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On January 6, 2020, President Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the counting of the Electoral College vote after weeks of unproven allegations that Democrats stole the election. One year later, Republican led recounts or audits in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin have confirmed the vote counts. Now, Trump can only claim that Democrats “rigged” the election. However, the truth is that states legally expanded convenience voting making the 2020 election results legitimate.

The “rigged” argument has two components. First, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife gave $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to help municipalities safely administer the election during the pandemic. Counties that received the money spent it on personal protective equipment, salaries, mail-in ballots, machinery to process ballots, etc. However, much of the grant money went to making and promoting early and mail-in ballots as “safer” means of voting. Even though more Trump voting counties received grants, more populous, urban, Democratic counties received more money on a total and per capita basis which Republicans claim was an intentional plot to increase Democratic turnout.

Second, Democrats filed lawsuits against states arguing the pandemic required greater use of convenience voting in ways that Democrats have promoted for years. These lawsuits would have varying degrees of success requiring universal vote-by-mail, no-excuse absentee voting, extended voter registration times, revisions to photo ID and absentee ballot witness signatures requirements, pre-paid postage for absentee ballots, the use of drop-off ballot boxes, changing deadlines for accepting absentee ballots, and making it easier to correct minor disqualifying mistakes on absentee ballots, etc.

The “rigged” argument has several problems. First, everything done was legal. There were no laws banning private contributions for administering elections. Moreover, lawsuits are legitimate means of influencing policy as Republican lawsuits against Obamacare, the vaccine mandate, Biden’s immigration policy, etc. demonstrate. Furthermore, court-mandated or election official-imposed election changes were approved early enough for all parties to adapt to the new voting rules. Frankly, Republicans committed political malpractice by not using the new procedures which potentially cost them the election.

Second, Republicans cannot prove the CTCL intentionally increased Democratic turnout. Overall voter turnout was 5% higher than 2016 and included gains among Democratic and Republican groups. Although Republicans points out that Democrats ran the CTCL, they ignore the fact that the CTCL brought in Republican Michael Toner, a former Chair of the Federal Election Commission, to review all grants to ensure fairness. Moreover, Republicans use the example of Green Bay, Wisconsin basically turning over most of its election administration to a former Democratic operative connected with CTCL as partisan bias. However, they cannot prove he ran the election in a partisan manner nor that CTCL money caused greater Democratic turnout in Green Bay or other counties across the country.

Third, the best legal argument for Republicans is weak. Conservatives argue that Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution empowers state legislatures to create election laws without the concurrence of the other political branches. Consequently, courts and election officials that used the pandemic as a justification to change election laws acted unlawfully. However, this claim of unilateral state legislative control over election law is contrary to the practice and design of state constitutions from the colonial times to the present. Moreover, state courts and officials used their own state constitutions and law to justify the changes and many of these constitutions provide additional rights to voting beyond the federal constitution. Based on long-standing constitutional doctrine, federal courts deferred to state court interpretations of state constitutions and laws that expanded voting.

Fourth, Trump campaign and Republican lawsuits’ suggesting courts reject all ballots that did not meet pre-COVID election laws after the votes were cast is both anti-democratic and unconscionable. Just as judges do not exclude evidence police officers collected in good faith but later found to be incorrect, voters who cast votes in good faith based on court decisions and election official guidance should not have their votes excluded.

In our polarized times, everyone needs to put aside their biases to seek all relevant information, humbly discuss and weigh competing arguments, and make reasonable conclusions. If we did that, we would reject unreliable election fraud claims and use the 2020 election experience to make to “easy to vote and hard to cheat” by banning private funding of elections to prevent potential election improprieties, making voting easier, and providing appropriate safeguards to convenience voting. By doing this, we could strengthen our republic for generations to come.

Sean Evans is the chair of the political science department at Union University. Reach him at 731-661-5237 or at sevafns@uu.edu.

This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: 2020 election wasn’t rigged | Opinion