Narratives

Voting
Updated:
October 2, 2021
Published:
September 20, 2021

Introduction

Why this information is important

This section will help you understand where the differing views from the Left and the Right. Ultimately, that understanding will prepare you to field questions from students and approach their viewpoints from a place of empathy.

Narrative History

The fight for equal voting rights has been at the forefront of democracy since the late 1700s when only white male landowners were granted the right to vote. However, for the sake of this topic guide, we will focus on the narrative’s history and the evolution of partisanship in the 20th century. 

Despite minority groups and women being granted the right to vote in the early 20th century, many Southern states began to individually implement barriers to voting in the 1960s, making it inherently harder for people of color and low-income citizens to vote. Activists began to speak out against the voting barriers. In 1965, the Democratic and Republican Parties came together to pass a significant bipartisan piece of voting legislation, The Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act protected minority groups from state-level restrictions, and after one year of its passing, 125,000 Black Americans registered to vote. The two parties continued to pass bipartisan legislation, including amending the Voting Rights Act in 1975 to protect the elderly and people with disabilities, signing the 26th Amendment to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 for those in the military, and passing the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act. These actions protected eligible voters from discrimination, and both the Republican and Democratic Parties supported them. The parties viewed the right to vote as a moral issue rather than a divisive one. Both parties emphasized the importance of accessibility of voting and guaranteeing all citizens a right to vote.

The shift between the two parties began in June 2013 with the Supreme Court striking down Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in  Shelby County v. Holder. After this ruling, nine states were released from preclearance, and State Republican lawmakers began implementing voting restrictions in their states and counties. 

Concerns and debates over foreign election interference and voter fraud reemerged before and after the 2016 election, sharply splitting the parties. The Democratic Party feared Russian interference cost Hillary Clinton the election, while President Trump and the Republican Party vocalized their fear of large-scale voter fraud costing them the election. This began a hotly contested debate on voting laws and alternative methods of voting. The 2016 Republican Party Platform emphasized that their goal was to protect the right to vote for all citizens while supporting legislation the Left sees as restrictive, including voter ID laws and eliminating ballot harvesting. They focused heavily on these election fraud claims and spoke out against electronic voting systems and illegal voting.

The 2020 Democratic Platform speaks to the severity of voter suppression, pledging to ensure “the Department of Justice challenges state laws that make it harder for Americans to vote”, as well as supporting actions to make voting easier like expanding vote-by-mail and early voting for all. 

Today, Democrats are more likely to view voting rights as one of equality and restoration, while Republicans view it as limiting fraud and threats to democracy. 

Not only are Republican and Democratic lawmakers split on voting rights vs. voting security, but over the last three years, voters have become increasingly polarized. Since the 2018 midterm elections, PEW Research shows support from Republican and Republican-leaning voters on automatic voter registration has declined 11%. Their opinion on early voting and no-excuse absentee voting has decreased 19% to just 38% support compared to 84% of Democrats in favor. As issues like equal access to alternative voting methods and voter ID requirements continue to dominate Congress and the news cycle, bipartisan restoration and protection of the right to vote seems more unlikely than ever. 

After an unprecedented 2020 election in the midst of a pandemic, equal access to fair elections is crucial.  As more states implement their own voting measures and Congress grows more divisive, bipartisanship is more important than ever.

In a 1980 debate, Ronald Reagan spoke about collaborating with Mexico in dealing with the immigration crisis, calling them "our neighbor to the south." During that same debate, when asked if children in the country illegally should be allowed to attend U.S. public schools, George H. W. Bush didn't hesitate. He said he does not want to see six or 8-year-olds being uneducated or "made to feel that they're living outside the law." Over 30 years later, and while he doesn't represent all conservatives, Donald Trump's remarks draw a stark contrast to H. W.'s. "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," or his campaign policy promise to make Mexico pay for the construction of a border wall.

