Throwing the rascals out is an American political tradition.
The voters won’t be able to throw the rascals out for much longer, though, if democracy gets upended to the point that the electorate no longer has the power to change its government.
It’s a real risk. Putting decisive thumbs on the scale is the goal of too many people who are too close to creating a system in which party apparatchiks can overturn election results they don’t like. Make no mistake: If you think those apparatchiks will overturn elections in your favor, you’ll be in for a surprise when it goes the other way. By then, there will be no recourse.
Anti-voting scams everywhere
The challenges to one-person one-vote are everywhere.
In Arizona, QAnon conspiracy theorist Mark Finchem, with Donald Trump’s backing, is running for secretary of state and the chance to wield broad power over elections. Finchem was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but he won’t release texts and other communications to show whether he entered the building. He’s not alone in his disdain for voters. At least nine Republican Senate candidates have filed or actively supported one of thebaseless lawsuits that claimed the 2020 election was fraudulent.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law on Sept. 7 that makes it harder to obtain mail-in ballots, prohibits drop boxes to turn in those ballots, limits early voting times and eliminates drive-through voting. Democrats fled the state capital for weeks in a failed effort to block the bill.
In Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers last week approved subpoenas for a wide range of data and personal information on voters, which looks an awful lot like a way to undermine democracy and intimidate voters. Whatever happened to the idea of a secret ballot?
In Georgia, Republicans enacted a law in March that gives state-level Republicans the ability to take over county vote-counting machinery, which would allow them to tip future presidential and congressional elections their way. The law gives state-level officials the power to do what Trump wanted to do in 2020: make decisions after the fact about which votes will be counted. Other states have rushed to enact similar laws.
Everyone remembers how Trump tried to get Georgia’s secretary of state to “recalculate” vote totals to “find” enough votes for him. Laws such as Georgia’s will make that possible, and with officials such as Finchem in power, should he win, who can doubt those laws will be put into practice?
Other nations that admire American democracy can only watch, aghast.
Repressive laws in 18 states
Meanwhile, more than 400 bills have been introduced across the nation to make it harder for targeted populations to vote. In July, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that 18 states had enacted 30 laws making it harder to vote. The Voting Rights Lab says 184 bills in 39 states would shift the allocation of power in the administration of elections.
According to an upcoming book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, then-Vice President Mike Pence was actually pondering whether to certify President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump until he talked to former Vice President Dan Quayle, who said, “Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away.”
Besides the new laws, some politicians are encouraging “poll watchers” to be disruptive, to intimidate poll workers and voters. More people also are willing to threaten violence. How many election workers who take on the task only out of a sense of civic duty will be willing to work from 5 in the morning to 10 or 11 at night even as someone is making threatening calls to their children? But if they quit, there’s a very real fear they could be replaced with workers whose agenda is to tilt an election.
No wonder most Americans — 56% — feel democracy is under attack in this country. according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.
Freedom to Vote Act
One lifeline for democracy is the Freedom to Vote Act, which was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday. It contains provisions to safeguard future elections tampering. Every state would be required to have automatic voter registration. It would limit the ability of political parties to box voting minorities into convoluted districts through partisan gerrymandering, overturn a recent Supreme Court ruling on how provisional ballots can be counted and roll back newly passed laws that make voting by mail harder. All eligible citizens could request mail-in ballots and have access to secure drop-off boxes.
Democracy is hanging on by a thread. Our nation needs to rebuild a consensus that elections must be fair — putting the means before the ends. All of America should rally to defend a form of government that has made this nation great.
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