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Tom Zirpoli: GOP rediscovers democracy in Virginia | COMMENTARY – Baltimore Sun

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Before the statewide elections in Virginia, the state house and Senate, controlled by Democrats with support from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, increased voting accessibility across the commonwealth. They increased options for voting by mail, extended early voting periods and generally made it easier for all Virginians to participate in their state’s democracy.
These actions are just the opposite of what other states controlled by Republicans have been doing over the past year, where voting options have been significantly restricted.
Virginia voted for a Republican governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general on Nov. 2, and they won six additional General Assembly seats. This outcome flies in the face of the perception by many Republican politicians that increasing opportunities to vote increases the chance that Democrats win elections. This myth had already been exposed in several studies prior to the Virginia contest, but it was interesting to see it happening in real-time in Virginia, where voting is very accessible for all.
Again, the outcome in Virginia demonstrated that making it easier to vote makes it equally easier for everyone to vote, Democrats and Republicans. The Virginia outcome even had some Republican states wondering if their new voting restrictions would hurt them in 2022. After all, Virginia had a record turnout for an off-year election and Republicans had the best election results in over two decades.
Moreover, a majority of Republican voters live in rural areas of the country where people have to travel miles to the nearest voting location. Consider how easy it would be for them to cast their ballot by mail, instead.
The former president, Donald Trump, is a sore loser and had to come up with excuses for losing in 2020. Election fraud was the best he could do, even after it was disproven by multiple recounts and in dozens of court challenges. Nevertheless, Republican-run states had to appease their master, play along, and instituted many restrictions to voting accessibility.
There were no accusations of voter fraud in Virginia when the loser, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, congratulated winner Republican Glenn Youngkin on his victory. Perhaps if the outcome was different, Republicans might have waged a Trump-inspired demand-a-recount strategy to discredit McAuliffe’s victory. This is currently going on in New Jersey where Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, who refuses to concede. It seems that Republicans celebrate the wonders of democracy when they win elections and resort to election fraud excuses when they lose.
Youngkin can thank the former president for staying out of the state and, thus, helping him get elected as a sane or normal Republican. Youngkin even declared Biden the winner of the 2020 election. Yes, I know, this is a low standard these days for Republican candidates, but that is where we find ourselves these days.
Biden defeated Trump in Virginia by 10 percentage points just one year ago. Youngkin smartly asked the former president to stay out of Virginia and never mentioned him during his campaign. He won by over 2 percentage points. That’s a 12-point swing from Democrat to Republican without the former president on the ticket and staying out of the race.
Maybe the lesson in Virginia is that the quality of the candidate and the candidate’s campaign determines election outcomes, not voting accessibility.
As stated by Zachary Wolf, writing for CNN, “Republicans didn’t need to change voting laws, as they have been doing in key states, attempting to drive down Democratic turnout. Maybe they just needed to drop Donald Trump, as Republican Glenn Youngkin did on his way to winning the governor’s race in Virginia.”
Still, Republicans in Congress continue to block a vote on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights bill that would, as they did in Virginia, expand voting access to all Americans, regardless of their home state. Indeed, an American’s right to vote should not depend on which state they live in or which political party is in control. The bill has come to a vote four times this year and all but one Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a co-sponsor of a watered-down version of the bill, have voted against even bringing the bill for a vote.
“Every American deserves equal opportunity to participate in our electoral system and political process, and this bill provides a starting point as we seek broader bipartisan consensus on how best to ensure that,” Murkowski said.
Maybe the outcome in Virginia’s statewide races will convince Republicans that a decent candidate with a good message can win elections, and that they don’t need to resort to suppressing the vote to win.
Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesday. Email him at [email protected].