For Democrats in the 80's and '90s, the growing immigrant population posed a problem for the party's labor priorities. However, near the turn of the century, things began to change. As the Democratic party became more diverse (+18% non-white since 1995), their messaging shifted to accepting their diverse constituency, transforming immigration from a security problem to a civil rights issue. Shifts in Republican messaging are designed to target voters as well. According to former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleisher, "I think the biggest change [from Bush to Trump] was that the economy weakened. People in America were worried about their jobs and their livelihood, and they did worry about a surge of people coming through illegally." Another prominent conservative, Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies, said, "[In 2016, Donald Trump] took advantage of that gap between what the actual voters wanted and what the political class was offering." The 45th President's 'America First' agenda spoke to millions who felt that illegal immigrants were an added burden to the nation's economic well-being and that providing paths to citizenship would only encourage future illegal immigration.

Today, Democrats are more likely to view immigration as a human rights issue and Republicans as a safety and security issue. A poll from the Cato institute backs this up: 70% of Democrats say racist beliefs drive the desire for less immigration. In comparison, 88% of Republicans say a sincere interest in controlling the country's borders is the reason. Despite the partisan breakdown, 57% of all Americans ultimately believe that strict immigration belief results from wanting secure borders, not racism.

History is important, but what is happening right now is just as critical. Here are the predominant immigration narratives and supporting evidence from the Left and Right. Each narrative is written from the perspective of Civil writers on the Right (Republican) or Left (Democratic); they don't represent the views of Civil as a company.

Left Narrative

Narrative Foundations

1. Restricting voting access threatens the credibility of American democracy.

2. Decreasing barriers to vote encourages civic engagement and greater voter turnout.

3. Eligible voters should have fair access to all steps of the voting process without any unreasonable barriers or obstacles.

"The Left" refers to (and is interchangeable with) the Democratic Party: moderate Liberals and Progressives. While, in reality, the Left isn't a monolithic voting bloc, this topic guide views the Left as a middle-ground aggregate of Progressives and moderate Liberals.

If your news outlets lean Left...

You are confused as to why expanding voter accessibility and rights are polarizing issues. After monitoring the 2020 election, it seems obvious that voter suppression took place in a variety of ways, from poll site closures to reduction of drop boxes for mail-in ballots. You did not watch these events  happen in states with anticipated Republican landslides, but in contentious battleground states to boost the odds of Republican victories. Despite the calls to action, you saw 17 state legislatures enact a combined 28 voting restrictions, making it even more difficult to vote. It is frustrating watching history reverse itself and debates persist despite blatant instances of voter suppression.

You may also be frustrated by the right perpetuating the idea that the left wants to allow anyone, even non-US citizens to vote. The Left certainly wants fair elections, but they also aim to ensure that there are free elections. Any eligible voter should have the right to do so without undue difficulty, yet members of eligible voters from underrepresented minorities still face unjust barriers to registration and access to polling sites.

Left Narrative

The 2021 Democratic platform pledges to safeguard and restore the fundamental right to vote for every American. Democrats are dedicated to the principle of “one person, one vote”. The goal of the Democratic Party is simple: ensure every American has a safe, equal opportunity to vote regardless of race, gender, class, or ability. The party is determined to push back on Republican opposition that would disenfranchise underrepresented demographics, by enacting and enforcing legislation for voting rights with urgency. To restore voting rights for all, the Democratic Party is committed to…

  • Enacting measures such as nonpartisan redistricting commissions to end partisan gerrymandering.
  • Creating an effective and transparent federal government by establishing a federal ethics commission.
  • Making access to voter registration and voting on Election Day easier for all. The Party believes in modernizing election technology to be accessible for those with disabilities as well as making Election Day a national holiday.
  • Enhancing campaign finance laws. This means requiring all groups supporting candidates to fully disclose their donor contributors, ending “dark money.” The party looks to ban corporate PACs from donating as well as lobbyists from donating or fundraising for anyone they lobby with.
  • Protecting voting rights by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and challenging states with restrictive voting measures. 

Recent studies have disputed the Right’s argument that non-traditional voting methods such as absentee ballots and early voting increase voter fraud, especially with the 2020 election. The Left is supported by statistics and studies that shine a light on the disproportionality of voting rights and how disenfranchised groups are affected.

