‘Stop The Steal’
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
‘STOP THE STEAL’: Republican legislators across the country are using the Big Lie of a stolen election to enact scores of new state voting restrictions in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s defeat. Some Republican officials have been blunt about their motivations: They don’t believe they can win unless the rules change. It does not seem to occur to party officials that perhaps their public policies should become more generous, rather than making the right to vote less generous. Frankly, their ideas cannot survive in a robust democracy.
Predictably, Ferndale Sen. Doug Ericksen joined the crackers chorus of election fraud, introducing legislation this session in Olympia that would roll back Washington’s popular landmark vote-by-mail system that has been employed with success statewide since 2011. His proposal would address what he calls “numerous security gaps and other problems” with Washington state elections procedures. He has failed to cite any specific security issues that have occurred in state elections, nor does the text of his bill yield insight into these alleged concerns.
Ericksen’s bill appears to be a solution in search of a problem. Supported by three other of Washington’s fading supply of Republican senators, his bill is destined to go nowhere this legislative session.
Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, and county election officials around the state have pushed back against the national narrative of a stolen election and wide-scale voting fraud.
“We have safeguards in place before, during, and after each election, and conduct numerous audits throughout to ensure all election functions and processes are operating properly and accurately,” Wyman said in a statement shortly after the November election.
The simple reality is that improving the voting franchise—increasing the number of voters, affirming and protecting the right of all citizens to vote, simplifying their registration and access to ballots, expanding ballot choices, removing barriers to voting—are the key to secure elections by taking elections out of the hands of a small controlling (and corruptible) political minority.
“The best way to attain the stable and solid qualities of government most valued by anti-majoritarians is, ironically, to increase the power of voting majorities wherever that is constitutionally permissible and politically feasible,” conservative columnist David Frum writes in this month’s Atlantic magazine. “States would be better governed if a majority of the voters elected a majority of the legislators. Congress would legislate more effectively—and better protect its prerogatives against the executive branch—if the filibuster were abolished. Reducing the many barriers to registration and voting faced by poorer and minority citizens would reduce the number of extremists in state and federal legislatures. Bringing the Electoral College more in line with the popular vote would better safeguard the country against another corrupt and authoritarian presidency than the present system of over-representation.
“Through the second half of the 20th century, the United States evolved in ways that affirmed the equal right of all citizens to vote and pushed toward a more equal weighting of those votes,” Frum writes. “In this century, the United States has trended away from those ideals. The retreat from majority rule has not only weakened the American system’s fairness, it has also wobbled that system’s stability.”
Wyman supports legislation this session that would increase the voting franchise, allowing for greater voter participation in presidential primaries.
House Bill 1265 gives voters an option on the presidential primary ballot to not declare a party affiliation. It allows unaffiliated votes to qualify for the presidential primary and be counted. The bill has gathered bipartisan support in the Legislature.
“All voters, including people who do not align with a political party, should have the right to make their voices heard,” Wyman said in support of the bill. “HB 1265 gives unaffiliated voters more freedom of choice and peace of mind, which in turn will increase voter participation and ensure our election results more accurately reflect the will of the people. It is a win-win for voters, for our elections, and for all Washingtonians.”
“Considering our elections are paid for by all taxpayers, it seems only fitting that we find ways to make sure our elections are open and available to all voters,” said Rep. Skyler Rude, a Republican from Walla Walla. “It’s imperative we remove barriers that discourage voters from participating in our democracy.”
Also passing out of committee last week was House Bill 1156, which would provide communities in Washington a mechanism to support ranked-choice voting on their ballots. The bill, which is supported by all House Representatives in the 40th and 42nd districts, has bipartisan support from 26 cosponsors and the backing of community-focused organizations across Washington.
“Ranked-choice voting,” the bill sponsors explain, “is a method of voting in which voters may rank multiple candidates in order of preference. For single-winner elections, votes are tabulated using instant runoff voting. In this method, after voters’ first-choice votes are tabulated, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and votes for that candidate are transferred to the next-ranked candidate on those ballots.”
In its essence, RCV shaves down some of the hardest edges in our winner-take-all political system by providing voters with an opportunity to support multiple candidates on a ballot.
“Ballots are counted in rounds, and votes are transferred to next-ranked candidates from candidates with the fewest votes, who are eliminated, as well as candidates who have already surpassed the threshold to win,” the bill sponsors explain.
Washington has done more than nearly every state in improving access to the ballot while keeping elections secure. The benefit is a series of record turnouts, a robust feature of a healthy democracy.