The head of a conservative watchdog group on Wednesday sought to turn the tables on Democratic allegations of voter suppression amid the coronavirus pandemic, appearing to use the ongoing George Floyd protests to support his point.
Democrats have pushed for increased mail-in absentee voting so people can avoid going out to the polls, and Republicans have been accused of voter suppression for largely opposing this. At a Wednesday hearing, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton claimed before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties that it is actually Democrats who are suppressing votes by scaring people with ominous warnings about COVID-19.
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“If you want to be sure your vote is counted, the best way to do it is to show up and vote,” Fitton said. “And to hear inflammatory rhetoric that you’re choosing your life over your vote is just not appropriate and it causes people to be nervous about voting. That is as suppressive as anything I’ve heard, telling people they’re going to die or likely to die if they vote.”
Countering Democrats’ insistence that people need to vote by mail so they can exercise their right while avoiding COVID-19, Fitton also seemed to reference the mass protests that have been taking place across the country, despite stay-at-home orders still being in place in many areas.
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“We can see that people will exercise their First Amendment rights if they think it’s important; voting’s important, and they will vote in person,” he claimed. “And they should be able to vote in person without being scared to death about doing it.”
Fitton was arguing against the idea of sending absentee ballots to all voters, citing a purported lack of security and the likelihood that ballots sent to registered voters who have moved or died could be filled out by others.
Earlier in the hearing, Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson noted that by sending out ballot request forms, states can actually increase security because voters would be confirming their identities prior to receiving ballots.
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Fitton expressed concern that a greater amount of absentee voting would expose the election system to fraud, particularly in states that allow for third parties to collect people’s ballots. This practice is commonly known as “ballot harvesting,” and is illegal in many states.
Former Georgia Democratic state Rep. Stacey Abrams testified that all states already have some sort of vote-by-mail option, with 34 states not requiring a reason for doing so. She said that some states may not have the resources to handle an increase in absentee ballot requests brought on by fear of COVID-19, which is why additional measures are needed to assist them.