As dozens of voter suppression bills in Georgia and Arizona gain traction, new reporting finds that Republican leaders, under pressure from groups like the Heritage Foundation, are quietly organizing to establish guidelines for voter suppression and spread similar bills across the country.
Party leaders, The New York Times reports, are looking into using language like that of Arizona’s restrictive, racist voter ID laws in other states. For new laws, they’re working on a list of “best practices” for their party to follow in writing bills pertaining to elections.
The party has also created a group within the Republican National Committee (RNC), Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein write for The New York Times, for “election integrity” composed of two dozen members “tasked with developing legislative proposals on voting systems.”
Following the patterns of the “legislative proposals” on voting that Republicans have filed in the months following the 2020 election, this group is likely brainstorming further voter suppression efforts within the RNC. The committee is populated by officials who were “deeply involved” in former President Donald Trump’s so-called “stop the steal” efforts to question and overturn the 2020 presidential election.
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The idea to begin filing waves of voter suppression bills didn’t come out of nowhere. Though Republican state lawmakers are a huge driving force behind such bills — and there was obvious pressure from congressional Republicans and the president to question election integrity — Republicans in Georgia, for instance, were approached by members of an outside group with interest in rolling back voting access: Heritage Action for America, a political sister organization to the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
Shortly after a meeting between Georgia Republicans and Heritage Action members in late January, dozens of bills aimed at making it harder to vote flooded the state legislature. Of the 68 bills, The New York Times found, at least 23 had similar language or were similar in principle to a Heritage Foundation letter that the members gave the lawmakers, as well as a report, which laid out the group’s preferred action items on restrictive voting laws.
“The alignment was not coincidental,” write Corasaniti and Epstein. “As Republican legislatures across the country seek to usher in a raft of new restrictions on voting, they are being prodded by an array of party leaders and outside groups working to establish a set of guiding principles to the efforts to claw back access to voting.”
This reporting suggests that the drive to pass sweeping legislation making it harder to vote across the country is strong among Republicans and even more united than it may have seemed previously.
As the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) showed in February, the “stop the steal” ideology is still strong and healthy within the Republican Party despite, and perhaps because of, Democratic power in Congress and the White House. CPAC organizers devoted seven panels during its weeklong event to the idea of stolen elections, including a panel titled “Protecting Elections Part VI: Failed States (PA, GA, NV, Oh My!).”
Looking into the future, the Heritage Foundation, through Heritage Action, is planning to spend $24 million across eight states, including battlegrounds that flipped blue in 2020, such as Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan. They plan a two-year effort to “produce model legislation for state legislatures to adopt” on voting, per The New York Times.
Meanwhile, during a Wednesday hearing on S.1, the For the People Act, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) claimed that reports such as the one from the Brennan Center for Justice, which suggests that there’s a concerted effort by Republicans to suppress votes, are unfair, since only a few of them have become law so far.
But Blunt, who did not vote to overturn the results of the election but did vote to acquit Trump, ignores that the very Brennan Center report he cites in the hearing finds that the number of voter suppression bills being filed in legislatures across the country is over four times the number filed during the same time last year — generating an unprecedented amount of legislation. He also ignores the fact that Republicans have outright admitted what they’re trying to achieve with these efforts. As one Arizona lawmaker said earlier this month, “everybody shouldn’t be voting.”