Poll Shows GOP Support for Some of Democrats’ Elections Changes
(Bloomberg) -- A nationwide study found bipartisan support for some voting changes Democrats included in legislation that passed the House this month, even as Republicans in Congress have universally panned the measure.
The study, released Monday by the Election Data & Science Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that 87% of Republicans supported requiring paper backups for electronic voting machines, and 62% backed making Election Day a holiday, both provisions of the Democratic legislation. The House bill also would require that state agencies automatically register voters, a move that drew support from only 35% of Republicans.
The survey also found 97% of Republicans supported requiring voter ID, 73% supported making all elections officials nonpartisan and 62% backed automatically updating voter registrations when people move -- all measures that aren’t in the legislation but are also backed by majorities of Democrats.
The survey indicates that there could be room for Democrats to win some bipartisan grassroots support for the massive elections overhaul measure that the House passed March 3, even as it remains unlikely that any Republican senators would vote for the bill.
GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah, for example, has said the legislation -- H.R. 1, dubbed by Democrats as the “For the People Act” -- was “written in hell by the devil himself.”
The staunch opposition from Republican senators means the measure almost certainly wouldn’t make it to President Joe Biden’s desk unless Democrats change Senate rules that currently require the support of 10 Republican senators in addition to all 50 of the chamber’s Democrats to advance legislation.
However, Democrats have been increasingly discussing new filibuster limits, including a carve-out for bills addressing voting rights, and Biden has said that the support of Republican voters matters more than whether any GOP members of Congress vote for a bill. A filibuster exception for the voting rights legislation could allow it to pass with a simple majority.
Other changes Democrats have proposed polled poorly with Republicans.
Only 44% of Republicans in the survey supported moving Election Day to the weekend, 35% backed automatic voter registration, 33% supported allowing voters to register on Election Day and 15% backed all vote-by-mail elections. Those measures all garnered a majority of Democratic support in the survey.
The House-passed bill also would allow at least 15 days of early voting and no-excuse vote-by-mail, allow voters to register online as well as on Election Day and permit most voters without ID to cast a ballot if they sign a sworn statement.
Among other elements of the House bill that weren’t included in the survey were overhauling the federal elections watchdog, making changes to campaign finance and ethics laws and requiring the automatic disclosure of presidential candidates’ tax returns.
The survey also undermines some arguments for new voter restrictions being proposed by Republican-controlled state legislatures around the country.
GOP lawmakers have said that rolling back vote-by-mail and early voting are necessary to restore confidence in elections, asserting that their Republican constituents agree with former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in mail-in voting in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The survey found that Republican voters are much more likely to believe there is voter fraud, and Democratic voters are much less likely to believe it, leaving the overall rate roughly the same as in the past four election cycles.
And it showed that Republican mistrust of the voting process was only weakly correlated with how many people voted by mail in their state, while it was strongly correlated with how well Trump did there.
MIT political science professor Charles Stewart, who led the study, said that the findings are in line with other research indicating that stricter voting laws have little-to-no effect on voter confidence in elections.
“Empirically, we know there are two things that cause variation in whether people trust the outcome of an election: their own personal experience when they went to vote and whether or not their candidate won,” Stewart said.
Large majorities of voters from both parties reported a positive experience in the Nov. 3 election, whether they voted in person or by mail, with virtually identical numbers as in past elections.
More than nine out of 10 voters said they were “somewhat” or “very” confident that their own vote was counted, a number that has remained unchanged over the past two decades, while 87% said they were “somewhat” or “very” confident their county handled ballot counting properly.
But those rates dropped among Republicans when asked about their confidence in their own state’s handling of ballots in states that Trump narrowly lost and among Republicans everywhere when asked about the national result. Overall, only 61% of voters were “somewhat” or “very” confident that votes were counted correctly by all states.
The survey also found that Democrats may have gained an advantage on vote-by-mail after the 2020 election, which Trump spent several months inaccurately claiming was riddled with fraud.
Among respondents who voted by mail in November, 57% of Republicans said they had typically done so before, compared with only 49% of Democrats.
But while 88% of Democrats who voted by mail said they were either very or somewhat likely to vote by mail again, only 68% of Republicans said the same.
Conducted after every presidential election since 2008, the Survey of the Performance of American Elections polled 18,200 registered voters, including 200 respondents in 40 states and an additional 1,000 interviews in 10 battleground states.
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