361. That’s the number of bills state lawmakers have introduced so far this year that would restrict the right to vote. Democracy is under attack, and it goes far beyond voter suppression. We just watched President Trump and fellow Republicans try to steal the presidential election, and now they’re laying the groundwork to try again next time.
The sad truth is that our system of government is in jeopardy, and it’s all because of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, it’s been going on for years. Trump may have accelerated the GOP’s walk away from democracy, but this is hardly the first time the party has decided to turn their backs on voters.
It doesn’t matter that Democrats have control in Washington — so long as Republicans control the building blocks of democracy in our states, democracy is not safe.
As we prepare for another round of redistricting, we cannot forget what happened a decade ago. Republicans abused their power to gerrymander themselves into permanent majorities that helped them win the U.S. House of Representatives and many state legislatures, even when more Americans voted for Democrats. In 2018, Democrats won the state legislative popular vote in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina, but still failed to win majorities in those chambers due to heavily gerrymandered maps. While these abhorrent abuses of power led to some GOP-drawn maps being thrown out in court, often because they targeted the voting power of minority communities, many remain in place today — and Republicans have another chance to draw maps in their favor this year.
It gets worse. Republicans have repeatedly pursued extreme voting restrictions that would disproportionately impact communities of color. Voting changes in North Carolina, for example, were thrown out after a federal court determined they targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.” Instead of trying to appeal to every American, Republicans have decided that they’re better off without everyone voting, a deeply troubling stance for the future of our democracy. But this is no secret — a GOP lawmaker in Arizona said earlier this year that they were concerned about the “quality” of voters, rhetoric that echoes Jim Crow-era restrictions on voting. To Republicans, democracy is an obstacle to be overcome instead of a beacon of light.
The GOP isn’t satisfied with mere election-rigging. There are many cases of Republican state legislators simply ignoring the will of the voters. After Floridians passed a constitutional amendment that would re-enfranchise people previously convicted of felonies, the legislature essentially passed a poll tax to keep as many as possible from voting. Now they’re trying to find ways to block a similar amendment that would increase the state’s minimum wage. Missouri voters passed an amendment requiring Medicaid expansion, but GOP lawmakers have so far refused to fund it, a decision that will likely land them in court.
Voters have been able to use ballot initiatives to pass reforms that go against the Republican agenda, like Arizonans raising the minimum wage and legalizing marijuana, so the GOP are changing the rules around ballot initiatives to tip the scale in their favor. Even when voters make their preferences clear, today’s GOP simply doesn’t care.
Make no mistake, Republicans care about one thing: power, and they’ll make sure they have it at all costs. Democratic control in Washington is not safe while Republicans in the states are working overtime to destroy our democracy, defying the will of the voters and insulating their extremist members from accountability. We’re watching them plot to flip control of Congress and win the next presidential election through voter suppression and undermining our democracy. Our elections don’t need saving from a Republican-driven myth about voter fraud — they need to be saved from the GOP itself.
Jessica Post is President of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.