A lesson for Republicans: voter access is good policy
As the nation watches as the House Select Committee into the January 6 attack lays out the details of its investigation, there is a common thread running through the testimonies of witnesses from the committee hearings: there was no evidence of widespread fraud. in 2020. Several Republican officials rejected the basis for these claims in their statements before the committee.
It is an unfortunate turn of events that so many of my fellow Republicans have allowed allegations of fraud – often rooted in conspiracy theories – to become proof positive for the need to restrict voting access. And that may do far more harm than good for Republicans’ electoral fortunes.
As a Republican who oversaw the Kentucky election as Secretary of State, I fought tooth and nail to earn the trust of my constituents. And when I was re-elected myself, I faced the will of the voters on election night and won my election decisively despite losing the incumbent Republican governor by 17 points. Now out of office, I continue to work to improve our elections in Kentucky and across the country.
Contrary to conventional political wisdom, expanding voting access does not automatically improve outcomes for Democrats. In fact, Stanford scholars found no partisan advantage to mail-in voting. On top of that, there are countless counterexamples that show how policies that make it easier to vote have actually worked for the benefit to Republicans.
Despite all of former President Donald Trump’s complaints about stealing the 2020 election, he still received 74 million votes, more than any other candidate in US history not named Joe Biden. The record turnout has no partisan bias. What matters, as always, are the candidates and the arguments they present to address voter concerns.
The 2020 election was by far the most accessible election, with millions of Americans using early and mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A whopping 46% of voters say they voted by post or mail. What happened? Republicans won seats in the United States House of Representatives, took control of two state legislative chambers, and won nearly 300 net state legislative seats over Democrats.
I saw this firsthand in Kentucky, as Kentucky lawmakers empowered our Democratic Governor and Republican Secretary of State to adapt our longstanding election practices to hold an election in the midst of a pandemic. When the votes were counted, Kentucky hit record high voter turnout, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell won his biggest victory ever, and Republicans still added to our previous record margins in the Legislature. of State. As a result, we’ve made several of these changes permanent, including in-person early voting, drop boxes with security measures, and an online portal to request mail-in voting for those eligible. This fall, I’m confident Kentucky voters will use these new options to send even more Republicans to our state’s legislature.
Similarly, the story of Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election was not one of high Democratic turnout to stifle any chance of victory for Republicans. Instead, it was a story of something that is true in every election: the candidate whose ideas and message best addressed voters’ concerns won out. Virginia had record early voting and the highest turnout for a gubernatorial election since 1997. And there’s plenty of reason to believe that level of turnout was a boon for Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R ), not a disability.
Even this year’s primaries show how positive more people voting can be for Republicans. Georgia, a key battleground state, has seen its number of early votes in the GOP primaries rise this year, surpassing that of the Democrats. The overall turnout in the GOP primary was also higher. This is further proof that the GOP restricts voting at its peril. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have common-sense reforms that try to introduce more security – voter registration is a prime example – but balancing security and access shouldn’t be a binary choice.
Republicans face a huge political opportunity as the 2022 midterm elections approach—that is, if we resist the temptation to cry wolf about voter fraud. There’s no reason for us Republicans to resort to Machiavellian tactics, or worse, blatant lies, to win seats across the country. We just need to focus on our ideas for the future and highlight the record of the opposing party in power over the past two years.
In fact, such a targeted message in a more open election might even give us a better chance of winning the support of the American people.
Trey Grayson is a Republican who served as Kentucky’s secretary of state from 2004 to 2011. Grayson serves as co-chair of the advisory board for the Secure Elections Project.