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A record number of Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election. That should be reason for celebration, not concern.
Yet, some Republicans lawmakers are using false allegations of voter fraud in the November election — claims perpetuated by former President Donald Trump — to push for tighter state voting laws.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, which works to protect voting rights, more than 100 bills have been submitted in 28 states to restrict voting access. Limiting the use of mail-in ballots and voter ID requirements are the most frequent topics of these bills.
Several such bills have been introduced in the Maine Legislature. Three proposals would require identification to vote, a perennial Republican proposal. Others would put additional restrictions on absentee voting.
Such requirements are unnecessary and, in some cases, have been shown to suppress voter turnout.
More than 159 million people voted for president in November, the most ever. Voter turnout increased in every state and nearly every county in America compared to 2016. Still, only two-thirds of eligible voters cast a ballot in the November election, showing that work remains to increase — not discourage — voter participation.
November’s turnout would be impressive in any election, but especially last year when the pandemic raised fears of COVID-19 transmission in polling places. Early in 2020, as COVID cases were on the rise, state lawmakers, including in Maine, changed laws to make it easier to vote. Absentee ballots were used and early voting was held in every state in November.
Because of the widespread use of absentee ballots, vote counting in many states took longer than usual. The opened the door to claims by Trump that the election was rigged. Those claims led to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, where some Trump supporters sought to stop the certification of Electoral College results and some threatened the lives of Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Those claims, which have taken hold in the Republican Party, are not true.
“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a panel of government and industry officials, said on Nov. 12.
The agency called the Nov. 3 election “the most secure in American history.”
In an interview with the Associated Press in December, then-Attorney General William Barr said “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Barr resigned two weeks later.
Rather than perpetuating the myth of voter fraud and a “stolen” election, Republican lawmakers would be better served by telling their constituents and supporters the truth — our election system is secure and Joe Biden won the presidency.
“The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth,” Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said on the Senate floor hours after the Jan 6. violent attempted insurrection. His comments were met with applause. “That’s the burden, that’s the duty, of leadership.”
“The truth is that President-elect Biden won this election. President Trump lost …. Scores of courts, the president’s own attorney general, and state election officials both Republican and Democrat have reached this unequivocal decision,” he added.
The truth also is that voter fraud is exceedingly rare and not widespread. So, lawmakers, no matter their political affiliation, should be working to increase, not suppress, participation in our elections.