Staff Columnist

Shouting about fictional 'fraud' is fun until a mob storms the Capitol

Protesters storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D
Protesters storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

So now we’ve seen the consequences of Republicans crying “voter fraud!” where none exists.

Sure, it was all fun and games when making up tall tales was simply a cynical vehicle for enacting laws intended to suppress the vote, and make it harder for Democrats to win. It was just shrewd politics, veiled in empty rhetoric about securing the vote. What could go wrong?

But the more they lied, the more their supporters believed our electoral system is rigged by shadowy forces. Along came Donald Trump to amplify those lies from the highest office in the land. Every election his opponents won had to be fraudulent.

And then came Wednesday afternoon, when a mob of Trump supporters, convinced by more lies that the president was robbed of an election victory in November, stormed and vandalized the U.S. Capitol. Republican election fraud fictions shoved America to one of its darkest days. A Republican president, aided and abetted by so many GOP leaders who joined in on his illegitimate election fantasy, incited an assault on the heart of our democracy.

Maybe you also read this week, in an Iowa legislative preview story by James Q. Lynch, that Republicans who run the Statehouse plan to consider more changes in Iowa’s voting and election laws. We’ve already got a voter ID requirement and other restrictions to stamp out “fraud.” Now on the table are a number of proposals, including more ideas that will make it tougher to vote.

If lawmakers could contain themselves and bring some welcome uniformity to a compressed county-by-county recount system that proved so problematic in the contested 2nd District congressional race, that would be OK.

But rarely have they popped the hood on election law in this state without causing damage.

During a video forum Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said there is interest among lawmakers in measures that further “tighten” election laws in Iowa.

What does “tighten” mean exactly? It’s anyone’s guess.

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Maybe they’ll dust off proposals from a thick bill filed last year by Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport. Among its greatest hits are a ban on satellite voting stations in state-owned buildings, including on university campuses, and a requirement that county auditors flag any voters who didn’t vote in a presidential election and purge them from the roles the following July, unless they respond to a mailing.

Smith proposed requiring college students to fill out a form saying whether they plan to leave the state. If they’re leaving, they’re purged. If they stay, they have to register to vote again. He would turn county public officials into private detectives by having them compare signatures on absentee ballots with those on record. And he’d close the general election polls an hour earlier.

Although that bill was shelved, Smith did succeed in June to curtail the secretary of state’s ability to send absentee ballot request forms to every Iowan and stopped auditors from using their records to fill in missing information on request forms. Fraud, security, integrity, lather, rinse, repeat.

What will Smith, chairman of the State Government Committee, bring to the table this year? He declined to tell Lynch, arguing the media misrepresent his ideas and intent. I’d submit he’s actually wary of letting us know his ideas. And, of course, his intent is clear.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton says he wants to go after “rogue” auditors who sent ballot request forms with voters’ information filled in. Trump’s campaign sued to toss out those forms, citing, of course, the specter of fraud. The last thing we want is public service from public servants.

“A lot of these changes were solutions in search of a problem,” said House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City.

So true. But now the jig is up.

We all know that “fraud!” is simply convenient cover for undermining our democracy to gain political advantage and to win at any and all cost. We’ve now seen volunteer voter fraud-fighters sack our Capitol. Is this what a secure election looks like?

Iowa is as red as a ripe summer tomato, with Republicans winning everywhere. And yet we need more tightening. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday there are still “a lot of questions” about the presidential election.

No, the only question is when will you stop making excuses for a dangerously unfit president?

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Our message to them, especially after this week, should be knock it off. Cease and desist. Enough already. Step away from the ballots. Haven’t you done enough damage?

Voter fraud is a fable that led to a real life horror show. We’ve seen what you did and know why you did it. Stop vandalizing our democracy.

(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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