The Big Lie and the Push to Restrict Voting

The Big Lie and the Push to Restrict Voting

by February 5, 2021

Trump’s Big Lie of widespread voter fraud continues to echo beyond the violent attack on the Capitol. In state legislatures across the country, politicians are capitalizing on his campaign of disinformation to push aggressive legislation to make it harder to vote.

In just the first month of 2021, according to our new analysis, state lawmakers have already introduced 106 bills in 28 states that would restrict voting access. That’s three times as many as this time last year. In Pennsylvania alone, 14 bills have been introduced to curb the vote.

Nationwide, most would limit or eliminate voting by mail and other improvements in voter access made in response to the pandemic. Others, however, would impose stricter voter ID requirements, limit voter registration policies, and allow more aggressive voter roll purges.

Just Monday, Republican legislators in Georgia introduced a bill to effectively eliminate absentee balloting, ban drop boxes, and repeal automatic voter registration.

Subtle, this ain’t.

The new surge in voter suppression bills is a backlash to the historic voter turnout of the 2020 general election. It flows directly from the bid to cut out the votes of majority Black cities during the bid to overturn the results. Politicians who push and support voter suppression aim to rob Black and brown Americans of their say in our democracy.

As my colleague Eliza Sweren-Becker told Vox, “Rather than going out and trying to persuade voters, we’re seeing legislators trying to shrink the electorate in order to ensure job security for themselves.”

Let’s not mince words: if you support voter suppression, you stand with the Proud Boys and their racist authoritarianism.

It’s worth noting that the news from the states is not all bad. So far in 2021, state lawmakers from 35 states have introduced a total of 406 bills that would expand voting access. A significant number of these bills have been introduced in states like Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas, places with a long, sordid history of voter suppression.

These state efforts reflect the widespread support for democracy reform. At the national level, members of Congress are working to pass the For the People Act, a historic bill that, if enacted, would mark a major step toward strengthening America’s elections system.

Our government should be working to dismantle barriers to voting, not adding them.


Michael Waldman Photo Michael Waldman is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. A nonpartisan law and policy institute that focuses on improving systems of democracy and justice, the Brennan Center is a leading national voice on voting rights, money in politics, criminal justice reform, and constitutional law. Waldman, a constitutional lawyer and writer who is an expert on the presidency and American democracy, has led the Center since 2005.

Waldman was director of speechwriting for President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 1999, serving as assistant to the president. He was responsible for writing or editing nearly two thousand speeches, including four State of the Union and two inaugural addresses. He was special assistant to the president for policy coordination from 1993 to 1995.

He is the author of The Fight to Vote (Simon & Schuster, 2016), a history of the struggle to win voting rights for all citizens. The Washington Post wrote, “Waldman’s important and engaging account demonstrates that over the long term, the power of the democratic ideal prevails — as long as the people so demand.” The Wall Street Journal called it “an engaging, concise history of American voting practices,” and the Miami Herald described it as “an important history in an election year.” The Fight to Vote was a Washington Post notable nonfiction book for 2016 and a History Book Club main selection.

Waldman is also the author of The Second Amendment: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Publishers Weekly called it “the best narrative of its subject.” In the New York Times, Joe Nocera called it “rigorous, scholarly, but accessible.” The Los Angeles Times wrote, “[Waldman’s] calm tone and habit of taking the long view offers a refreshing tonic in this most loaded of debates.” In a Cardozo Law Review symposium devoted to the book, a historian wrote, “The Second Amendment is, without doubt, among the best efforts at melding constitutional history and constitutional law on any topic — at least since the modern revival of originalism two generations ago.”

His previous books are My Fellow Americans: The Most Important Speeches of America’s Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama (2003, 2010), A Return to Common Sense (2007), POTUS Speaks (2000), and Who Robbed America? A Citizen’s Guide to the S&L Scandal (1990).

His frequent appearances on television and radio to discuss policy, the presidency, and the law include Good Morning America, the Colbert ReportMorning JoePBS NewsHourCBS Evening NewsMeet the Press DailyAll In with Chris Hayes, the O’Reilly FactorNightline60 MinutesTavis SmileyHardball with Chris Matthews, and the Rachel Maddow Show, as well as NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Fresh Air. He writes for the New York TimesPolitico, the Washington Post, the Daily BeastSlateDemocracy, Reuters, Bloomberg, and other national publications.

He is a graduate of Columbia College and NYU School of Law.

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