A new op-ed from Ari Berman at The Nation posits an interesting theory for us to consider this week. It’s based on the repeated claims by President Trump (and more recently by Stephen Miller while making the rounds of the Sunday shows) regarding voter suppression during the last election. The specific claims in this case deal with “busloads of voters” being brought in from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and leading to the loss of the state not only by Trump, but Kelly Ayotte as well. While such specific charges clearly require more evidence than has been presented, the overall question of voter fraud remains open for debate. Still, according to Berman, the end result of this will not be some cleaning up process in the electoral system but instead, increased suppression of the oppressed.
Yet here’s why Trump’s lies about voter fraud are so dangerous: Republicans in New Hampshire, who now control state government, have introduced forty bills in the 2017 legislative session that would make it harder to vote.
The proposed legislation includes ending same-day registration, which boosts voter turnout by up to ten percent; restricting voting rights to only residents of New Hampshire who plan to live in the state “for the indefinite future,” which could prevent college students and military personnel from voting; and requiring that New Hampshire residents live in the state for thirteen days before voting and get an in-state driver’s license and register their car in New Hampshire within 60 days of registering to vote, which the New Hampshire ACLU calls a “post-election poll tax.”
The basis of Berman’s claim is nothing new. If New Hampshire enacts new laws tightening up the voter registration process and increasing security at the ballot box this apparently leads by default to a condition liberals love to refer to as, “making it harder to vote.” The question most of us should be asking in response is, making it harder for who to vote?
Most of the New Hampshire bills under discussion are nothing which hasn’t been experimented with in other states before. Same-day registration has been recognized as being problematic nearly everywhere it’s been implemented. With the rare exception of special elections, voting takes place pretty much the same time every year. It’s not as if you didn’t have plenty of notice. To proponents of same-day registration I generally invoke the standard signage hanging behind the desks of many administrative assistants: “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”
Most of the other proposals run along similar lines, though even I will admit that requiring prospective voters to state an intention to “live in the state for the indefinite future” is a bit dubious. But beyond that there’s really nothing all that unusual going on.
Reading through Berman’s entire op-ed, it’s difficult not to notice one glaring omission in his analysis. A charge has been levied stating that voter fraud was taking place in the form of out-of-state residents showing up, registering, voting and going back home to the Bay State. Perhaps, as the critics state, there is nothing to this charge despite the number of residents who regularly claim that it takes place. Or perhaps it has happened. This leads us back to the question I keep asking every time the subject arises and will likely continue to do so until I am blue in the face. Whether such incidents of voter fraud are taking place or not, wouldn’t you want to know?
Rather than sitting here and shouting back and forth at each other across the aisle, might it not make sense to pursue the obvious and easily achievable remedy? A survey of the list of voters who cast ballots in the 2016 election (particularly in precincts closest to the border) could be readily obtained and then the alleged addresses of the voters in question could be checked. Are they all in fact happily living and working in New Hampshire? Or are perhaps some of them back across the border in Massachusetts, residing there and registered to vote in that state as well? This isn’t long division, people. It wouldn’t be that difficult to check. And once you did, the matter would be put to rest.
Wouldn’t that be refreshing? Or would you be disappointed because we had one less thing to scrap about every Sunday morning on cable news?