Sunday, January 9, 2022

Who's afraid of the big, bad ballot drop box?

            Joe Biden needs a traveling prop. Every time he speaks, it should be at his side.

            It should be the symbol of the next election and his campaign for re-election.

            Biden's partner at each podium should be a ballot box – a mail-in ballot drop box, to be exact – a vessel of convenience for voters, a symbol of leaders who value them.

            The prop would serve two purposes – to encourage Americans to vote, and to show them that these simple receptacles aren't dangerous at all.

            This is necessary, because Republican leaders are frightened to death by them.

            In case you haven't noticed, Republican leaders want fewer people voting. If that's news to you, let's have Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky explain it.

            "They're mailing out a solicitation to vote by mail," he said in advance of the 2020 Georgia Senate run-offs – where, sure enough, high turnout yanked Senate control from his party.

            "I'm very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome."

            Paul wasn't just concerned. He was "very, very" concerned.

            What he's saying is, we can't have people at the polls who aren't "the regulars." Heaven forbid that we would open this process up to all manner of rabble . . . er, people. The invite should be reserved for Rand Paul's friends.

            Biden's speech on the year anniversary of the Jan. 6 terrorist attack hit on so many important points.

            Principally it hit on the self-evident fact that his predecessor, lacking any other title, is drum major to a big parade of lies.

            More importantly, Biden hit on the biggest issue corresponding to the Big Lie to which Republican leaders pledge allegiance – the undermining of the democratic process.

            "Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written – not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.

            "Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more voters, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections."

            Parroting the lies of a party leader who could face criminal charges for his bid to overthrow a free and fair election, GOP leaders have taken several tacks to tamp down voter participation.

            One of the most odious has been to curb the use of ballot drop boxes, and of course voting by mail.

            I use both every election. My state of Colorado has universal mail voting along with measures like motor-voter and same-day registration.

            I didn't need a pandemic to convince me that the best way to vote would be to fill out my mail-in ballot and walk it to a conveniently located ballot drop box. No lines, no waiting, no stamp, no dependence on the postal service. If I needed any other reason, COVID-19 sealed the deal.

            The ballot drop box is the symbol of a system that values my vote.

            The thing is, it's just a box – metal, with the county's name on it and election information. It's secure. Can't get your paws in it. Can't "steal" the election. A box.

            But look at what Republicans are doing. When they can, they are limiting the availability – and the convenience – of this method.

            The Republican president of the Georgia Senate has authored a bill to prohibit ballot drop boxes. A similar bill has been introduced in Wisconsin.

            Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls them "a big problem." Um, how so? Is it that "more voters" thing that scares Sen. Paul?

            As the 2020 election approached, Texas looked to see heavy use of ballot drop boxes, permitted by the appointed Texas secretary of state. Harris County had 12 of them. Travis County had four.

            Then, before the elections, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered that no county have more than one. That's one in Loving County, population 64, and one in Harris County, population 4.7 million. The Texas Supreme Court upheld his order with three days left of early voting. And the appointed, never-confirmed secretary of state left office in May.

            All of which is why Joe Biden should campaign alongside a ballot drop box.

            It is the symbol of the threat to democracy that Biden's predecessor embodies, him and the Big Lie. It is the remedy to leaders deathly afraid rabble might show up on Election Day.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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