The 2020 election showed the largest voter turnout of the 21st century, with 66.3% of eligible voters casting ballots. In contrast, the voter turnout in the 2016 election was 60.1% – the lowest it has been since 1996. However, in response to this success of democracy, conservatives are trying to prevent it from happening again. With new restrictive voting bills being proposed by the dozen, Republicans are ushering in the new age of voter suppression.
Having a large voter turnout during a period of time in the country when most places were still partially or completely shut down, seems unlikely. However, the accessibility of mail-in ballots, early voting, and absentee ballots, helped some citizens who don’t typically vote, get their ballots in.
The myth of credibility
After losing the election, and even before, Trump spread baseless claims of fraudulent voting. Even though there isn’t any evidence of election fraud, Trump has succeeded in creating distrust in the credibility of the election.
Blaming Biden’s win on the increased turnout, conservatives have been mobilizing to suppress the vote. Voting bills have begun to sprout up all across the United States in astonishing numbers. Since the election, 22 new laws have gone into place in 14 different states. This sets a new record for restrictive voting laws since 2011.
There are also 61 bills, in 18 states, that are advancing in state chambers, as of May 14th. Of the 61 bills, over half restrict absentee and mail-in voting. Another quarter has provisions that focus on voter ID restrictions and voter roll purges. These restrictions disproportionately affect voters of color, the disabled, and the elderly.
The bills are being proposed behind the guise of stopping voter fraud, which again, has never proven to be real. Instead, the restrictive bills serve to ensure that rich white voters, who can more easily take work off to go into vote and have multiple sources of ID accessible, are turning out to vote in larger numbers. This whitewashing of the vote is the destruction of democracy that the bills are supposedly protecting. They serve to continue to keep white voices in power, and further perpetuate a white, and rich, controlled America.
A few specific examples include a bill in Iowa that cut down the available days for early voting and a bill in Georgia that made it a misdemeanor to offer food or drinks to people waiting in line to vote. Bills like these serve no direct purpose to actually stop “fraud”, or create greater security in the voting process.
A well-funded effort
Heritage Action for America is one of the conservative organizations working to implement restrictive voting laws. The organization has committed 10 million dollars to do what they refer to as “secure and strengthen state election systems”. However, this is actually only securing and strengthening voting for a select population.
The executive director of Heritage Action, Jessica Anderson, argues that they are making the laws to actually prevent voter suppression. She said, “If voters don’t have trust in our elections, then voting turnout will be suppressed”. However, most of the distrust Anderson is referring to was curated by the very man conservative organizations are trying to put in power. Hiding behind the veil of security and creating more trust, Anderson, and other organizations are fighting their way to gain control over election results.
Even if it was based on nothing, Trump has spurred a wave of distrust in election credibility that conservatives are using as an opportunity. Rather than actually winning the most votes, Republicans have found another way to control the turnout of the elections, by controlling who can vote.