyped" and "manufactured" problem, but for those Americans who find it more difficult to participate in their own democracy, simply because voters had the audacity to elect Democrats in 2020, the anti-voting crusade is all too real.
Even Republicans who know better are playing along. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah this morning insisted that President Joe Biden, by championing voting rights, is "casting doubt on the reliability of American elections" — which is the "same tragic road" taken by Donald Trump.
But that's absurd. Trying to pass legislation to protect voting rights does not undermine public confidence in elections. By Romney's reasoning, Democrats should simply watch Republicans impose voting restrictions without saying anything, because to speak up is to "cast doubts" on the integrity of the system GOP officials have tried to manipulate.
There's a reason today's vote is not likely to go well.