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April 11, 2021

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In Our View: Fair elections must be a bipartisan goal

The Columbian
Published:

In ongoing partisan debates about voting accessibility, lawmakers at both the state and federal levels should heed the words of Kim Wyman.

“We need to listen to the concerns on both sides, because our country does have a history of actual voter fraud and we do have a history of actual voter suppression,” Washington’s Republican secretary of state told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review. “But you can’t make things so secure that it impedes people’s ability to vote, and you can’t make things so open that you could increase the chance of fraudulent voting activity.

“If you’re going to make it more secure, you’re going to have to make sure the accessibility doesn’t suffer. And until we can have that conversation, we’re going to just keep talking in terms that are really more political than anything.”

Since the November election, Republicans in legislatures throughout the country have embraced political talking points when it comes to election security. They have perpetuated myths put forth by former President Donald Trump that the election was rife with voter fraud, despite a lack of proof.

In the weeks after the election, William Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, said: “We have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” The Department of Homeland Security called the election “the most secure in American history.” And a lawyer who had challenged the election admitted in court that the claims were a partisan lie, saying “reasonable people would not accept such statements.”

Still, The Big Lie – one that inspired insurrectionists in an attempt to overthrow the government on Jan. 6 – persists.

Legislative actions propelled by that lie are disturbing. Georgia recently passed a law that critics say is designed to suppress the votes of minorities; proponents claim that it is designed to prevent voter fraud – despite having scant proof that fraud was an issue in the 2020 election. Among other questionable actions, the law gives state lawmakers the power to suspend county election supervisors and says the General Assembly will choose the chair of the state elections board. Previously, the board was chaired by the secretary of state – an elected position.

For Clark County residents who find no problem with the Georgia law – a local parallel should cause concern: What if the Democrat-controlled Legislature tried to usurp the power of Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, a Republican who is the county’s top election official?

Georgia is not alone among Republican-controlled states in trying to change voting laws; the Brennan Center for Justice has tracked more than 250 bills in 43 states ostensibly designed to combat voter fraud. Yet nobody has proven that widespread fraud is an issue; the bills are specious attempts to suppress the vote, particularly in urban areas that typically lean Democratic.

In Idaho, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, a Republican, said: “I think we did very well. There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong that didn’t.” He said his state has investigated 29 cases of voter fraud from 2020, and he expects three or four of those to be prosecuted.

In Washington, Wyman said her office is investigating fraud claims and she expects the cases to number in the hundreds – out of more than 4 million ballots cast.

Dismissing the possibility of voter fraud is a disservice to our democracy. But even more troubling are efforts to disenfranchise voters under the guise of election security. Free and fair elections must be a bipartisan goal.

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