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James Madison wrote in Federalist 49 that “the people are the only legitimate fountain of power.” Today’s overheated Pennsylvania Republican politicians seeking to undermine our elections would do well to cool off in that fountain.
Since the election, these politicians have eagerly forgotten that they report to the voters, not the other way around. Supported by extremist rhetoric, some politicians and pundits have launched a bevy of baseless attacks on the election results simply because they don’t like them. But perhaps even more pernicious are the jabs at election officials for the high crime of doing what the Constitution says.
Sadly, this attempted historical revision shows no signs of abating. In preparation for the next legislative session, a host of bills attacking voter access have been introduced in Pennsylvania. Among these are cherry-picked identification requirements for mail ballots, standards for signature matching based on pseudoscience and an attempt to wipe out the ability to vote absentee without an excuse.
Rather than attacking nonpartisan election officials and voters, these politicians should remember and embrace their accountability to the public, remove barriers to the ballot, make voting more fair and easy by increasing funding for early voting sites and drop boxes in every county, and to provide paid postage for mail-in ballots.
Recently, sixty-three Pennsylvania lawmakers sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation asking it to invalidate Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. The missive amounts to an attack on the integrity of election officials, lodged simply because voters didn’t choose the outcome that these politicians wanted at the ballot box. The letter contains zero evidence of a smoking gun, but plenty of sour grapes.
But it is not only an attack on election officials who are doing their job to help voters, regardless of their political affiliation — it is also an attack on every voter who braved a pandemic to make their voice heard.
Ultimately, it is an attack on democracy itself in service of dangerous extremism.
This behavior from politicians is unacceptable. It comes on the heels of a wave of death threats to election officials last month. Election officials, like politicians, are accountable to voters first. Politicians knowingly have put the lives of the people responsible for counting our votes at risk.
Unfortunately, elected officials’ anger at being held accountable hasn’t ended with these attacks, or even with the dozens of baseless and error-filled lawsuits aimed at overturning the results of the election. Everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown at courts and election officials in an attempt to get them to stymie the will of the voters.
Politicians must reject such cynical attacks and work to remove barriers to the ballot that are installed to suppress and manipulate who can vote. It’s time that politicians work with election officials, not against them. We need the politicians and officials who work for us to pass laws to make voting more secure, fair, and accessible. They should keep up with quickly moving technology and provide clarity on the policies, processes and procedures that voters follow to exercise their rights.
Lawmakers should expand the success of Act 77, which made it possible for millions of Pennsylvanians to vote by mail. Pennsylvania’s legislature must pass a pre-canvass policy that would put the Commonwealth in line with numerous states run by legislatures and governors across the political spectrum and allow for processing and scanning of mail-in ballots for 30 days leading up to Election Day. This would shorten the time it takes to count votes and relay accurate results, and it would save tax dollars by reducing overtime from long hours processing at the last minute.
It’s long past time for politicians to respect the results of our fair and free election. Voters have made their voice clearly heard, and election officials worked hard in unprecedented conditions to do so. Now, let’s make sure politicians remember who it is they work for, and listen to the voters.
Scott Seeborg is the Pennsylvania state director for All Voting is Local.