House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week announced her intent to form a commission to examine the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, which makes sense — as far as it goes.
What is needed at least as desperately as a study of security failures on Jan. 6 is a full vetting of the root cause of the riot: the lie of massive voter fraud. The insurgency simply wouldn’t have happened without repetition by Donald Trump and his enablers of these fabricated claims.
The 2020 election was not stolen. In reality, it was a closely scrutinized process that resulted in an overall good showing for Republicans, who made gains in the U.S. House and maintained a split in the Senate that is certain to limit the Democratic agenda. We have no evidence — only claims that repeatedly held no water in courts — that voter fraud was any more widespread than in any election.
Sen. Mitt Romney, the Republican standard bearer just two presidential elections ago, put it this way: “There is one untruth that divides the nation today like none other: It is that the election was stolen, that there was a massive conspiracy, more secret and widespread than any in human history, so brilliant in execution that no evidence can be found of it and no observer among the tens of thousands in our intelligence agencies will speak of it.
“That lie brought our nation to a dark and dangerous place. Invented and disseminated by the president, it poisoned our politics and our public discourse.”
In reality, voter fraud in modern times, with rare exception, involves a few individuals here and there who try to cast one or two or perhaps a handful of illegal votes.
And yet, because of the mind-boggling number of made-up claims repeated over and over by dishonest, cynical, opportunistic politicians, only a third of Republicans believe the election was fair and free.
This is, as Romney and many others have noted, a danger to the core of our system that does not simply dissolve now that Trump is off Twitter and in Florida.
As we have urged before, these poll numbers show the urgent need for a bipartisan commission to examine the electoral system. It should be led by independent experts, balanced by a limited number of politicians from both parties, to definitively examine the 2020 conspiracy theories, identify weaknesses and recommend best practices to the states to rebuild confidence as best we can.
Some Republicans want to exploit the status quo to create new limits on mail or absentee voting, which have not been shown as sources of fraud to any greater extent that other aspects of the process.
Many on the left dismiss the very idea of such an examination as acquiescence to the premise of fraud, but they should welcome a full examination, which we fully expect would debunk the conspiracy theories.
While doing nothing might provide limited benefit to either party by whipping up their base, it is simply bad for the country. We should want people to vote and have confidence in the result. We should want those who disagree with us to vote. The great success of 2020, overshadowed and undercut by the post-election chaos, was record turnout.
The federal government doesn’t and shouldn’t run elections, but such a study could not only bat down 2020’s falsehoods; it can identify vulnerabilities and inconsistencies among states, and pinpoint and recommend incentives for best practices. For example, Nebraska absentee ballots must be received by the time polls close to be counted, while neighboring Iowa counts ballots postmarked by the day before the election if they arrive up to a week later. National consistency could improve confidence.
Could Election Day be a national holiday, which would promote the in-person voting that Republicans like and give working people a better chance to have time to vote, which Democrats like? A range of ideas should be vetted.
We urge leaders of both parties to step up and push this forward. Jan. 6 showed us that our democracy is more fragile than any of us imagined. In addition to shoring up physical and administrative deficiencies that made the U.S. Capitol vulnerable to a pack of anti-patriots, we must do all we can to show that our electoral system is sound and that voting matters