WASHINGTON — Clearly, Ben Ginsberg has had enough.
A former journalist turned election lawyer, Ginsberg spent the past four decades in the trenches of Republican politics and campaigns. He represented the Republican National Committee. He was George W. Bush’s lawyer during the 2000 recount battle, once appearing on all five Sunday talk shows on the same day. (Swamp creatures call this “the full Ginsberg.”) He worked for Bush again in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2012, and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign hired Jones Day, the firm where Ginsberg worked until he retired from practicing law last month.
In other words, Ginsberg’s Republican credentials are beyond reproach. So is his expertise in election law, having lived through every battle in that realm going back to Reagan’s day.
Which makes it all the more resounding that Ginsberg has now taken to the pages of the Washington Post to condemn President Trump for his lies and dangerous rhetoric about voting by mail and the illusory threat of voter fraud.
In an op-ed published Tuesday evening, Ginsberg took aim at Trump’s recent suggestion that his supporters in North Carolina vote twice — once in person, once by mail — to “test the system.” The president was, put simply, encouraging his followers to commit a crime by engaging in voter fraud — the very scourge that Trump himself has railed against over and over since his 2016 presidential campaign. Ginsberg writes that Trump was “doubly wrong” with his vote-twice suggestion, but took Trump’s latest anti-democratic outburst as an opportunity to pick apart the GOP’s assault on the voting process in 2020.
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Ginsberg dismantles the long-espoused Republican talking point that voter fraud is rampant and so restrictive policies around voter ID and now voting by mail are needed. He notes that neither the Trump campaign of 2016 nor a subsequent presidential commission stocked with vocal proponents of the supposed plague of voter fraud could find no evidence that widespread voter fraud actually exists.
“The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud,” Ginsberg writes. “At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged. Absentee ballots use the same process as mail-in ballots — different states use different labels for the same process.”
Trump’s unhinged tweets and statements about supposed voter fraud, Ginsberg continues, “has put my party in the position of a firefighter who deliberately sets fires to look like a hero putting them out. Republicans need to take a hard look before advocating laws that actually do limit the franchise of otherwise qualified voters. Calling elections ‘fraudulent’ and results ‘rigged’ with almost nonexistent evidence is antithetical to being the ‘rule of law’ party.”
Attacking the integrity of our elections and limiting access to the ballot box aren’t merely a feature of the Trump-led Republican Party’s strategy this year; they’re the centerpiece. Trump has spewed nonsense on Twitter about voting by mail for most of the year, and his loyal party foot soldiers have embarked on a $20 million litigation onslaught in battleground states from Florida to Pennsylvania to Michigan to block Democratic efforts to make it easier to vote by mail.
But these Republican legal challenges continue to be knocked down in court or exposed for the flimsiness of their arguments. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit intended to block the use of dropboxes in which voters can submit their mail-in ballots and to loosen the rules about election-day poll watchers who can challenge voter eligibility. But when asked to provide evidence supporting its claim that there was rampant fraud in Pennsylvania’s elections, lawyers for Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party could not come up with a single instance of mail-in voter fraud, according to documents obtained by the Intercept. And one of the few instances of possible voter fraud cited by the Trump campaign was a Republican candidate for the state legislature, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
Again, what makes these statements so damning is not the substance of them but the person doing the speaker. A basic review of the data shows that rampant voter fraud is a pernicious myth used to justify voter suppression that far too often disadvantages young voters and voters of color. But to hear this condemnation come from within the Republican Party, it serves to reaffirm the truth about the fight over voting rights while also revealing the degree to which the few responsible adults left in the GOP fear the long-term effects of Trump’s words and actions on the bedrock of any democracy, the public’s belief in free and fair elections.
Ginsberg ends his op-ed with a plea. “Republicans need to rethink their arguments in many of the cases in which they are involved — quickly,” he writes. “Otherwise, they risk harming the fundamental principle of our democracy: that all eligible voters must be allowed to cast their ballots. If that happens, Americans will deservedly render the GOP a minority party for a long, long time.” That is, of course, if they can overcome the many hurdles thrown up by the Republican Party and cast their ballot in the first place.
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