Determined to undermine democracy in the U.S., Republicans are not relying on just one tactic. Instead, their plans range from sophisticated legal strategies to Big Lie-fueled absurdities. And all the while, Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for more and worse, campaigning for state-level candidates whose only qualifications are their embrace of his lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections.
At the Big Lie-fueled absurdity end, there’s a movement to require hand-counting of ballots, an idea that would massively slow down the vote-counting process while introducing human error and opening up opportunities for partisan sabotage. Republicans have proposed bills to require hand-counting in at least six states, The Washington Post reports, though the idea is gaining the most traction in smaller towns and counties.
Currently, just 0.2% of ballots in the U.S. are counted by hand. Most votes are cast in ways that allow for machine counting while leaving a paper trail to ensure that recounts are possible, and many areas double-check the machine counting with hand counts of batches of ballots. None of this is good enough for the conspiracy theorists who believe that voting machines stole the election from Trump, even after the Arizona fraudit which counted Maricopa County ballots by hand and found nothing significant to report. The conspiracy theories embraced by Trump supporters include ballots being counted overseas, the involvement of long-dead Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, that the paper ballots were printed on might contain bamboo, showing that it came from Asia, and more. They’re saying the answer is to “Vote Amish,” on paper ballots with no machine involvement.
“The extreme right’s call for a hand count across the nation is political theater,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, told the Post. “It does not increase security. It actually decreases security. What will come of it in the big jurisdictions is a big slowdown in being able to certify elections, less-reliable results, and opportunities for extremists to spread misinformation and mistrust.”
Remember how in Nov. 2020, the fact that some large jurisdictions didn’t finish counting immediately after voting ended became fodder for conspiracy theories about votes being changed or fake ballots being brought in? Slowing down the count everywhere will lead to so much more of that. And hand-counting will slow things down to an almost unimaginable extent. In one county with about 3,500 votes, the county clerk warned that at current levels of staffing it would take 30 days to tally the votes by hand. The county commission is nonetheless ending its contract with Dominion Voting Systems and planning a move to hand counting.
But, as previously noted, this is just one strategy among many. In Texas, lawmakers are using redistricting lawsuits as a pathway to further gutting the Voting Rights Act. The gerrymandered maps produced by Texas Republicans are predictably being challenged in court. And in its responses to those lawsuits, “First, the Texas attorney general’s office is arguing that private individuals — like the average voters and civil rights groups now suing the state—don't have standing to bring lawsuits under Section 2. That would leave only the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue alleged violations of the act, putting enforcement in the hands of the political party in power,” The Texas Tribune reports. “Second, the state argues that Section 2 does not apply to redistricting issues at all.”
And, as we know, the Republicans of the Supreme Court really, really hate voting rights and support partisan gerrymandering, so these arguments have a good chance.
Trump’s coup attempt failed in 2020 and 2021, but Republicans are not giving up. Their goal is to go into the 2022 and 2024 elections and beyond with the playing field set up firmly in their own favor, and unfortunately, their determination is not matched by the Democratic determination to protect voting rights.