Heads we win. Tails you lose.

Jamelle Bouie, New York Times

One of the recurring points I make in my column is that the Republican Party, from the most junior state lawmaker to senators in Washington, has turned against many of the hallmarks of a functional political system, including a commitment to fairness and following the process. There’s are almost always new examples of Republican politicians rejecting any result or rule that doesn’t favor their interests, and this week we have two.

The first is in Michigan, where pro-choice canvassers obtained more than enough signatures to put an abortion-rights amendment to the state Constitution on the November ballot. The goal of such an amendment, beyond establishing the right to an abortion in the state, is to pre-empt a law, originally enacted in the 19th century, that bans abortion with only limited exceptions for the life of the mother.

Canvassers met the requirements, but Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers decided that was not enough. As the law professor Leah Litman explains for Slate magazine, Republicans “mounted a spurious challenge to the Michigan ballot initiative, arguing that the petitions contained less than optimal spacing between the words on the petition. That’s right: There were no missing words in the petition; no misleading words; no inaccurate words. Just some words they felt should have been spaced further apart.”

Because the board is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, the Republican challenge means the amendment will not be on the November ballot, pending a final judgment from the Michigan Supreme Court. The whole debacle is practically farcical in its bad faith and insincerity. Had this been an amendment to ban abortion, there is no question that Republican officials would have allowed it on the ballot; after all, as the Supreme Court said in its opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, each state is now able to decide for itself how it wants to handle abortion rights.

A neutral reader might understand this to mean that the people of each state can choose, democratically, to either protect or restrict abortion rights, but Michigan Republicans seem to see it as a more limited grant of freedom: Voters can either restrict abortion or do nothing at all. They cannot, and will not, be allowed to protect it.

The second example of Republican contempt for rules that don’t favor their interests comes from Alaska, where Mary Peltola, a Democrat, won the special election to fill Alaska’s House seat through early next year. Peltola faced off against Sarah Palin, former governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate, as well as Nick Begich, a Republican businessman. Alaska uses ranked-choice voting in both state and federal elections, and a crucial percentage of Begich’s supporters had marked Peltola as their second-choice candidate. When he was eliminated from the race after his third-place finish, the redistribution of those voters to Peltola put her over the top.

The process is straightforward, but in the wake of Peltola’s historic victory — she will be the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress as well as the first Democrat to hold the seat in 50 years — Republicans cried fraud. “Ranked-choice voting is a scam to rig elections,” said Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Twitter. Josh Hammer, a conservative commentator, said he was “calling for a complete and total shutdown of ranked-choice voting until we can figure out what the hell is going on.”

As for Palin, she complained that “the people of Alaska do not want the destructive Democrat agenda to rule our land and our lives, but that’s what resulted from someone’s experiment with this new crazy, convoluted, confusing ranked-choice voting system.”

There’s nothing unfair or complicated about ranked-choice voting. The issue for Republicans, in this case, is that they lost. But rather than accept this loss and move on to fight another day, they have gone with what appears to be the now-standard response to defeat: to attack and undermine the system itself


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