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Republican legislators insist that they’re merely responding to the righteous indignation of their voters as they pursue a raft of new rules that would make voting more difficult. “When you have this many constituents that are emailing us and calling us and demanding that their questions be answered, it always should be a top priority,” Karen Fann, the president of the state Senate, told the Los Angeles Times. “If that’s what’s important to our voters, we take care of it.”
In the intramural Maricopa melee, that indignation has pitted the people actually conducting elections, who see the legislature’s interventions as counterproductive and possibly illegal, against superfans of former President Donald Trump who are demanding action to deal with nonexistent fraud. Around the country, indignation has driven Republicans to propose new restrictions on voting rights. Some of these are likely unconstitutional. Some appear to target particular constituencies. But one of the most striking features of these proposals as a whole is their incoherence.
In their eagerness to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump, Republican legislators are rushing to apply scattershot solutions to an imagined set of problems. And although they seem unmoved by warnings that these laws will disproportionately affect minority voters, they may well discover that they have actually disenfranchised many of their own supporters, even as their push to pass restrictive rules energizes their opponents.
Although Republicans in state capitols around the United States have sought stricter voting laws since Biden’s victory, the Arizona GOP is in a class of its own. Legislators have introduced 22 bills that would restrict voting. Progressives and voting advocates have reacted with horror and rage, arguing that the bills would particularly affect minority voters, who helped swing Arizona to Biden and elect Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Kelly in November. Some Republicans have been open about their goal of suppressing votes.
“Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues,” State Representative John Kavanagh told CNN last week. “Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes as well.”
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Although unusually frankly expressed, this view fits a long-standing pattern. For decades, Democrats have sought to make voting easier and Republicans have sought to make it harder. Democrats argue that the right to vote is fundamental to American democracy, and that there should therefore be fewer barriers. Kavanagh’s Kinsley gaffe aside, Republicans mostly contend that such barriers are needed to prevent fraudulent voting, because any fraud taints democracy. The problem is that despite years of efforts to find it, there’s still no evidence of widespread voter fraud at levels that would tip elections. (Kavanagh and Fann are among a dozen Republican lawmakers who have sponsored restrictive bills and did not respond to requests for interviews or comment.)