  • In 2019, the Center for American Progress found that on average, congressional redistricting shifted on average 59 seats  in the House of Representatives. According to the study, Republicans tend to win more of these seats because they find themselves to be spread out over rural and suburban areas while Democrats, who tend to be in more urban areas, are packed tightly together in fewer districts. 
  • In 2012, Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, took all non-citizens out of the state’s voter registration files to ensure there were no illegal immigrants voting. Of the 182,000 suspected of being non-citizens (and therefore not eligible to vote), the state found only 85 non-citizens who were actually registered to vote. Of 12 million total voters, only one fraud conviction was found.

Many groups have been disenfranchised when it comes to voting, and ex-felons are one of them. As of 2020, 5.17 million felons, 43% of whom have already finished their sentences, are disenfranchised due to a prior conviction. Each state has a different definition of what strips the right to vote, but in states like Indiana, it includes those who have been convicted of a crime. This is so broad that it is interpreted to include any form of misdemeanor like minor drug offenses, vandalism, or petty theft.2.27% of the eligible voter population is unable to vote because of a current or past conviction. Of that group, 75% have completed their sentencing and are fully immersed back into their communities or are on supervised probation.

The other side...

Opposition to voting rights proposals in Congress by Republicans is grounded in arguments of voter fraud and vote grabbing. Republicans on Capitol Hill believe that proposals such as the For the People Act are an attempt by Democrats to grab more votes. Additionally, they believe that over-expansion of voting rights dilutes the votes of eligible and qualified voters. Democrats agree with Republicans that election security is a priority and that it is important for eligible votes to be properly counted. However, while Republicans, who have repeatedly blocked voting rights legislation, see it as a vote grab, Democrats simply want to dismantle systemic barriers to voting that would ensure every American has the right to vote.

In many states, Republican legislators have been pushing back with proposals that suppress voter rights which overweights votes of specific, and privileged, demographics. Voting restriction laws were introduced in major contentious states such as Texas, Georgia, and Florida as well as consistently Republican states like Iowa, Utah, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.Effects on voting include eliminating mail-in ballots without a valid request, decreasing the number of ballot drop boxes, harsher voter ID requirements for all voters, and expanding voter purges. A Texas District Court initially did not approve of the governor’s order for one drop box per county, but it was overturned after an appeal to the all-conservative state Supreme Court. This meant that counties such as Harris County, where Houston is located with 2.4 million registered voters, were allowed only one drop box. Laws like these are unnecessary and unjust barriers to voting that systematically disadvantage minority demographics, particularly African American and disabled voters.

“The Right” refers to and is interchangeable with the Republican Party: moderate Conservatives and Traditionalists. While, in reality, the Right isn’t a monolithic voting bloc, this topic guide treats the Right as a middle-ground aggregate of moderate Conservatives and Traditionalists.

If your news outlets lean Right...

You probably feel that the Democrat party continually takes part in election interference by encouraging fraud and pushing less strict voting measures to ensure their side wins.  You are upset that left-leaning people cannot agree with you on voter ID laws.  You want to see free and fair elections where every legally eligible person counts for one vote.  You have probably seen footage of election discrepancies throughout the years and want to see those investigated.  You are upset with fraud and want to see the results of election audits and recounts.

Right Narrative

The Republican party “opposes the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College”.  The electoral college is a system which ensures the minority does not fall victim to majoritarian tyranny.  The GOP “supports state efforts to ensure ballot access for the elderly, the handicapped, military personnel, and all legitimate voters”.  The Republican party is concerned that some voting procedures may be open to abuse. For this reason, they “support legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting”.

