Derek Mueller Interview on the Voting Wars

At The Conversation, Derek offered his perspective on current election law issues. A few excerpts:

One group has said that “Americans’ access to the vote is in unprecedented peril.” What do you think?

I would not say that. These election bills marginally increase the difficulty for some voters by reducing some of the options, whether it’s voting by mail or early voting. But many of these bills also expand voting opportunities, and many of them are tinkering at the margins of expansions during the COVID pandemic in 2020.

In some circumstances, voters are no worse off than they were in 2018, and in some circumstances, they are better off. So, while there’s a lot of heated rhetoric, I would say the changes to election law so far have been fairly modest….

How do these laws comport with the general democratic standard of everyone who is eligible can cast a vote?

We have dramatically expanded opportunities to vote in the last several decades. Early voting was basically nonexistent 20 years ago, no-excuse absentee voting is now the default in many states, several states mail every eligible voter a ballot.

There are benefits to having so many opportunities, but those come with costs: The systems they create are sprawling, they are unwieldy at times, providing many more opportunities for things to go wrong or for people to be skeptical of the outcome. And stretching an election out over six or eight weeks means we’re all voting with different kinds of information at the beginning of an election season versus at the end….

Is the legislature having “some say” a threat to election integrity?

It seems like it would increase the threat. For the most part, we’ve seen election administrators be professionals who view this as their full-time job, who see all the inner workings, from day to day, in the two years before an election is held and know what’s going on. As opposed to the legislature, which might view something – after the fact, or when its attention is stretched in other directions – as dubious and wanting to revisit what happened. So, there is that concern.

Now, if the legislature wants to pick its own representative to serve on a board with multiple other people and it’s not going to overwhelm the board, maybe that’s okay. But undoubtedly it does increase the risk of the legislature choosing to meddle as a political branch, in a different way from the election officials who – despite their partisan affiliation – often rise above that.

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