In the runup to the 2020 election, states implemented more voting options due to COVID-19 — more drop-off boxes, no reason absentee voting, mail-in voting. These options brought up concerns about the security and legitimacy of the outcome of the election.

According to Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA, “The 2020 election was the most secure in U.S. history,” as reported by Zack Budryk of The Hill. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Krebs wrote, “specific efforts the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency undertook included aiding states in the expansion of voting systems that provide paper records rather than direct recording electronic (DRE) machines which provide no such record … Ahead of the 2020 election, Louisiana was the only state using DRE machines.” To help ensure a secure 2020 election, secretaries of state in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania and officials in Wisconsin “all worked overtime to ensure there was a paper trail that could be audited or recounted by hand, independent of any allegedly hacked software or hardware.”

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Dr. Rosemary Pelletier

From the Brennen Center for Justice, The Public Broadcast System and others, in the six states in which former President Donald Trump and many Republicans disputed the outcomes, fewer than 475 potential instances of fraudulent votes were cast out of a total of over 25 million. According to The Brennen Center’s seminal report, “‘The Truth About Vote Fraud’ conclusively demonstrated that most allegations of fraud turned out to be baseless … extensive research reveals that fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is virtually nonexistent,” and “the same is true for mail in ballots which are secure and essential to holding a safe election amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

Given this information, it is fair to conclude that the 2020 election was secure and the outcome, legitimate. This brings up the upcoming election in November of 2022 and the next presidential election in 2024. If there were no notable cases of voter fraud in 2020, if COVID cases are declining, then what can we expect in 2022 and 2024? Why are so many states passing restrictive voter access laws?

The Brennen Center published that, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 7, 2021, “at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting. More than 440 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states.” “A new trend this year (2021) legislators introduced bills to allow partisan actors to interfere with election processes or even reject election results entirely.” “So far, at least 13 bill restricting access to voting have been pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session in four states. In addition, at least 152 restrictive voting bills in 18 states will carry over from 2021. These early indicators — coupled with the ongoing mobilization around the BIG LIE (the same false rhetoric about voter fraud that drove the year’s unprecedented wave of vote suppression bills) — suggest that efforts to restrict and undermine the vote will continue to be a serious threat in 2022.”

In her 2016 book, “White Rage, the Unspoken Ruth of Our Racial Divide” and her 2018 book, “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy,” Professor Carol Anderson, chair of African American Studies at Emory University, explored the theory that if African Americans (people of color) found it too difficult to vote, were intimidated and didn’t vote, then it was/is more likely that acts against them would go either unpunished or punished less frequently. If people of color didn’t vote, laws restricting their rights — whether in law or in practice — would be easier to pass and to implement. Is this movement, the restriction of voting options, the beginning of the implementation of something much more sinister than any of us believe or do we believe it and fight back?

What impact will these new laws, new rules and newly allowed partisan players have on the upcoming elections? Once again, I ask the questions: “If we can pay our taxes by mail, why can’t we vote by mail?” “If we can pay our taxes online, why can’t we vote online?” “If absentee ballot are secure enough to be filed by mail according to 35 states and by the federal government for service members and others overseas, if voter fraud was less than 1% and mostly due to name changes, unreported deaths and address changes, then why are so many bills being passed that are sure to cause lower voter turnout?”

Is that the desired result as Professor Anderson discussed? Why would that be a desirable outcome?

Dr. Rosemarie A. Pelletier is the director for Norwich University’s Master of Public Administration program.

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