“The Big Lie’s Long Shadow”

FiveThirtyEight feature about the innumerable voting restrictions being proposed at the state level. It’s notable that these restrictions are supposedly being advanced to build voter confidence in elections — but there’s no evidence that voter confidence actually improves as a result of the restrictions. Of course, that’s because the driver of low voter confidence (to the extent voter confidence is even low) is the spreading of lies about election fraud, not lax electoral regulation.

When I spoke to more than a half-dozen individuals who are inspiring and enacting these legislative changes, there was a prevailing refrain: They’re just trying to respond to an eroding trust in elections. Some believe that trust has legitimately eroded because of widespread fraud, while others believe it has been eroded by messaging about widespread fraud. None of them feel they are responsible for that erosion, only for its cure.

The suite of bills Cuffe helped pass in Montana, by definition, makes it more difficult to vote. They’ve even attracted lawsuits from voting rights groups that claim the laws make it prohibitively hard to vote, particularly for students, rural voters and Native Americans. Cuffe doesn’t mind criticism — he’s been working in politics a long time — but rejects the notion that the intent behind the bills was to disenfranchise voters. He said they only wanted to make “a good system better” in order to build back trust among voters who were now questioning the election system. . . .

Regardless of the intentions of those involved, the problem is only getting worse. Over the last year, Republican voters have become even less trustful of our elections, questionable amateur “research” is driving actual policy decisions, and many states have introduced or passed what experts call frighteningly anti-democratic legislation. The Big Lie has created an environment in which Republicans feel obligated to respond to fears of election fraud. But their responses — both legislative and rhetorical — are eroding democracy, not bolstering it.  

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