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Rockbridge Delegate Ronnie Campbell is co-sponsoring four House bills designed to prevent absentee voting in Virginia:

  • HB 34 would eliminate drop-off locations for the return of absentee ballots.
  • HB 35 would require a registered voter to provide a reason for being unable to vote at their polling place on election day in order to receive an absentee ballot.
  • HB 36 would prevent registered voters from receiving absentee ballots for all elections.
  • HB 39 would limit absentee voting in person to the two weeks immediately preceding an election.

Why does Virginia need these new laws? Is there any evidence that absentee voting, whether submitted by mail, placed in drop-boxes, or delivered in person, is prone to fraud? If there is evidence of such past fraud, then, yes, preventing more future fraud would be a reasonable goal. But if evidence is scant or non-existent, if absentee voting has been shown to be no more prone to fraud than any other form of voting, then these laws are not about reducing voter fraud. They are about reducing voting.

Ask Delegate Wren Williams. His name is on those four bills too, and I suspect he, not Campbell, is the driving force behind them. When Williams primaried a twelve-year incumbent Republican last summer, he made “Securing our Elections” one of his top talking points. His website brags:

“Our elections are the most sacred part of American democracy. In 2020, Wren volunteered his time to aid President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) election integrity efforts in Wisconsin. Virginia Democrats have pushed voting without any form of ID, and will continue to push liberal policies that harm the fabric of our voting system. Wren believes election integrity and trusting our elections is one of the most important issues facing the Commonwealth. In Richmond, he will bring his national courtroom experience on this issue and will be a fierce fighter for integrity in our elections.”

So what exactly happened to “election integrity” in Wisconsin?

According to a court brief filed on behalf of Trump: “in Wisconsin, the largest cities all deployed hundreds of unmanned, unsecured absentee ballot drop boxes that were all invalid means of returning absentee votes under state law.” The drop-off boxes were anchored to the ground, sealed against tampering, and subjected to 24-hour video surveillance, so, no, they were not “unsecured.” Trump’s legal team, which apparently included Williams, tried to invalidate over 200,000 Wisconsin votes on these and other false grounds, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected their arguments. That’s the “national courtroom experience” Williams brings to Richmond.

But the evidence disproving the false fraud claims goes much deeper. Last month, the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty completed their 10-month investigation, finding “no evidence of fraudulent ballots or widespread voter fraud.” That includes absentee voting: “The number of absentee ballots counted on election night in Milwaukee is consistent with what was reported to be outstanding. Put simply, there was no unexplained ‘ballot dump.’”

The same is true for Virginia. Last March: “A statewide audit of Virginia’s 2020 election results verified President Joe Biden’s victory in the state, finding only a 0.00000065117 percent chance the state’s voting system could have produced an inaccurate outcome.”

That “voting system” included 1,202,087 absentee ballots.

And what about the November 2021 election that Republican Gov. Youngkin won? Days before the election, conservative radio host John Fredericks claimed : “We’ve got all kinds of irregularities right now going on.” Epoch Times commentator John Mills warned that “people can walk in and out” of Virginia’s unsecure ballot-counting facilities. Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase claimed “Democrats are cheating” in the early absentee voting (Business Insider). And yet after the election, these and other Republicans showed no concern about or evidence of any “irregularies” or poor “security” or “cheating” of any kind.

So why now that he’s in office does Williams claim absentee voting “harms the fabric of our voting system”? And why is Campbell co-sponsoring legislation attacking a form of voting that allows more Virginians to vote with no increased risk of fraud?

Keep in mind that Wren Williams is the same delegate who was widely mocked earlier this month for introducing a bill that would require Virginian students to study “the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.” Lincoln debated pro-slavery Senator Steven Douglas. Frederick Douglass and Lincoln both opposed slavery. The same Williams bill would also prevent history from hurting students’ feelings by prohibiting the “divisive concept” that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race, religion, ethnicity, or sex.” I think anyone who reads the history of slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. “should” feel a great deal of “discomfort” and probably even some “psychological distress,” but that would be on account of their being human, whatever their particular “race, religion, ethnicity, or sex.”

Meanwhile, Ronnie Campbell is the same delegate who was stripped of his committee positions last January after he and two other Republican delegates wrote a letter to Vice President Pence asking him to “nullify the Certificate of Ascertainment of Presidential Electors issued by the governor of our state.” The other 42 Republican delegates and the 18 Republican state senators did not join in the effort to disenfranchise all of Virginia’s voters based on false claims.

Speaker Filler-Corn responded: “By seeking to disenfranchise millions of Virginians and undercut faith in our democratic institutions, Delegate Dave LaRock, Delegate Mark Cole and Delegate Ronnie Campbell showed exceedingly poor judgement and conducted themselves in a manner unbecoming of their office. Their attempt to cast doubt on our elections process in order to impede the peaceful transfer of power between one President to another is an affront to our democracy and violates the public trust.”

In Campbell’s defense, LaRock was the author of the letter. Campbell was just foolish enough to co-sign it. The same may be true of these new anti-voting bills that Williams got Campbell to co-sign too. Does either Republican actually believe they are safeguarding democracy—or do they know that the baseless claims about non-existent voter fraud are just an excuse to try to reduce voter turnout? I have no idea. I don’t care either, because whether these Republicans are merely deluded or knowingly placing party interest above the most sacred part of American democracy, their legislation will harm the fabric of our voting system.

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