The GOP playbook for New Jersey: Attack voting rights | Editorial

Posted Mar 04, 2021

There has been a recent avalanche of bills introduced by Republican state lawmakers across the US designed to make it harder to vote, triggered by a pretext that election fraud played a role in the national humiliation of Donald Trump.

So it is no surprise that a Trump supporter endorses two restrictive voting laws for our state, and the fact that this acolyte could be our next governor cannot be dismissed casually.

Jack Ciattarelli, the clubhouse favorite for the GOP nomination, is too genteel to be a Trump sock puppet, but he insists that “a great many people have lost faith in the voting system, and we have to restore that faith.”

He omits the part about how Trump and his legions are the sources of that lagging faith — including Ciattarelli himself, the featured speaker at a Stop The Steal rally in December.

So with accidental irony, the former Somerset Assemblyman proposes “reforms” on his campaign website that actually Stop the Turnout, just like the red states do it: He supports a photo ID requirement at the polls, including a state ID for those who don’t drive, plus an ID-certification requirement for mail-in voters; and he wants to purge voters from the election rolls if they haven’t voted in four consecutive years, and mandate that they contact a county clerk if they want to restore their most cherished civil right.

Voter ID first:

Ciattarelli won’t say what kind of fraud he thinks a photo ID would prevent, but there have been exactly 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation in the United States in the last 20 years — out of 1 billion votes cast, according to the Washington Post. Most “fraud” cases, few as they are, are mistakes by the poll worker.

Also, the ACLU found that voter ID laws are enforced in 34 states with Republican Legislatures for a reason: It is inherently discriminatory. Nearly 25 percent of Blacks of voting age don’t have a government-issued ID, compared with just 8 percent of white voters. Does that work? The Government Accountability Office says that photo ID laws reduce turnout by as much as 3 percent.

So unless your aim is to depress turnout, voter IDs serves no purpose.

Ciattarelli says he supports ID because “we live in a very transient society, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to produce some form of ID, even if it’s a utility bill or some form of mail.” Then, presumably, he’ll order utility bills to include photos.

As for managing electoral rolls, the state clearly must keep records current by cancelling registrations of people who died, moved on, or are in prison. But some states engage in flagrantly unconstitutional practices to gain political advantage: Georgia’s Secretary of State, also its Republican nominee for governor, famously purged more than 500,000 voters in a single day five months before the 2018 election, which he won by 54,000 votes.

So now Ciattarelli wants our state to remove a civil right for someone who stays home for four cycles?

“I just think it’s a worthy discussion,” he explained. “I’m not saying eliminate from the rolls, I’m just saying if we’re going to have all vote-by-mail elections, send ballots only to people who have voted, and a letter to everyone else saying, ‘If you want a ballot, request one.’ That would be an added verification process.”

His website doesn’t say that. Either way, Ciattarelli’s party of freedom is entering a dicey area: This use-it-or-lose-it government order is like mandating citizens to drive once a month or relinquish their licenses. Moreover, it is established under the Constitution that voters have a right to choose not to vote, without penalty for staying home.

Ciattarelli’s proposals are a part of a larger effort among New Jersey Republicans, who have introduced or re-filed eight bills related to voting rights since the election, according to the Brennan Center.

One proposal suspends the Motor Voter Law, which would depress turnout. Another requires mail-in voters to reapply for ballots every year, which would depress turnout. Another mandates photo ID, which would depress turnout.

Spot the trend, win valuable prizes. And Jack Ciattarelli, sent down by the Party of Trump, is their champion.


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published this page in News and Politics 2021-03-05 03:33:12 -0800