The resiliency of the American Experiment in representative government is unparalleled in human history. It has overcome over 200 years of challenges both grave and small, including transitions in party rule, the despicable institution of slavery, civil war, ambiguous election results, racial segregation, scandal, and a president’s resignation in disgrace.
Last year, when a sitting president undermined the election results, the strength of our institutions — including our state-controlled election systems — enabled the republic to weather another test. But now Democrats are seeking to distort the record in order to pass a long-desired federal takeover of elections that would undermine the very rights they claim to protect.
It’s a common refrain among Democrats, echoed by President Joe Biden Tuesday in Georgia and Rep. Dwight Evans on these pages: Their proposed federal election takeover — a series of bills, falsely labeled as voting rights, that would supersede state election laws — is simply responding to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and action taken by state legislatures in the subsequent year. But the partisan priorities they call solutions long predate that day.
For instance, efforts to once again require federal bureaucrats’ permission before certain states can change their laws began in 2014. Variations of an even more expansive federal takeover of elections, misnamed the “For the People Act,” have been introduced since 2019. Far from responding to a crisis, Democrats are twisting a new narrative to fit their old policy objectives.
“Far from responding to a crisis, Democrats are twisting a new narrative to fit their old policy objectives.”
Rep. Evans and his colleagues allege “voter suppression” is running rampant around the country, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Dating back to 1996, Black voter turnout has increased in five out of six presidential elections. The 117th Congress is the sixth in a row to break the record for racial and ethnic diversity. The last election saw the highest percentage of voters in the 21st century. Ironically, the biggest gaps in turnout between Black and white voters are in primarily Democratic-controlled states with supposedly liberal election laws, like Massachusetts, Oregon, and Colorado.
To Democrats, even state laws that now offer more expansive access than was provided pre-pandemic are a “threat to democracy.” The fact is that in 2020, states made unprecedented accommodations to allow citizens to vote safely during the pandemic. Quite reasonably, some state legislatures have been evaluating which of these changes to make permanent.
Democrats have focused their feigned outrage on a Georgia law that actually established more expansive voter access policies than currently exist in many Democratic-controlled states. For example, the law formally provides for the use of drop boxes for the first time in Georgia history. It also allows at least eight more days of early voting than liberal New Jersey. With 67 days to request an absentee ballot for any reason, Georgians now have 67 more days than voters in Connecticut. Restrictions on campaigns distributing food and drinks to voters while in line also exist in New York. But still, the Georgia law was called “Jim Crow in the 21st Century” by President Biden, a blatant mischaracterization that also trivializes the gross misdeeds of the Jim Crow era.
Even worse, Democrats know they lack sufficient support to pass such radical changes to voting rights under the rules the Senate has used for over 200 years, so they are reviving an old proposal to pass legislation on a party-line vote. Specifically, they are proposing the Senate effectively end the legislative filibuster, which would remove what is often the only incentive for a majority to enter bipartisan negotiations.
When Republicans held both houses of Congress, we rejected President Donald Trump’s similar plea to end the legislative filibuster. Our reasons for doing so mirrored those of Presidents Biden and Barack Obama, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, and 27 of my current Democratic colleagues back when they opposed similar efforts in the past: Eliminating the 60-vote threshold would further polarize the Senate and undermine confidence in our laws. If anything, those reasons prove even more salient today than they were then.
These disappointing tactics and reversals are in no way redeemed by the underlying proposals. Democrats want to change the now balanced Federal Election Commission by cutting members from six to five, thus very likely giving one party more political power; suppress speech in ways even the American Civil Liberties Union opposes; provide public financing to political campaigns; force states to allow unpaid political operatives to collect voters’ ballots and bring them to drop-off sites (also known as ballot harvesting); gut state voter ID laws by requiring states to accept signed statements in place of ID; and empower federal bureaucrats with sweeping authority to oversee election law changes in every state.
But ending the legislative filibuster would go even further. It would pave the way to pass other radical items on their agenda, like statehood for D.C., packing the Supreme Court, and whatever else Democrats determine to be the next crisis.
Undermining the legitimacy of our elections for partisan ends is wrong in every season. It was wrong in 2020 when the former president purported that the election was stolen, and it is wrong today as Democrats continue to undermine confidence in the fairness of our elections in order to pass their liberal agenda.
After the 2020 election, I spoke up, voted to certify the results, and ultimately voted to impeach a president of my own party. Now, it is past time for Democrats to stop their partisan charade.
Pat Toomey is a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.