For those who paid attention to the news in the last 365 days and even for those who didn’t, it’s hard to forget about the violence that took over the news cycle on Jan. 6, a day that is seared into this country’s national memory. The attack on the U.S. Capitol emerged for a number of reasons, although it was no coincidence that it occured as the House was certifying the 2020 presidential election results. The assertion that the 2020 election was stolen by President Biden physically endangered U.S. representatives and staff within the Capitol as well as the principles and ideals which American elections were derived from. This assertion has led to a small, but forceful, movement of GOP lawmakers who want to return to hand-counting ballots in a thinly veiled attempt to open the door to manipulation by bad actors.
It’s worth remembering that there is little to no evidence of election irregularities or any major intervening forces which tipped the election in President Biden’s favor. A report by AP found less than 475 possible instances of fraud out of over 25 million votes, an amount which would not have changed the results of the election. This hasn’t stopped allies of former President Trump from pushing conspiracy theories about the manipulation of voting machines.
In at least six states, Republican lawmakers have been introducing legislation demanding that election ballots be counted by hand. Typically they are counted by electronic tabulators. None of these statewide bills have been passed or even received widespread support. However, there is growing demand for Republicans to get behind this legislation.
It’s important to be clear that this is an idea bathed in lunacy, and those who are proposing it have really outdone themselves in terms of absurdity. Experts, which are people who actually know what they’re talking about, have said that hand-counting ballots is so blatantly illogical that its implementation would lead to incredible disarray by slowing or even halting election certifications. It would allow the probable outcome of boundless human error. Furthermore, it would create exactly the problem it is supposedly preventing which is election manipulation. It’s clear that this legislation is not at all about preventing said manipulation.
Tactics like these are rooted in the same rhetoric that enforced Jim Crow laws. The voter fraud conspiracy, which is behind this hand-counting motion, is built on racist ideologies that have been around for quite a long time. By harping on the nearly nonexistent threat of voter fraud, legislators have managed to severely restrict voting rights, specifically through the passage of laws in 19 states. Pending before 27 state legislatures are approximately 250 restrictive voting bills this year. This current idea is clearly one in a long line of attempts to subvert the security of the voting process. It may seem trivial to be talking about such a small movement of legislation, but the greater picture is the overall impediments that have been created in the once revered American voting process through the usage of small minded, supremacist and bigoted beliefs.
This movement, which is promoting greater mistrust in the institutions which run American elections, is allowing baseless accusations about the validity and legitimacy of the 2020 election to flourish. This legislation is made further pointless as there is already a government agency which has methods for checking ballots by hand. The Election Assistance Commission conducts an audit of the voting ballots by using a sample to ensure the voting machines are correct. This does not prevent the same kind of issues as an initial hand count and ensures the authenticity of the election results.
It would be naive to think that the proposed legislation is truly aiming to prevent the intervention of bad actors in the U.S. election progress. The concept of voter suppression is not a term Americans are unfamiliar with as many lawmakers have waged war on the voting rights of racial minorities. This is another, albeit muted, attempt at impacting those rights.
Voter suppression has evolved over time to just barely skirt voting rights laws in order to specifically inhibit the voice of communities of color. This attempt does not feel like a more advanced version of voter suppression, but rather a devolved version. Still, beware the ways one’s rights are restricted. As said by civil rights advocate, Reverend William Barber II, “Jim Crow did not retire: he went to law school and launched a second career. Meet James Crow, Esquire.”