I find it ironic that on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I find myself having to write in defense of voting rights. Over 60 years after he fought for the right of every American to vote and for democracy, Dr. King would be appalled at what is happening today.
In the article “Election Integrity is not anti-democratic” in last week’s Point of View, for example, the author states that those who are warning that Democracy is being quietly dismantled through tampering with the election process would like to loosen “all requirements in our voting process to the point where there would be no possibility of ensuring the integrity of our elections.” Rather than list what this landslide of loosening voter requirements is, however, the author merely points out that “requiring photo ID” to vote to is a “very cogent argument, [and that they] “cannot understand the aversion to requiring a photo ID to vote,” which is also needed for renting an apartment, cashing a check, opening a bank account, registering at a hotel, buying tobacco products or alcohol transact and other business transactions.
Rather than loosening election requirements however, the current pro-democracy movement is attempting to prevent a faction of elected officials from tearing it down, so that they can ensure wins by right-wing candidates in upcoming elections. Political experts say that attacks by extremists on the election process has been ongoing for decades, even centuries, but most agree that the current attempt to undermine the process started a year ago on Jan. 6 when as a result of former President Trump’s (to this day) unsubstantiated claims that he was the one who won in the 2020 election and not President Biden, armed right-wing militants violently attacked the nation’s Capitol in an attempt to prevent congress from ratifying the election results. Similarly, as a result of brain washing by Trump’s lies and social media, to this day a significant portion of Republican voters continue to believe that Trump actually won in the 2020.
Capitalizing on this delusion, ever sense the deadly attack on the Capitol, right-wing politicians have perpetuated Trump’s “Big-Lie” by, mostly at the state level throughout the country, not by just calling for more restrictive photo ID standards before one can cast a ballot, but also continuing Trump’s bullying and intimidation of local election officials, gerrymandering and adoption of legislation designed to ensure that they can get whomever they want elected to the next congressional, presidential and other future elections.
In fact, as a part of a series called “Democracy Dies in the Darkness,” in a Dec. 10, 2021 article entitled “18 Steps To A Democratic Breakdown,” the Washington Post cites a gauntlet of strategies that autocratic politicians, state election boards and commissions are applying to dismantle voting rights. These include passing laws that directly restrict access to the polls by making early and mail voting more difficult; imposing stricter voter ID requirements, increasing the likelihood of faulty voter purges; giving themselves more power over the administration and certification of elections; firing or imposing criminal penalties on election officials who are not willing to issue directives limiting the number of polling places or sites to drop off absentee ballots or who are not sympathetic to false claims of voter fraud or not willing to use their position to undermine election outcomes and appoint officials who will; create new voting regulations or interpret election rules to partisan advantage; casting doubt on the legitimacy of elections, or support repeated unwarranted audits of elections; continue Trump’s tactics of bullying and encouraging violence against, political opponents, local election officials and voters and ensure that their base stays misinformed and angry in order to further polarize society and consolidate power.
Rather than loosening election standards therefore, Congress is considering multiple pieces of legislation to strengthen them in the face of a group of autocratic law makers so that they can put in place elected officials that represent their views and not the will of the people.
Please email or call your senators in support of the Freedom to Vote Act, Protecting Our Democracy Act, The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and DC Statehood.
Hal Shepherd is a writer and consultant focusing on water policy in Homer.