Cleta Mitchell, writing in today’s NYT “Room for Debate on a Better Way to Vote,” writes: “First, we partisans should declare a truce. What if we held our noses and declared together that Republicans really are not trying to suppress votes and Democrats are really not promoting illegal voting and fraud. What might we accomplish together if we quit calling each other names and turned our attention to the challenges facing our electoral systems? The problems are not partisan in nature and can be addressed by working together now, when no election is imminent.” This follows a post on the Republican National Lawyers Association blog calling for greater civility during elections. (Mitchell is president of the RNLA.)
As I argued in The Voting Wars and as Jane Mayer showed in her recent New Yorker piece, the claim that voter fraud is rampant and requires methods to make it harder to register and vote moved from the fringes to mainstream Republican thought in recent years thanks to the work of the fraudulent fraud squad: Hans von Spakovsky, Thor Hearne, John Fund, and now others like J. Christian Adams and True the Vote. As recently as this year, as Mayer noted, “Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote, ‘Election fraud is a real and persistent threat to our electoral system.” He accused Democrats of “standing up for potential fraud—presumably because ending it would disenfranchise at least two of its core constituencies: the deceased and double-voters.’”
I see Mitchell’s comments as a step away from this hyperbole, and we will see next if the RNLA’s factually misleading and inaccurate map of “voter fraud” disappears from their website. It is also interesting that Mitchell’s proposed solutions are all about cleaning up rolls and free speech about fraud, and not about making sure all eligible voters can cast a ballot without facing hardships like hours in line to vote.
Look, there’s lots of room to compromise. Mitchell is exactly right that we need to clean up the voter rolls, and Democrats should acknowledge that this is not only necessary but important to do right in the off season. But there’s a lot more to be done to insure that all eligible voters, but only eligible voters, can easily cast a vote which will be fairly and accurately counted.
The proof will be in actions of the Republicans, and I’ll be watching the rhetoric from the RNLA and others very closely. It may be that they realize that this stance is not only wrong but counter-productive.