Democracy under attack: How Republicans led the effort to make voting more difficult | US News

2021 was the year American democracy came under attack from within.

Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election results, an effort that culminated in the Jan.6 assault on Capitol Hill, ultimately failed. But the lies spread by the former president about fraud and the integrity of the 2020 results remained dangerous. False statements about the election have moved to the center of the Republican Party.

Republican lawmakers have taken the fears created by these baseless claims and turned them into weapons in new laws that make it harder to vote. Between January and October, 19 states enacted 33 laws to restrict access to voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

But the Republicans didn’t stop there. There is now a concerted effort to gain more partisan control over the administration of the elections. Trump is supporting election deniers in their efforts to take control of key offices that control election rules and the counting of ballots. The effort raised fears that Trump could set the stage for another coup in 2024, when supporters in these roles could help reverse the election results.

All of these actions are taking place against the backdrop of the 10-year redistribution process, which Republicans dominate in many states. Republicans are taking full advantage of this power, drawing districts that will strengthen their control over state legislatures and win congressional seats for the next decade.

Joe Biden described the attack as “the most important test of our democracy since the Civil War”. But Democrats in the US Senate were unable to pass two bills with significant voting rights protections. Whether Biden and the Senate Democrats can find a way to get these bills through Congress looms as a major test of his presidency.

Here’s how voting rights became the most important story in American politics in 2021:

New voting restrictions

When state legislatures convened in early 2021, many moved quickly to enact new laws that made it more difficult to vote. Many of the new measures targeted postal voting, which a record number of Americans used in 2020.

One of the most high-profile battles has taken place in Georgia, a state targeted by Trump with baseless fraud allegations after a surprising loss to Biden there. Republicans enacted a law that requires voters to provide additional identifying information on postal ballot application forms and on the ballot itself. They also restricted the availability of absentee ballot boxes, a popular method of returning ballots in 2020. The law also criminalized providing food and water to people in line within 150 feet of a desk. to vote.

In Florida, Republicans enacted new law that also restricts the availability of ballot boxes, imposes new rules regarding third-party registration groups, and requires voters to request mail-in ballots more frequently.

The fight for the new voting restrictions exploded in July, when Democrats in the Texas legislature fled the state for several weeks, denying Republicans the quorum they needed to pass new voting restrictions. Republicans ultimately succeeded in pushing through a law banning 24-hour voting, establishing regular citizenship checks for voter lists, making it more difficult to assist voters and empowering supporters of polls.

Undermine confidence in the elections

A staggering number of Americans continue to deny the results of the 2020 election. A September CNN poll found that 36% of Americans did not believe Biden was the legitimate winner of the election.

Trump has fueled this disbelief by continuing to argue irregularities that have already been debunked. Republicans in several states continue to call for the “decertification” of elections, which is legally impossible.

Republicans in some places have gone even further, allowing unusual post-election inquiries into election results.

The most publicized of those criticisms was in Arizona, where Republicans hired a company with no electoral experience, called Cyber ​​Ninjas, to examine all of the 2.1 million votes cast in Maricopa County, the most populous in the United States. State. The months-long effort, which included a manual count of each ballot, was widely criticized by election experts, who noted that the company had shoddy methodology and that its leader had adopted conspiracy theories on the election. Ultimately, the Cyber ​​Ninjas’ effort confirmed Biden’s victory in Maricopa County.

Republicans elsewhere have adopted similar critiques. In Wisconsin, Republicans in the legislature hired a former Republican Supreme Court justice to review the election, but the effort was marred by neglect and accusations of partisan bias.

“It’s a scam, to be clear,” Matt Masterson, a former senior Department of Homeland Security official who works on election administration, said in December.

These efforts were coupled with an even more alarming effort in the Republican legislatures to empower lawmakers to alter election results. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, lawmakers in seven states, including Michigan, Arizona, Missouri and Nevada, introduced 10 bills this year that would allow them to override or alter election results. Some of the bills would allow partisan lawmakers to categorically reject election results, while others would allow post-election interference in the vote count.

Attacks on election officials

Over the past year, there has been an increase in the number of election administrators who have left their positions due to threats and harassment. Experts are deeply concerned about the exodus and say it could give way to more inexperienced and partisan workers to take charge of the conduct of the elections. Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer, said earlier this month that the effort was an attempt to take election administration “from the pros” and give it “to the poles.”

Trump has backed several candidates who have embraced the myth of a stolen election to be Secretary of State, the chief electoral official, in many states. So far, he’s made approvals in GOP primaries in Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada – all swing states that could play a pivotal role in 2024.

Gerrymandering extreme supporter

At the start of each decade, state legislators in the United States design new legislative districts of Congress and states. In 2020, Republicans dominated the top-down ballot races that determine who controls the redistribution process. And this year, they’ve used their power in remarkably powerful ways.

In Texas, where 95% of the state’s population growth came from non-white people, Republicans drew maps of the political power of minorities. They didn’t draw any new minority-majority districts, instead giving Republicans an advantage to win the state’s two new congressional seats. Republicans have also decided to strengthen their advantage in politically competitive states like North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia. Democrats destroy states where they hold power, like Illinois and Maryland, but control the redistribution process in far fewer places than Republicans.

These rigged neighborhoods will isolate Republicans from threats to their political power for the next decade.

Federal voting rights legislation

One of the biggest frustrations of Biden’s first year in office has been that Democrats have been unable to push through two crucial voting rights laws through Congress. A bill would establish a minimum of access across the country, guaranteeing things like 15 days of early voting, as well as banning partisan gerrymandering. The second bill would reinstate an essential element of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requiring states where there is repeated evidence of discrimination in the vote to have voting changes approved by the federal government before they are made. come into force.

There is growing frustration that Biden did not push hard enough to get rid of the filibuster, which Republicans relied on to block these bills. Democrats have pledged to find a way around filibuster next year.


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