The former vice president’s commentary inThe Daily Signal immediately drew criticism for giving credence to the conspiracy beliefs of the pro-Trump insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol on 6 January.
His repetition of the “big lie”, that widespread election fraud “stole” the election from Donald Trump, was found to be particularly galling by many, given that the rioters chanted that they wanted to hang Mr Pence for not unconstitutionally overturning the results.
The former vice president wrote: “After an election marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election.”
In the op-ed, the former vice president voices his opposition to the For The People Act, known as HR 1.
Mr Pence called HR 1 “unconstitutional, reckless, and anti-democratic”, writing that it “will increase opportunities for election fraud, trample the First Amendment, further erode confidence in our elections and should be rejected by every member of Congress and opposed by every patriotic American.”
Readers were both appalled and incredulous given the danger Mr Pence was in on 6 January and his apparent refusal to connect that with unfounded claims concerning electoral fraud.
“These are the types of lies that almost got you lynched. Some people never learn, I guess,” tweeted one.
“You got chased out of Congress by the mob your boss sent for you. Yet, you still couldn’t take off your weird Victorian chastity knickers and stand up to the guy,” said another.
“People lack confidence in our elections because you just spent the past year allowing them to be lied to, right up until they tried to kill you over it,” added a third.
Mr Pence further wrote: “After a year in which our nation has endured a global pandemic, economic hardship, and a contentious election, now is not the time to further inflame passion and division. It is time for our nation’s leaders to help America heal.”
HR 1 sets out legislation that would expand voting rights by making it easier for people to register and vote in the face of recent state-level efforts to limit both. It would also mandate independent redistricting to lessen the influence of gerrymandering, increase election security, and require presidential candidates to release their tax returns, among other measures to increase transparency.
Republican-controlled state legislatures are currently pushing through legislation that would complicate or restrict the ability of many people to vote, essentially disenfranchising them. The party is still smarting after losing key swing states and seeing traditionally Republican Arizona and Georgia won by Democrats in both presidential and Senate elections.
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, governors and courts enacted measures to expand absentee ballot and mail-in voting to ensure people could vote without having to show up in person and risk their health.
The focus on ensuring people had the ability to vote, a huge effort to register voters by Democrats, and intense passion from supporters on both sides, resulted in a massive turnout in the 2020 election. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden subsequently received a record number of votes, 74 million and 81 million respectively.
Republicans fear the prospect of being shut out of government by an expanded electorate that traditionally might not have shown up at polling booths to cast a ballot — hence their state-level efforts to change voting regulations.
Mr Pence is therefore framing HR 1 as an attempt by Democrats to “nationalise our elections”, instead advocating that reform be carried out by the states, ensuring that more restrictive measures are implemented by Republican legislatures.
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