The New York Times ran a striking report this morning, highlighting the behind-the-scenes efforts to prod Republican legislatures across the country "to usher in a raft of new restrictions on voting." It's a sizable effort involving the Republican National Committee, groups such as Heritage Action, and pre-written statutory language that is being exported from one state to another.
It's a big piece that fits into a larger puzzle: a recent Washington Post analysis noted that the GOP push to impose new voting restrictions may very well amount to "the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction." As of last week, the Brennan Center found that more than 253 bills restricting voting access had been carried over, pre-filed, or introduced in 43 states.
The Associated Press reported that the Republican Party's "nationwide campaign to restrict access to the ballot" has become the GOP's "unifying mission," eclipsing other traditional issues. It's partly why conservative groups aligned with the party have pushed their own agendas to the side and started emphasizing the war on voting in their messaging.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would apparently have us believe, however, that the entire voter-suppression initiative is an elaborate mirage. Axios reported this morning:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) claimed during a hearing Wednesday that Democrats' signature voting rights bill, the "For the People Act," is unnecessary because "states are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever."
The Senate Republican leader added that legislation designed to protect voting rights is "a solution in search of a problem."
In recent weeks, the GOP has offered two principal talking points when it comes to suppressing the franchise. The first is that there were systemic problems with the 2020 presidential election, making new restrictions necessary in order to restore "integrity" to the nation's electoral system. This is, of course, an extension of the Republicans' Big Lie: the problems with last year's elections remain a figment of partisans' imaginations, which is why there's no evidence to substantiate the claims.
The second talking point is that voting restrictions are necessary to improve public confidence because so many far-right voters have come to believe the Big Lie, reality notwithstanding. This is equally ridiculous: policymakers need not target voting rights to counteract an easily discredited myth.
But McConnell is going in a whole new direction, opening Door #3: he's defending voter suppression efforts by pretending there are no voter suppression efforts.
Even by contemporary standards, this is bizarre.