This July 4, Americans must commit to fight back against assaults on our democracy

Voting, supporting election workers and fighting back against the Big Lie are part of saving our “grand experiment.”

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Small American flags fly on the lawn of a suburban home.

Small American flags fly on the lawn of a suburban home.

Nam Y. Huh/AP Photos

My greatest fear is that one day we may wake up and our democracy is gone.Congressman John Lewis, from the 2020 documentary “Good Trouble.”

Not voting is not a protest. It is a surrender. — Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, 2016.

On this Fourth of July, those quotes are hitting home with us, as they should hit home for every American.

If we truly cherish our “grand experiment” in democracy, we must participate in it — and the most essential component of participation is voting.

Because the day we give up on voting, throw up our hands in understandable frustration at the now-constant battle against those seemingly dead-set on crippling voting rights and the will of the people — that will be the day democracy dies.

Editorial

Editorial

Whatever the circumstances, whether the election is for president, governor, school board or the proverbial dogcatcher — every citizen of voting age has a duty to make their voice heard.

Too many Chicagoans went unheard in last week’s primary, in which voter turnout plummeted to 20% — the lowest since 2014. Turnout for suburban Cook County hasn’t yet been reported but may well follow the same distressing trend. Turnout has been low in other primaries across the country, with New York and North Carolina serving as examples.

Yes, turnout for midterm elections is typically lower than for presidential elections. Across the country, bills have been passed or introduced that would make it harder to cast a ballot. Republican opposition doomed voting rights and election reform legislation.

Even so, on this July 4, Americans should vow to make it to the polls as a show of faith in what this country, at its best, stands for.

Another way Americans can show faith in democracy is to volunteer as an election judge and support those who make the commitment to show up early at a polling place to hand out ballots and assist voters. We saw last week what happens when election workers aren’t available: In Chicago, dozens of polling places opened late on June 28 because election judges didn’t show up. In recent days, we’ve received several letters from election workers who were frustrated by the lack of support at their local polling places.

Across the country, there’s a larger and far more alarming issue: The safety fears, threats and harassment experienced by many election workers and officials who, as a result, have either quit or plan to do so, as a Brennan Center for Justice poll found. One in six elec­tion offi­cials have exper­i­enced threats because of their job, the poll found, and over half say they’re concerned about the safety of their colleagues.

Let’s be clear: These safety fears were sparked by the Big Lie and those who, against all reason and factual evidence to the contrary, continue to believe it and sow misinformation and distrust in our election system.

The June 21 hearing of the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 showed us a vivid example of harassment — and not just of a higher-level official, which is bad enough, but also of workers at a local polling place. Fulton County, Georgia, poll workers, Ruby “Lady Ruby” Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss testified about the vicious harassment they experienced after being publicly accused by Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, of engaging in illegal activity aimed at rigging the 2020 election outcome in Georgia.

In other words, they were harassed and threatened for carrying out a vital civic task, during a pandemic.

As a nation, we must protect election workers and make sure they have the tools they need to perform their jobs.

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of us all. — John F. Kennedy

The ripple effect of the Big Lie continues to spread. Countering the lie about a stolen 2020 election is like playing a game of whack-a-mole.

Big money is helping to prop up the lie in the 2022 election nationwide, as a recent Brennan Center analysis found. Among major donors giving to candidates and organizations that have promoted the baseless theory about a stolen election is Illinois’ Richard Uihlein, the Center reported.

Democracy in America is under assault, as we wrote in May. This July 4, everyone should commit to fighting back.

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