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Stolen-Election Myth Fuels G.O.P. Push to Change Voting Laws

Ms. Bernier of Wisconsin, for example, said she saw little problem with a bill that would allot one ballot drop box for voters in towns like New Berlin, with 40,000 residents, and one for voters in Milwaukee, with 590,000 residents. There were no drop boxes at all, she noted, until state officials made an emergency exception during the pandemic.

“The Legislature could say that no drop boxes are necessary at all,” she said.

Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University political scientist and election expert, said he disagreed. Presidential elections always draw more voters, he said, but the grunt work of democracy often occurs in off-year votes for lesser offices where interest is lower. In those elections, “if there are barriers placed in the way of voters, they’re not going to turn out,” he said.

Mike Noble, a Phoenix public-opinion expert, questioned whether the Arizona Legislature’s Trumpian anti-fraud agenda has political legs, even though polls show a level of Republican belief in Mr. Trump’s stolen election myth that he calls “mind-boggling.”

Republicans who consider themselves more moderate make up about a third of the party’s support in Arizona, he said, and they are far less likely to believe the myth. And they may be turned off by a Legislature that wants to curtail absentee ballot mailings in a state where voters — especially Republicans — have long voted heavily by mail.

“I don’t see how a rational person would see where the benefit is,” he said.

Some other Republicans apparently agree. In Kentucky, which has some of the nation’s strictest voting laws, the solidly Republican State House voted almost unanimously on Friday to allow early voting, albeit only three days, and online applications for absentee ballots. Both were first tried during the pandemic and, importantly, were popular with voters and county election officials.

If that kind of recognition of November’s successes resonated in other Republican states, Mr. Persily and another election scholar, Charles Stewart III of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in a recent study, it could bode well for easing the deep divisions over future election rules. If the stolen election myth continues to drive Republican policy, Mr. Persily said, it could foretell a future with two kinds of elections in which voting rights, participation and faith in the results would be significantly different, depending on which party had written the rules.

“Those trajectories are on the horizon,” he said. “Some states are adopting a blunderbuss approach to regulating voting that is only distantly related to fraud concerns. And it could mean massive collateral damage for voting rights.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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