Integrity, huh? The truth about the political right’s election law agenda

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On one level, you’ve got to hand it to the conservative politicians, Fox News talking heads, and right-wing think tankers who drone on incessantly about their supposed passionate commitment to “election integrity.” Like any number of political actors who, despite the absence of supporting facts and data, have managed nonetheless to drive significant political and policy changes through sheer force of will, these people are persistent and effective.

And while many members of this movement are transparently cynical about their true motivations (i.e., keeping their opponents – most notably people of color, youth, and low income – disenfranchised and discouraged from voting), it’s not universal. At least some confused right-wing warriors really believe their own paranoid propaganda – namely that do-gooder “libs” and Democrats are somehow the authors of an ongoing nefarious plot to steal elections from champions of selfless virtue and the American Way, like Donald Trump.

Never mind that in most circumstances, those same liberals constitute such a motley and disorganized crew that they frequently can’t even get out of their own way.

The latest byproduct of this alliance between the opportunists and the devout in North Carolina is a bill that recently found its way to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk and drew his latest veto. As has been detailed in numerous places in recent weeks, Senate Bill 747 is a proposal that will unnecessarily make voting harder for a goodly share of the population and further burden already stressed and burdened election officials – all while granting license to a small army of election law Barney Fifes to wander in annoying and intimidating fashion through polling places.

Common Cause North Carolina Associate Director Sailor Jones neatly summed up SB 747 in a recent interview with NC Newsline as a “jumbo jet of voter suppression.” And it’s hard to muster a better description of a bill that:

  • for no explicable reason, eliminates the current 72-hour post-Election Day window for the receipt of ballots mailed through the U.S. Postal Service (this, despite the fact that the final count isn’t certified for 10 days),
  • prohibits badly cash-strapped election boards from accepting private donations to improve their staffing and performance, and
  • empowers partisan election “observers” to eavesdrop on conversations between voters and precinct officials inside polling places and at curbside voting.

It would be one thing if there was any credible evidence of widespread improper behavior (outside the twisted mind of a certain deeply disturbed and delusional former president) that such changes might somehow address.

But as has been repeatedly shown across the nation – including in North Carolina where election officials have presided over and certified multiple GOP electoral victories in recent years – such evidence is as scarce as a prominent Republican politician with the guts to call out Trump’s lies.

Conservative professions of commitment to electoral integrity would be a good deal easier to take seriously if these same voices displayed a similar commitment to battling election rigging in another area where it’s so plain for all to see — redistricting.

It’s a poorly kept secret in Raleigh that North Carolina Republicans will soon redraw (i.e., aggressively gerrymander) the state’s congressional and legislative maps in an attempt to guarantee even more GOP electoral victories in 2024.

Meanwhile, conservative advocacy groups who once joined with progressive good government types when Democrats ran the legislature in demanding an end to gerrymandering and the establishment of a nonpartisan redistricting commission (and who now loudly champion “voter integrity” laws) are now mimicking church mice.

And in a “purple” state in which registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans and most statewide elections in recent years have been extremely close, it’s impossible to see such action and silence as anything other than a blatant and hypocritical assault on “election integrity.”

All of which brings us back to the election bill that Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed last Thursday.

As a has been well-document in recent months, Cooper has little-to-no chance of seeing his vetoes of bills passed by the Republican-dominated legislature sustained.

Thanks to another assault on election integrity – namely, the deceitful action of Charlotte lawmaker Tricia Cotham, who duped her constituents by running for office as a progressive Democrat and then doing a partisan 180 a few weeks after she was elected – the GOP has the precise number of votes it needs to override vetoes.

But that doesn’t make Cooper’s action in condemning and vetoing the election bill futile or a waste of time.

By calling out such an unnecessary, damaging, and cynical attack on voting rights, the governor did his constitutional duty and made an important record.

So, while the bill is likely to become law for a time, someday, it will be repealed. And like the growing national movement against gerrymandering, Cooper’s stance against voter suppression will prove – like so many of his 2023 vetoes — to have been on the right side of history.

It remains one of the great tragedies of our time that so many champions of “voter integrity” remain immune to this obvious truth.

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