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Julie Doll: GOP would benefit by increasing voter participation

Julie Doll
Special to Gannett Kansas
Julie Doll

The election is over. Votes have been tallied and certified by officials in states across the nation.

Beyond the candidates whose names were on the ballot, the election also determined other winners and losers.

Polling outfits, for example, were among the losers. Their measurements of how people would vote missed the mark. Plenty of people are speculating about why polling doesn’t seem to work these days, and a few analysts offer defenses, noting that the final popular vote margin in the race for president was close to what some polls predicted.

But that doesn’t explain inaccuracies in many Senate polls, including those for the Kansas race that pitted Republican Roger Marshall against Democrat Barbara Bollier. Polls underestimated support for Marshall, who won with 53%, compared to Bollier’s 42. In Maine, Iowa, Montana and elsewhere, polls undercounted support for Republican candidates.

Indeed, across the country, down-ballot Republicans fared well, which defies the common wisdom in politics that big turnouts favor Democrats.

Even President Donald Trump received about 10 million more votes than he did in 2016.

He still lost, though. Joe Biden won not only about 7 million more votes than Trump, but also crucial states that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

The election system itself also was a big winner in 2020. In Kansas, turnout topped 70% of registered voters. Nationwide, turnout was the highest it had been in more than 100 years.

That’s impressive, given the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Voting reforms adopted by many states and counties because of COVID-19 made voting more accessible, without sacrificing security.

That states and counties could quickly adopt such reforms and still handle record numbers of voters is all the evidence needed to make the reforms permanent. Opportunities to vote by mail, to vote in advance and other measures should win universal support.

Sadly, we’re already hearing from a lot of Republicans who oppose greater participation in elections.

That’s because even though many Republicans performed better than expected, Trump’s loss led to preposterous attacks on our elections — and on the officials and volunteers who made sure we could vote.

After losing Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan, Trump headed to the courts. But in case after case, it was apparent Trump had no legitimate complaint and no real evidence.

Judges, including some he had appointed, told him so.

All he had were baseless tales of fraud, which he used to leverage more money from supporters and to undermine people’s trust in our elections and our democracy.

As part of their attacks, Trump and his supporters argue that the country needs to stop so many people from voting.

They don’t always say that straight out. Sometimes the message is wrapped in rhetoric about election integrity and fraud.

But the plan is clear: Many Republicans want to make it harder for us to cast ballots — as if our rights as citizens need to be measured by how many hoops and hurdles government can force us to navigate.

The 2020 election should have shown Republicans that they can win even when turnout is strong. In state after state, down-ballot Republicans made gains in state legislatures and congressional delegations.

The GOP would benefit more by building on those gains and embracing greater voter participation than by taking up the fruitless and cynical cause of a sore loser.

A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.