The first recent wave of legislation tightening voting laws came in 2021, when Donald J. Trump’s false claims of voter fraud spurred Republican lawmakers to act over loud objections from Democrats. Two years later, a second wave is steadily moving ahead, but largely under the radar.
Propelled by a new coalition of Trump allies, Republican-led legislatures have continued to pass significant restrictions on access to the ballot, including new limits to voting by mail in Ohio, a ban on ballot drop boxes in Arkansas and the shortening of early voting windows in Wyoming.
Behind the efforts is a network of billionaire-backed advocacy groups that has formed a new hub of election advocacy within the Republican Party, rallying state activists, drafting model legislation and setting priorities.
The groups have largely dropped the push for expansive laws, shifting instead to a strategy one leader describes as “radical incrementalism” — a step-by-step approach intended to be more politically palatable than the broad legislation that provoked widespread protest in 2021.
“They haven’t stopped trying to change how our elections are run. They’re just doing it out of the spotlight,” said Joanna Lydgate, the chief executive of States United, a nonpartisan election group. Some of the policies being promoted today will be law in time for next year’s presidential election, she added, “and American voters will feel the impact.”
Republicans have long said their goal is “election integrity,” but a spate of recent proposals suggests clear, and sometimes strikingly specific, political aims. National Republicans recently sought to change the rules for a single race in Montana — for the U.S. Senate — to tilt the scales toward the Republican candidate. In Ohio, Republican state lawmakers are seeking to make it harder to pass a ballot initiative, just as a coalition of abortion rights groups is collecting signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
On a recent conference call with activists in Michigan, Cleta Mitchell, one of the chief architects of the new coalition, blamed “electoral systems” for the party’s losses in midterm elections, and not, as pundits have said, abortion messaging or poor candidates, according to a recording obtained by The New York Times.
“I think you have got to figure out what we have to do, where to fix the system that gives a Republican candidate a potential chance to win,” she said.
Ms. Mitchell declined to comment. [Continue reading…]