Voting Rights Threats Call For Expanded Democracy

Republicans in State Houses Across the United States Are Supporting Voter Suppression Change In The Wake Of President Donald Trump’s Claims of Voter Fraud (Photo: AP)

If the theory exists that an inevitable advance toward fuller democracy is often offset by periodic reversals that threaten to plunge the body politic into veritable civic chaos, then we are witnessing that kind of upheaval in our country currently.

When President Trump lost the presidency late last year, he left office on unequivocally belligerent terms. Trump swore he had been victimized by a conspiratorial voter cabal whose malfeasance proved his contention that corruption was endemic to our election process. Trump was certain that the vote was tainted and that the electoral outcomes last November were an act of coordinated calculated connivance.

Trump’s blustering about his election loss resulted in germinating seeds of irrationality which dispersed across the states, spouting up as anti-democracy policy. What we are reaping from Trump’s wild-eyed election allegations is a whirlwind of mean-spirited voter suppression tactics — an aggressive response by republicans who’ve embraced the former president’s big lie.

According to the Washington Post, since Trump issued his false voter claims, legislators in 43 states have proposed voting policy that will effectively suppress voter turnout. These proposals range from eliminating early voting to preventing mail-in ballots. They represent a full-scale assault on democracy— an all-out response by republicans at the state level to disenfranchise the poor, elderly and so-called minorities.

The republican onslaught being undertaken in the states stand in ostentatious contrast to energy being mounted in supporting protection and and expansion voter rights. Last month House of Representative Democrats passed the For the People Act, a first step process that would usher in sweeping laws that addressing issues such as the undue influence of money in politics and ballot box access for Blacks or felons. The measure reached the U.S. Senate for debate this week — leading newly minted Senator Raphael’s Warnock’s remarks in the Senate chambers yesterday.

Warnock also chastised moves by republicans as an affront to freedom.

“Make no mistake, this is democracy in reverse. Rather than voters being able to pick the politicians, the politicians are trying to cherry pick their voters. I say this cannot stand,” said Warnock

Warnock added that we are currently witnessing “a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve ever seen since the Jim Crow era.”

There is a reason we should all be vigilant: Republicans who seek to suppress voting rights prize civic tyranny over investing in power momentously implicit in engage citizenship. Our collective commonwealth is dramatically reduced in the wake of creating barriers to political participation. Nothing is more sacred among our democratic arrangements than the right to vote. Unimpeded access to the ballot is fundamental to expressing public consent or disagreement within the context of governance from the local level to the rarified and upper echelons policy making.

When we extend the voting franchise to all with the unburdened weight of unnecessary restrictions we endorse willful, unobstructed public inclusion into all aspects of public engagement. We affirm purposeful civic flourishing, political forms of neighborliness and unrestricted endorsement democratic participation.

This is why Warnock spoke so passionately from the well of the U.S. Senate this week. It is why we must reject the efforts of legislators who want to bind the electoral process. Instead, we should opt for revived and ever expanding democratic sensibilities and ameliorative options.

Kevin Peterson is founder of the New Democracy Coalition and Convener of the Fanueil Hall Race and Reconciliation Project. He is a social and cultural critic.

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