Yesterday, Republicans in the legislature grilled State Board of Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell. They claimed they are trying to get to the root of irregularities in election administration and restore confidence in our elections. In fact, they are doing all they can to create doubt about our election system. It’s a continuation of the Big Lie that Donald Trump pushed in the aftermath of the 2020 election. And Trump’s Big Lie has its foundation in Republicans’ decade-long attempt to restrict access to the polls in order to rig elections. 

We’ve seen this same strategy used to strip funding from successful programs. When Republicans took control of the legislature in 2011 and then the Governor’s Mansion in 2013, they claimed that our schools were broken and failing our children. It wasn’t true. Tests scores had been slowly rising for years and graduation rates were improving, too. Nonetheless, their answer to “fixing” schools was to demonize teachers, reduce funding, and shift money to voucher schemes. As always, they called it “reform.”

Now, they want to address the imaginary problem of widespread voter fraud. They’ve plied their base with lies for a decade and undermined their confidence in elections. They’ve passed draconian and unconstitutional voter suppression schemes to reduce access to the ballot box. Now, they are at it again, this time on a national scale. 

When the GOP first began telling the lie of widespread voter fraud, they focused on limiting early voting opportunities. They shortened the number of days in the early voting period. They moved early voting sites away from minority communities and out of university buildings, depriving people without reliable transportation of their opportunity to vote before election day. 

Back then, Republicans dominated mail-in absentee voting. Hence, the GOP did nothing to regulate it—at least until GOP operatives got caught in a mail-in scam in Bladen County. Now, though, Democrats used mail-in absentee ballots extensively during the pandemic. Suddenly, Republicans see the need to regulate them.  

Fortunately, the courts have stood in the way of most GOP suppression schemes. However, the GOP believes the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court will allow them to implement their suppression tactics and they’ve taken the program national. States across the country are working diligently to make voting more difficult. 

In response, Democrats in Congress are pushing a massive voting rights bill to protect the franchise. Republicans are uniformly standing in the way. As GOP Senator Roy Blunt said, “I don’t think there is common ground. And on the bigger issue of whether it’s better to federalize the national election process or let states and local officials do it like they have for over 200 years — there’s really not much compromise there.” The problem is that for most of that 200 years, certain states have tried to limit democracy, not protect it. Here in North Carolina, from Wilmington in 1898 to the “monster” voter suppression bill in 2013, certain elements have tried to rig the electoral system by limiting access to the ballot box to those with the least power. It’s time for it to stop.

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