In an era of mounting threats to free and fair elections ginned up by Republicans, voting rights experts agree that automatic voter registration is one of the best ways to expand access to the ballot. So when Pennsylvania, a critical battleground state, enacted the program last week, Republicans pounced, claiming that it would prompt a surge in “thoughtless and even accidental registration.”
The assertion, of course, is not based in fact. But now Donald Trump has joined the chorus with an especially panicked message.
“THE DEMOCRATS ARE TRYING TO STEAL PENNSYLVANIA AGAIN BY DOING THE ‘AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION’ SCAM,” the former president bellowed on Truth Social. “THEY NEVER STOP. OBAMA AND HIS RADICAL LEFT THUGS ARE PUSHING THIS.” The all-caps rant continued, featuring demands for “disaster” Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy to take action.
Republican opposition to automatic voter registration is nothing new. McConnell himself has all but admitted that the GOP loses when more people vote. But Trump’s anxiety over Pennsylvania, which will automatically register eligible voters when they go to get their driver’s license or state ID, is particularly fraught. After the 2020 election, Trump and his allies pounded the key swing state, where Joe Biden won by 80,555 votes, with false claims of voter fraud as they attempted to overturn the results. Pennsylvania, where the infamous Four Seasons Landscaping debacle unfolded, is even mentioned a staggering 20 times in the special counsel’s 45-page indictment charging Trump with various efforts to defraud the United States and obstruct official proceedings.
Most people would probably drop the voter fraud nonsense in the face of such legal peril. But not Trump, a man clearly determined to repeat the greatest hits of false narratives as we careen toward another razor-close rematch. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, more than 10.3 million residents eligible to vote now have a far easier way of registering.