Voting Machine Debacles Wrought by Deniers

Legislation Louisiana Politics Voting

Marble Falls      Most of us learn early in our lives and work that it’s hard to prove a negative.  Interestingly, this is a lesson many on the political right are being forced to quietly learn behind the scenes after having beaten the drums and searched in every dark corner for evidence of elves and gremlins.  Yes, I’m talking about election deniers.  I wish I was also talking about conspiracy dogs claiming to try to sniff out nonexistent voter fraud, but we’ll get to that related issue in due course.

The purchase of new voting machines in Louisiana is a case study in such political gymnastics.  In the wake of the 2020 election, the Trump-infected Republicans in the Louisiana legislature and their totally compliant lapdog hyper-partisan Secretary of State wanted to join the election denial complaints about hanky-panky with voting machines.  Please remember that Trump won the election in deep red Louisiana by a huge margin, so there was no question about the tally or the outcome.  This was a snipe hunt, because nationally conservative politicians were in a race to prove their bonafides and loyalty to the cause.

The voting machines in Louisiana are 35-years old. The companies don’t even make parts to repair many of them, so the need to purchase machines was not a new concern.  The attacks on various machine manufacturers were a new angle for the conspiracy folks.  Fox News and talk radio motormouths were accusing Dominion and other companies of massive failures and frauds, slandering Dominion so much so that it won an $800 million payment from Fox for deliberate and malicious damages.  Heeding the cry of the herd, the Louisiana legislators passed several bills in their 2021 session to try to pretend to fix these nonexistent harms.  They set up two new commissions to review voting machine purchases and the ins and outs there, while the Secretary of State made Louisiana the first state in the nation to abandon ERIC, the nonpartisan voting list cleaner.

Fast-forward to this session of the legislature, and they are quietly voting unanimously under an equally rabid, newly elected Secretary of State to repeal some sections.  They are leaving the two commissions intact, because they are simply performative, so not problematic, and allow them to claim they add transparency to the voting process.  When it comes to the machines, though, they are dropping the requirement that three independent experts be hired and utilized to evaluate the machines before purchase, because it would add two years to the already three year bidding and acquisition process.  Needless to say, the clock would run forward from 2024 and is not counting the three-year delay in purchase of the machines already because they had to placate the whining of deniers at legislative hearings back then.   There’s a weird “what goes around, comes around” justice to their shenanigans there.

Of course, they didn’t really learn the lesson completely.  The new Secretary of State also now has to pretend that voter fraud is still an issue, despite no evidence of it, in order to score points with the heavy breathers.  She has proposed a so-called “election integrity” package.  Not able to blame the machines, she is trying to make it harder for voters to get an absentee ballot, and, if they succeed, also trying to make it harder for some voters, who are elderly or disabled, to get assistance in filing out their ballots.

The point was never really about voting machines, as we all know.  Nor is the effort about voter fraud.  It’s all about suppressing the vote and limiting access to the ballot.  The Republicans in Louisiana and nationally can’t prove that machines are a problem or that there is voter fraud, but they absolutely know that for them to win, they need fewer people to vote, especially among voters and groups that they don’t like, and who are less likely to like them.

Where’s Tina Turner when we need her?  She would sing, “what’s democracy got to do with it?”