The Drop in Republican Support for Voting Rights

A Pew poll shows that the party’s voters increasingly oppose measures that would expand access to the ballot.,

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The political divide in America has grown so deep and so entrenched that it now extends well beyond questions of policy.

People’s feelings on how democracy ought to be carried out — including whether voting should be made harder or easier — may now be just as likely to be correlated to their political identity as they are to their views on actual political issues.

That is the message coming from a Pew Research Center poll released on Thursday, which finds that Republicans increasingly oppose measures that would expand access to the ballot — particularly those that former President Donald Trump frequently complained about during the 2020 campaign.

The percentage of Republicans and independents leaning toward the G.O.P. who said that voters should be able to vote early or absentee without a reason plummeted, from 57 percent three years ago to 38 percent in the new poll.

Until the most recent election cycle, when Mr. Trump drummed up opposition to absentee and early voting in an attempt to improve his electoral chances, those methods were largely seen as being at least as beneficial to Republican candidates as to Democrats.

The caving-in of Republican support has driven a drop of eight percentage points in overall support for universal no-excuse early voting. Still, 63 percent of all Americans remain in favor of it.

Republican support for the practice of automatically registering citizens to vote also dropped, to 38 percent, an 11-point dip since 2018. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, 82 percent said they supported automatic voter registration.

Establishing automatic voter registration and requiring states to hold early voting for at least two weeks are elements of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a sweeping voting-rights bill that was passed last month by the Democratically controlled House. It would need at least 10 Republican votes to pass in the Senate, support that’s unlikely to materialize. Some congressional Democrats are now urging the party’s leaders to shift their focus toward a narrower bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which had initially been proposed as a complement to H.R. 1.

But the Pew poll found that other proposals included in the For the People Act — like restoring voting rights to felons and making Election Day a national holiday — did retain the support of a solid majority in both parties, possibly a reflection of the fact that right-wing news media outlets haven’t targeted those proposals for attacks as frequently as they have others.

Another particularly popular idea was to make early in-person voting standard (the poll question did not mention whether this kind of voting would be allowed without an excuse). Nearly four in five Americans supported making early voting available at least two weeks before Election Day, including 63 percent of Republicans and nine in 10 Democrats, the poll found.

The survey was conducted among 5,109 adults nationwide via Pew’s American Trends Panel, which uses a probability-based model to draw a sample that is representative of the national population.


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By Robert Draper

The regular conference meetings of the Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives, held most weeks behind closed doors in the Capitol Visitor Center, tend to be predictable and thus irregularly attended affairs. The party leaders — the House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, the minority whip Steve Scalise and the conference chairwoman Liz Cheney, whose job it is to run these meetings — typically begin with a few housekeeping matters and then proceed with a discussion of the party’s message or issue du jour. The conference’s more voluble members line up at the microphone to opine for one to two minutes at a time; the rare newsworthy comment is often leaked and memorialized on Twitter seconds after it is uttered. An hour or so later, the members file out into the corridors of the Capitol and back to their offices, a few of them lingering to talk to reporters.

The conference meeting on the afternoon of Feb. 3 was different in nearly every way. It lasted four hours and nearly all of the G.O.P.’s 210 House members attended. Its stated purpose was to decide whether to remove Cheney from her leadership position.

Three weeks earlier, Cheney announced that she would vote to impeach President Donald Trump over his encouragement of his supporters’ storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 — one of only 10 House Republicans, and the only member of the party’s leadership, to do so. Because her colleagues had elected Cheney to the party’s third-highest position in the House, her words were generally seen as expressing the will of the conference, and those words had been extremely clear: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said.

The combination of her stature and her unequivocal stand amounted to a clear message from Cheney to House Republicans: If they sided with Trump in challenging the election, they were siding against the Constitution, and against at least one of their elected leaders. The tenor of the Feb. 3 meeting was therefore tense, portentous and deeply personal from beginning to end, according to several attendees who later described it to me.

When it was Cheney’s turn to speak, the 54-year-old congresswoman from Wyoming began by describing her lifelong reverence for the House, where her father, Dick Cheney, was minority whip more than 30 years ago before serving as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense and George W. Bush’s vice president. But, Cheney went on, she was “deeply, deeply concerned about where our party is headed.” Its core principles — limited government, low taxes, a strong national defense — were being overshadowed by darker forces. “We cannot become the party of QAnon,” she said. “We cannot become the party of Holocaust denial. We cannot become the party of white supremacy. We all watched in horror what happened on Jan. 6.”

Cheney, alone among House Republicans, had been mentioned by Trump in his speech that day. “The Liz Cheneys of the world, we got to get rid of them,” he told his supporters at the Ellipse shortly before they overran the Capitol. The president had been infuriated by Cheney’s public insistence that Trump’s court challenges to state election results were unpersuasive and that he needed to respect “the sanctity of our electoral process.” At the time of Trump’s speech, Cheney was in the House cloakroom awaiting the ritual state-by-state tabulation of electoral votes. Her father called her to inform her of Trump’s remark. Less than an hour later, a mob was banging against the doors of the House chamber.

In the conference meeting, Cheney said that she stood by her vote to impeach Trump. Several members had asked her to apologize, but, she said, “I cannot do that.”

The line to the microphone was extraordinarily long. At least half of the speakers indicated that they would vote to remove Cheney. Ralph Norman of South Carolina expressed disappointment in her vote. “But the other thing that bothers me, Liz,” he went on, “is your attitude. You’ve got a defiant attitude.” John Rutherford of Florida, a former sheriff, accused the chairwoman of not being a “team player.”

Others argued that her announcement a day before the impeachment vote had given the Democrats a talking point to use against the rest of the Republican conference. (“Good for her for honoring her oath of office,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointedly remarked when told of Cheney’s intentions.) Likening the situation to a football game, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania lamented, “You look up into the stands and see your girlfriend on the opposition’s side — that’s one hell of a tough thing to swallow.”

“She’s not your girlfriend!” a female colleague yelled out. Kelly’s remark was immediately disseminated among Republican women in professional Washington, according to Barbara Comstock, who until 2019 served as a Republican congresswoman from Virginia. “We emailed that around, just horrified, commenting in real time,” she told me.

Throughout it all, Cheney sat implacably — “as emotional as algebra,” as one attendee later told me. She spoke only when asked a direct question. But when McCarthy concluded by suggesting that they put this matter behind them and adjourn, Cheney insisted that the conference vote on her status right then and there. The members cast their secret ballots, and Cheney prevailed, 145 to 61.

The lopsided margin was almost identical to Cheney’s own whip count going into the conference. Individual colleagues had confided in her that most of the conference was only too happy to move on from Trump — but saying so in public was another matter. To do so would mean risking defeat at the hands of a Trump-adoring Republican primary electorate or even, many of them feared, the well-being of their families. In sum, it risked getting the Liz Cheney treatment.

This is an excerpt from a feature in this Sunday’s edition of The New York Times Magazine. Click here to read the full article.

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