For decades now, both parties have been making decisions based on a rote formula: Higher turnout favors Democrats, while lower turnout helps Republicans. Belief in this basic theory has led many a Republican elected official all over the country to try to make it harder to vote, while Democrats generally try to do everything possible to make it easier. Both parties sometimes go too far in both directions, of course, but in both cases it’s done for one simple reason: They think it helps their side win.

This belief has also been offered as an easy explanation for why Democratic candidates have done better in presidential elections as of late. This theory is simple, easy to believe – and completely wrong.

For one, in certain areas and under certain circumstances, higher turnout has always been more helpful to Republicans. This is especially evident in areas that are already strongly conservative, where the natural political tilt of the region trends toward the Republican Party. Republican politicians in those areas don’t have to try to make it harder to vote or hope for lower turnout; instead, they have to get every possible voter to the polls. This might lead to the conclusion that higher turnout naturally favors the majority party in an area, but that’s not quite true either. Even in areas that favor one party, the other party certainly will want to make sure that every single one of their voters gets to the polls.

In an area that favors one party, the minority party is never going to have its hands on the levers of power enough to even try its hand at voter suppression. So, its best bet to change its fortune is to form a broad coalition while drawing the full support of its base. It needs something to appeal to voters in the other party as well as to independents. The same is true for both parties in a heavily competitive area: Their best bet to win an election is, well, to get the most votes. Essentially, regardless whether you’re the majority party or the minority party, or are in a swing area, there’s no reason to try to manipulate things to reduce turnout.

The only time it ever truly makes sense politically to work for lower turnout is if you win elections handily because the other side simply never shows up. Even in those scenarios, there are plenty of areas all over the country where one party accuses the other party of doing this. Whether or not it’s true, neither side ever should try to manipulate election laws in their favor – they should both just get out there and try to win honestly.

This basic principle is evident in the 2020 results. All over the country, Republican candidates down ballot did far better than Donald Trump, and it wasn’t because Democrats rigged the presidential race but forgot to rig every other race. If the election had been rigged, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in both Georgia and Maine would not have gotten fewer votes than Trump, who failed to carry either state. That’s not evidence of an illness in our democracy, but of its health: It shows that voters were able to differentiate between presidential candidates and local ones, even in federal races. That’s a good thing.

That wasn’t just the case in federal races, either. In neighboring New Hampshire, even while Joe Biden carried the state and incumbent Jeanne Shaheen won re-election in a landslide, Republicans gained seats in the legislature. Indeed, they were able to regain the majority in both the New Hampshire House and Senate, and incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu cruised to re-election, winning by more than 30 percentage points. Sununu proved so popular that he got more votes than either presidential candidate in New Hampshire. This type of ticket-splitting is something that Republicans should embrace nationwide – especially if you’re a local candidate in a competitive area.

These results show that Republicans shouldn’t fear high turnout. Instead, they should work hard to build a broad coalition of voters across their state. If done correctly, that coalition can prove a powerful counter to any get-out-the-vote effort done by your opponent. It’s certainly a far more honest way to win than trying to decrease turnout or change the laws in your favor.

That type of behavior needs to stop, from both parties, right now: Not only is it unnecessary politically, it permanently undermines our democracy.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: jimfossel

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