How GOP voter suppression bills could help Republicans steal elections with a 'shameless power grab': law professor

How GOP voter suppression bills could help Republicans steal elections with a 'shameless power grab': law professor
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The voter suppression bills that Republicans have introduced in state legislatures all over the U.S. have been drawing a great deal of criticism for the many ways in which they propose making voting more difficult. University of Baltimore law professor Kimberly Wehle, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on April 14, argues that voting should be "convenient," not harder. But Wehle, a former assistant U.S. attorney, emphasizes that the most ominous part of some of the bills is the way in which they could make it easier for Republicans to simply invalidate election results that they don't like.

"Texas stands out as the state with the largest number of restrictive proposals, with a whopping 49 bills pending — including measures limiting absentee voting, requiring stricter IDs, and cutting back on early voting," Wehle explains. "Anyone, no matter where on the political spectrum, who cares about our democracy — about preserving government by 'We the People' — should be worried by these provisions that would inhibit convenient voting. But the darkest stuff might lie elsewhere: in changes to who in government gets to control elections."

Wehle cites Georgia's Election Integrity Act of 2021, which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law on March 25, as an especially disturbing example.

"The Georgia law's most troubling element is one that has been relatively overlooked: The state's general assembly will now select the chair of the state election board," Wehle notes. "To date, the board has been chaired by the secretary of state — an elected position that, in terms of its executive responsibilities, is designed to be nonpartisan. The state election board can investigate county election boards and suspend superintendents for perceived improprieties…. A partisan request to tinker with the popular vote count might just work under the new law, as Republicans have firm majorities in both houses of the Georgia State Legislature."

Wehle goes on to explain how the Electoral Count Act of 1887 could affect the voter suppression bills that Republicans in state legislatures have either proposed or — in the case of Georgia — passed.

"Under the arcane Electoral Count Act of 1887," Wehle notes, "if vote counts are particularly close, state legislatures could invoke a part of the law that may allow them to choose an alternative slate of electors on the rationale that an election has 'failed.' What this means is that, if a future presidential election produces a razor-thin margin for a Democrat in Georgia, the Republican-controlled legislature could try to cancel the popular vote and pick the Republican candidate in a shameless power grab. To make matters worse, under the language of the Constitution's Elections Clause, lawmakers might find allies on the newly configured 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court if such a maneuver were to wind up in litigation."

Wehle wraps up her article by warning that Republican voter suppression bills are the work of a party that has taken a dangerously authoritarian turn.

"It's a sad reality that the Republican Party is no longer even pretending to justify voter restrictions based on elusive fraud — that horse was beaten to death in the dozens of failed lawsuits following the November election," Wehle laments. "Nor is the GOP aiming to strengthen its influence by expanding its base with attractive policy initiatives and reforms. There is only one major political party left in America that is committed to a representative democracy. The other is stealthily lobbying for a different kind of government altogether — and it's an ugly one."

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