Grassley misleads on Republican "voting reform laws"

Herb Strentz: Senator Chuck Grassley does not acknowledge that if Americans are losing faith in democracy, it is partly because he and others avoid saying Joe Biden won the election. -promoted by Laura Belin

Seems like old times.

The April 10 issue of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s newsletter, THE SCOOP, calls to mind his old deceptions about government-run health plans that would “pull the plug on grandma,” and about the limited estate tax, which Grassley wrongly says has driven Iowa farm families into poverty or liquidation

Fear-mongering about “death panels” arose in 2009 in opposition to the health care reform bill (the Affordable Care Act). The “death tax” rhetoric continues to be a favorite for Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst, even though Neil Hamilton, former director of the Drake University Agricultural Law Center, has described such claims as “hogwash.”

In THE SCOOP, Grassley now misleads readers about what the state of Georgia’s recently enacted “voting reform” would do, and why Republican state legislatures around the nation are considering or have already adopted new restrictions on voting

Let’s take those one a time.

Critics of the Georgia law say it would prohibit families and friends from providing food and drink or other aid to those waiting in long lines to vote.

THE SCOOP dismisses such concerns. Grassley tells us the law “does not prohibit voters from being able to get a drink of water while waiting in line as partisans have falsely claimed.”

Now consider what the law says. Section 33, lines 1873-75 flatly state, “nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector” waiting in line to vote. (A computer search shows this to be the only references to “food” or “drink” in the 98-page bill.)  

That wording may reflect concerns about soliciting people to vote one way or another when in proximity to the polls. But it stands alone with no reference to providing the water in exchange for, say, the vote of your suffering grandpa or grandma or anyone else waiting in line.

Grassley’s claim of would-be voters “being able to get a drink of water” apparently refers to lines 1888 and 1889. Those say the Georgia Secretary of State is not prohibited “from making available self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.” (That’s the only reference to water in the bill.)

The best that can be said of the ban against friends and family providing sustenance to would-be voters — including the old and infirm — is that it is poorly worded. Nevertheless, the criticism is based on what the law says and is not false, as Grassley would have you believe.

Since the secretary of state and his election officials are not prohibited from facilitating voting by minorities and the elderly, they can help make sure all votes are made and counted, regardless of by whom. Would you say the record of voting rights in the South is reassuring on that? Would you place attentiveness to the needs of voting family and friends in the hands of those who have a history of denying the vote to minorities, or would you like to take care of it yourself? The Georgia law says you cannot.

As for the need for any such voting reform — critics call it “voter suppression” aimed at reducing the non-Republican vote — Grassley says in THE SCOOP: “After two successive presidential elections where the losing side questioned the legitimacy of the election, restoring faith in our electoral process is essential to restoring trust in representative government.”

Grassley does not acknowledge that if Americans are losing faith in democracy, it is partly because he and others avoid saying Joe Biden won the election, even though Biden clobbered Donald Trump by more than 7 million popular votes and 74 electoral votes.

Further, treating the reactions to the 2016 and 2020 elections as pretty much the same is not like comparing apples to oranges — it’s like comparing apples to nuts and bolts.

Despite concerns with Russian interference in the 2016 election and how Democrats were stunned by Trump’s election, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party complied with the results, and President Barack Obama attended Trump’s inauguration.

Contrast that with Trump, who helped incite the January 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol and still contends he won the election. You have to wonder why Grassley sees so much similarity in the election outcomes.

Further, after 2016, considerable steps were taken to tighten cybersecurity in order to assure the 2020 election results would be honest, accurate, and faithful to the principle of one person, one vote.

Christopher Krebs led the federal government’s voting security program as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. When Krebs rightly said the 2020 election was fair and square, Trump fired him. Perhaps Trump would have fired Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate as well, if he could have. In November, Pate praised “our state and federal partners for helping us provide safe and secure elections.”

Grassley has served in public office for more than 62 years — sixteen as a state legislator, six as a U.S. House member, and 40-plus as U.S. senator. That lengthy tenure provides ample food for thought on what he has done right and what he has done that is questionable or wrong.

His April 10 newsletter is another lamentable reminder that any assessment of Grassley’s record will include his role in acquiescing to and making excuses for the wreckage and the damage done by the S.S. Trump.

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

Top image: Voters stand in line in Brunswick, Georgia on October 12, 2020, the first morning of early voting for the general election. Photo by Michael Scott Milner available via Shutterstock.

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