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McConnell Admits That Republicans Are Afraid of High Voter Turnout

This week Sen. Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to decry what he called a “political power grab” by Democrats in the House. Referring to H.R. 1, the senator from Kentucky asked with incredulity if “this is the Democrat plan to restore democracy?”

What outrageous proposed legislation was McConnell lambasting so vigorously? A new bill aimed at curbing political corruption, introduced by House Democrats. H.R. 1 contains a handful of measures, including the audacious proposal to make Election Day a federal holiday — a particularly sore point for the senator.

“Just what America needs, another paid holiday,” McConnell said on January 30, as he expressed concern about the cost of giving Americans up to six days of paid off time for the holiday. This no doubt stems from McConnell’s stout fiscal conservatism — except when it involves enabling a record-breaking government shutdown that ultimately cost the nation billions, of course.

But McConnell couldn’t keep up this pretense for long during his floor rant. The senator went on to lament that those enjoying a paid day off might actually participate in the political process, claiming the bill would essentially enable people to be “paid to go out and work for I assume … our colleagues on the other side.”

In other words, if people don’t have to work on Election Day, there’s a good chance they’ll not only go to the polls but they’ll also end up supporting Democrats.

While it’s not exactly a secret that Republicans benefit from — and actively encourage — low voter turnout, McConnell’s candor is something special; it sidelines any pretenses that Republicans are merely concerned with combating voter fraud and safeguarding the democratic process.

And McConnell and other Republicans have good cause to worry.

It’s a well-established trend in economically developed countries that income levels correlate to voter turnout rates: Those with higher income turn out more, while those on the lower end tend to stay home in greater numbers. More than that, though, is the completely unsurprisingly fact that — by and large — low-income voters tend to support politicians and policies which reject conservative economics and embrace policies like increased marginal tax rates and expanded access to health care.

The midterm elections demonstrated this quite clearly, with an unusually high turnout rate that resulted in many victories — not only for the Democratic Party, but also for especially progressive candidates and policies.

It’s not difficult to understand that if someone has the day off, they’re more likely to go to the polls. National holidays for elections are not at all novel, and they already exist in dozens of democracies — even those countries with questionably democratic governments, like Russia.

It’s alarming how blasé Republicans have become in their open hostility toward the American democratic process. This protest against making Election Day a federal holiday is only the latest example of their desire for political power — and, as such, it demonstrates the need to protect voting rights in the United States.

Originally published on Care2.com on Feb. 5, 2019.

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