To ensure a fair and free election the Right’s priorities include:

Election fraud has undoubtedly happened throughout the history of the United States.  Since 1991 there have been 1,143 criminal convictions of voter fraud. In 2020, with the widespread dissemination of mail-in voting, many claims on election security emerged.  Even Democrats were initially distrustful of mail-in sparking the “USPS Conspiracy”.  Republicans were the most skeptical following the 2020 presidential results which were legally contested in the months following the election.  Claims of widespread voter fraud could not ultimately be substantiated; however, Republicans felt that many claims were not properly investigated.  Here were some of the nationally acclaimed fraud disputes by the Trump campaign and by some Trump voters:

  • Georgia Surveillance Video. A video which emerged from Fulton County Georgia purportedly showing poll workers uncovering guidecases of ballots and scanning them multiple times.
  • Dominion Voting’s Adjudication System.  Dominion voting became a flashpoint following the election and as recently as August 2021 has been subpoenaed by the state of Arizona.  A video from Coffee County Georgia showed election workers demonstrating how votes could be electronically flipped by poll workers.
  • Poll Observer Disenfranchisement. On election night, media sources reported poll observers were removed from certain counting sites.
  • Secret Cabal. A Times article emerged in February of 2021 detailing a “shadow campaign” which worked to change election laws to influence the results of 2020.  Many Trump voters took this as an admission of media cover ups of key election stories and the work of activist judges to undermine the 2020 results.

In the future, the best methods of preventing this are through the elimination of ballot harvesting and through the implementation of voter ID laws.  

Ballot harvesting is when a 3rd party picks up absentee ballots on behalf of someone who cannot make it to the poll or illegally procured them from mailboxes for a harvester.  The prime target of harvesting tends to be nursing homes; however, there have been some reported instances of ballot discarding of US Armed Forces absentee ballots.  Ballots are at risk of being discarded, or worse, altered for the opposite candidate.  Undercover reporters such as Project Veritas have shown an instance of a ballot harvester illegally trading hard cash for ballots they collect by unknown actors.  In 2018, the state of California legalized the practice which the Republican Party wishes to fight.

From flying on an airplane to getting food supplies from a food bank, a form of photo identification is required for important proceedings.  Voting is one of, if not the, most important job an American citizen has, meaning photo ID should certainly be required to vote.  Photo ID does not require prerequisite driving experience since individuals can obtain passports or state-issued photo ID; they are all accessible to legal citizens who want to obtain one.  Presenting a photo ID is needed for basically every facet of modern day life; however, the Democratic Party pushes a narrative that voter ID is racist because minority communities lack photo ID at higher rates.  Many on the Right find the insinuation that minority voters are less capable of obtaining photo ID to be offensive and racist.

The other side...

When a new Congress takes office, H.R. 1 is the top priority of the new Congress. Something that most Republicans can agree with is that Democrats in 2021 have made voting their top legislative priority with the For the People Act.  However, H.R. 1 seeks to federalize voting to erode state rights and publicize private donations to political organizations.  It also looks to abolish voter ID laws, legalize same day voter registration, restrict election officials’ efforts to maintain the accuracy of voter registration lists, and distribute no-excuse absentee/mail-in voting.  These changes to voting laws are ripe with fraud and will be subject to abuse.

The Democrat party and many on the Left also seek to normalize mass mail-in voting.  Although many Republicans support absentee ballots for US Armed Forces deployed overseas, mass mail-in voting will be disastrous.  In addition to delaying election results, blank ballots have been sent to deceased Americans and registered second homes so the same voter can vote twice. 

Another voter law that Democrats have pushed is to lower the voting age to 16 and add D.C. as a state.  The voting age was initially lowered bipartisanly to 18 since soldiers serving in Vietnam could not vote; however, lowering it to 16 has no basis.  As for DC statehood, this is an attempt to add additional liberal senators in violation of the Constitution.

Voter fraud occurs in the United States.  Although there are disputes on the extent of fraud, it should be a common goal to ensure free and fair elections.  Republicans are in support of election security and seek to restore trust in free and fair elections.

Right Narrative

Narrative Foundations

1. Only U.S. Citizens should be allowed to vote.

2. Election security measures are important to ensure one person counts for one vote.

3. The electoral college ensures proportional voting which stops big cities from tyrannizing the votes of rural areas.

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