Ever since the fateful 2020 election, there’s been one topic on conservatives’ minds — election fraud.
The idea has been a battle cry for dozens of conservative candidates across the country. Desperate to show their similarities to former president Donald Trump, many have taken up the same talking points he used near the end of his term.
Take Indiana’s own Secretary of State-elect Diego Morales. Many of his campaign ads and his own website take special pains to declare his dedication to election integrity. On the surface, it’s a fair promise to make. But these attacks on elections Morales so bravely stands up against are seemingly nowhere to be found.
In reality, election fraud is exceedingly rare. Studies have found voter impersonation only occurs between 0.0003 and 0.0025% of the time. These numbers barely impact the integrity of elections. So why do so many Republican candidates use this as a talking point?
Short answer: disenfranchisement. By justifying themselves with allegations of election tampering, conservatives have been able to restrict free and fair voting for the most vulnerable Americans.
For example, laws requiring ID to vote have become more and more prevalent over the years. 35 states — including Indiana — now have voter ID laws. Voter ID can create huge barriers to voting for marginalized people.
For one, obtaining an ID is expensive and time-consuming. Even if a valid ID is offered for free, acquiring documents to prove one’s identity and traveling to get an ID can be prohibitive. We all know the black hole of time that is the BMV. For many, simply waiting to get an ID can eat into necessary tasks like work or school. And most can’t just take the day off.
11% of U.S. citizens lack a valid ID that polling places would accept. Voting is the backbone of democracy, and in places with strict voter ID laws like Indiana, these people cannot have a voice in the government they must obey.
Voter ID laws are conservatives’ latest scheme to prevent free and fair elections. These laws are eerily similar to poll taxes and literacy tests, meant to keep Black and poor citizens from exercising their right to vote. Once again, voting is put behind a monetary barrier under the excuse of “security.”
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Despite the fact that the U.S. is self-defined as the land of liberty, this is yet another barrier to the people’s actual voices being heard. Gerrymandering runs rampant across the states. Millions of people convicted of felonies are unable to vote. Yet, conservatives think that they are being silenced.
There’s a reason so many conservative voters fall back onto this narrative — it’s comforting. It provides an explanation as to why Republicans are starting to fall out of favor in places they were once loved. To them, it’s not that people are changing their minds, it’s a deliberate attack on their way of life.
And candidates keep feeding them this narrative because it keeps them winning in more ways than one. It keeps Republicans voting for them to “protect their elections” — and it discourages the opposition from voting them out by allowing their party to introduce restrictive voting laws.
Unfortunately, conservative candidates are unlikely to drop this narrative any time soon. Whatever gets them votes — even if it’s harmful to the country as a whole — is going to continue. Americans committed to actual liberty must continue fighting against ideals like this — and keep voting.
Danny William (they/them) is a freshman studying media.