I am reading Rick Perlstein’s Reaganland and was struck by this passage (p.93-94):
Look what happened after President Carter, on March 22, sent a letter to Congress recommending a package of electoral reforms. The president was concerned that America ranked twenty-first in voter participation among the world’s democracies. He argued that the problem was not voter apathy but the “millions of Americans are prevented or discouraged from voting in every election by antiquated and overly restricted voter registration laws”–a fact proven by the record rates of participation in 1976 in states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota that let voters register on Election Day. So Carter recommended same-day registration be adopted universally–tempering concerns that such measures might increase opportunities for fraud by increasing penalties against it to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He asked for $25 million to help states comply, an expansion to congressional elections of the current system of federal matching funds for presidential campaigns, and closing a loophole in campaign finance law that advantaged rich contenders by allowing them to evade spending limits if they funded their own campaigns. He proposed revising the Hatch Act to allow federal employees “not in sensitive positions” the same rights of political participation as everyone else when not on the job. Most radically, he recommended a constitutional amendment to scrap the Electoral College, which, three times so far, had selected as president a candidate who had received fewer votes than his opponent.
It was among the most sweeping political reform proposals in U.S. history–and soon afterward, legislators from both parties stood together at a news briefing to endorse all or most of it. The bill for universal registration, which RNC chairman Brock called “a Republican concept,” was cosponsored by four Republicans. Senator Baker suggested going even further by making Election Day a national holiday, keeping polls open twenty-four hours, and instructing automatic registration. House minority leader John Rhodes, the conservative disciple of Barry Goldwater, predicted the proposal would pass “in substantially the same form with a lot of Republican support, including my own.
More democracy –who could object?
The answer was: the New Right, which took their lessons about “election reform” from legends of Kennedy beating Nixon via votes received from the cemeteries of Chicago.
The next issue of Human Affairs was bannered “ELECTION ‘REFORM’ PACKAGE: EUTHANASIA FOR THE GOP.” It argued that the current electoral system had never disenfranchised a single citizen–at least “no citizen who cares enough to make the minimal effort.” So why was Carter proposing to change it? Because, Kevin Phillips insisted, it would “blow the Republican Party sky high.” Phillips claimed that Carter had calculated that since he had won Wisconsin by a tiny margin, defying predictions, and since “most electoral analysts credited that upset to the 210,000 allowed to register on election day, ” he wanted to expand the scam to all fifty states. A Berkeley political scientists, Human Events noted, predicted national turnout would go up 20 percent under Carter’s reforms–a bad thing, the editors said, because “the bulk of these extra votes will go to Carter’s Democratic Party. . .with blacks and other traditionally Democratic voter groups accounting for most of the increase.” The Heritage Foundation, meanwhile, got out one issue brief arguing that instant registration might allow the “eight million illegal aliens in the U.S.” to vote, and another arguing that it was a mistake to “take for granted that it is desirable to increase the number of people who vote.”
Ronald Reagan had been making similar arguments for years. “Look at the potential for cheating,” he thundered in 1975 when Democrats proposed a system allowing citizens to register by mail….He took up the same cudgel shortly after Carter’s’ inauguration when California adopted easier procedures: “Why don’t we try reverse psychology and make it harder to vote?. . .
Want to dig deeper?
Read these pieces:
“After Record 2020 Turnout, State Republicans Weight Making It Harder To Vote” (NPR), February 7, 2021
“The Real HR 1 Problem: Illegal Immigrants Voting” (Heritage Foundation), April 12, 2021
“The Risks of Mail-In Voting” (Heritage Foundation), August 3, 2020
“A step-by-step look at Trump’s falsehoods on mail in voting: Analysis” (ABC News), October 1, 2020
Here is Michelle Bachmann on the expansion of voting rights:
[H.R. 1] makes election fraud the law of the land in America: mail-in-voting, no IDs, no signatures, no chain of custody, drop-off boxes are allowed where they can be tampered with with votes, Internet registration. It insures one party rule.
It insures that one party will win every election [and] there is no chance of competitive elections and it federalizes and micromanages the electionprocess that administered by the states.[H.R..1] would eliminate basic election integrity or rules that states have in place and it would interfere with the rights of the states to define voter eligibility and accuracy of voting rules.That despite the fact that the Constitution of the United States says that the states are the write the rules for elections, not the federal government. So this completely upends current election law and federalizes it and puts it in the hands of one party rule never to be lost again. So it keeps one party in perpetual power. They would make themselves immune to the will of the voter. They would empower themselves to make any laws they’d like, to extract whatever punishments they like from their political opponents and to vote themselves whatever sums of money they would like from the treasury. . .