No reason to change election laws
The Pennsylvania General Assembly intends to take up legislation this month to roll back bipartisan laws that expanded access to the polls.
One proposal would limit no-excuse absentee ballots in a state that already has some of the most restrictive election laws in the country.
The best outcome for these bills, advocated by Republicans in both the state Senate and House, would be that they never come to a vote.
If passed into law, an extremely unlikely result with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf poised to exercise a veto, the voter restrictions would disproportionately hurt Republicans.
Say what? It’s a bit counterintuitive, but bear with me.
On Nov. 3, Republicans in Pennsylvania had a tremendous day at the polls, even if the top of the ticket, Donald Trump, was defeated.
In a state where the electorate is almost equally split, the Republican Party won two major statewide offices, auditor general and state treasurer.
Josh Shapiro, a popular Democratic attorney general, was re-elected with less than 51% of the vote, and Scott Perry handily defeated a well-known Democratic candidate for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in the York area.
As for President Trump’s defeat, the numbers tell the story. Raw numbers determine only the winner in an election that drew many new and infrequent voters. The numbers that matter are percentages of victory or defeat.
Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, only 13 went for President Joe Biden, but they are the most populous counties.
In all but a handful of counties that favored Trump, his winning percentage was lower in 2020 than in 2016.
The irony is that Trump did better in Philadelphia County in 2020 than he did four years earlier, by more than 2%. Why did Trump fail in Pennsylvania? Without exit polls, it’s hard to say.
His rhetoric may have turned off some of his 2016 voters, and his handling of the pandemic may have caused others to switch to Joe Biden.
But the crucial point is that, although Trump failed, the Republican Party did remarkably well.
Without doubt, the size of the turnout was driven by being able to cast a ballot safely in a pandemic.
The main alternative to in-person voting, mail-in ballots, helped rural Pennsylvanians as well as urban dwellers. In short, everyone gained.
So, let’s face some truths.
The 2020 election was not stolen from Trump. He lost Pennsylvania fair and square. To contend otherwise is to heap disrespect on hundreds if not thousands of Republican election officials who, it’s fair to say, wanted Trump to win.
To restrict voting in Pennsylvania would take away votes from Republican candidates.
No matter the intention, the appearance of the legislation is that it is meant to discourage citizens of color from voting.
Labeled as racist, the legislative proposals very well could trigger a get-out-the-vote campaign among Democrats in 2022 and beyond.
The best strategy for Pennsylvania Republicans this month is to focus on the state budget and forget about tampering with election laws that benefited all Pennsylvania voters.
Duncansville resident Don Clippinger has been a journalist for more than 55 years.