GUEST COLUMN: Lawsuit highlights partisan divide over voting

On June 9, 2020, a Republican activist filed suit against Michigan’s Secretary of State and 16 of our state’s county clerks.

The lawsuit states:

“Plaintiff, Tony Daunt, is a duly registered Michigan voter. Daunt regularly votes in Michigan’s primary and general elections. He plans to vote in Michigan’s November 2020 general election, including for U.S. President, U.S. Senate, and other offices and ballot measures on the ballot.

Because Defendants do not maintain accurate voter rolls, Daunt reasonably fears that ineligible voters can and do vote in Michigan elections. Those votes will dilute his legitimate vote. And Michigan’s inaccurate rolls undermine Daunt’s confidence in the integrity of Michigan elections, which also burdens his right to vote.

Daunt has long been an active member of the Republican Party. He works in Michigan to advance conservative policies and to help elect Republican candidates. Daunt has served, among other roles, as a field director for the College Republican National Committee and a logistics manager and director for the Michigan Republican Party. He is currently an officer and member of the governing body of the Clinton County Republican Party, a member of the governing body of the Michigan Republican Party Committee, and the executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund.”

I believe this lawsuit presents an opportunity for us to seriously consider what the two sides represent in this long-running battle over our election system.

Jordan Genso

On the Republican side, you have an array of individuals, from local activists like Mr. Daunt to President Trump, who consistently push the false narrative that fraudulent voting is a problem so widespread that we must enact changes to prevent it. According to their delusional claims, millions of people vote illegally each cycle. The reason we know their claims are delusional is because even when they can marshal the federal government’s vast resources to find evidence supporting their claim, they come up empty.

The lawsuit states that Mr. Daunt “reasonably fears that ineligible voters can and do vote in Michigan elections,” but there is nothing reasonable about that fear. While it is impossible to prove a negative, if the fear had legitimate justification, we’d have evidence of illegal voting happening on a large scale. In this situation, the non-existence of evidence is evidence it is non-existent.

Yet that doesn’t stop them from repeating the lie ad nauseam. They have no integrity, so they are willing to spread the lie in hopes of getting others to buy into the false narrative. There are few examples in politics of more blatant immorality than their desire to undermine trust in our elections.

Why do they do it? When there are examples of actual fraud, like when Republican operatives tampered with absentee ballots, why do they ignore those crimes and instead focus on an imaginary problem?

Because what they really want is to make voting more difficult for some voters. But they can’t come out and admit that, so they need delusional claims of voter impersonation as the justification for the “reforms” they seek.

The reason we know that “election integrity” is not their true motivation is because the changes they advocate would self-evidently harm the integrity of our elections, rather than strengthen it. Whether it is stricter ID requirements for voters, or the voter roll purges that this lawsuit seeks to force, their actions are designed to prevent legitimate votes from being cast. They lie, and pretend they’re trying to stop illegitimate votes, but all of the evidence demonstrates that their proposed changes would actually prevent more legitimate votes instead. And elections where legitimate votes are suppressed are not honest elections.

I take the position that one illegal vote that is counted is precisely as bad as one legal vote that is not counted, because they both harm the election result equally. So any change in election policy must include a reasonable analysis of how many illegal votes would be prevented by the change, as well as how many legal votes would be prevented. If the latter exceeds the former, the change is a net harm to our democracy. And since illegal votes are virtually non-existent, any change that makes voting more difficult is almost certainly going to prevent more legal voters from having their voices heard.

I have no desire to encourage fraudulent voting. Indeed, I’m strongly in favor of increasing the punishment for voter fraud crimes. If a would-be criminal is considering the cost-benefit of engaging in voter impersonation, then let’s make the penalty for doing so high enough that no rational person would attempt it. Doing that would do nothing to suppress legal votes, yet should satisfy anyone who wants to make illegitimate voting even less likely to occur.

Lawsuits like the one filed Tuesday do nothing to improve our elections, and serve the purpose of pushing a harmful narrative untethered from reality, while constructing hurdles for some legal voters to participate in the next election.

Jordan Genso is the Democratic candidate for Livingston County Clerk. He is currently the Treasurer for the Brighton District Library Board of Trustees, serves on the Brighton City Zoning Board of Appeals, is a former President of the FlexTech High School Board of Directors, and was the 2014 Democratic candidate for the 47th State House District.

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