When I started working in politics, everyone — no matter their party — agreed that our elections ought to be free and fair. Times have changed. What happens now, when one political party wants our electoral system to break? What do we do when one party believes that it will benefit from broken elections and is happy to own the results? I fear that we are about to find out.
Less than two weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, the Republican Party has abandoned decency and respect, choosing instead to break our fragile electoral system for political gain.
Republican election deniers, vote suppressors, “Big Lie” advocates and their political and legal enablers spread misinformation about elections because they believe that without public confidence, elections are easier to overturn and the results are easier to ignore. Denying the truth about the 2020 election does not just allow past grievances to fester. It lays the groundwork for Republicans to seize power in the future.
Misinformation about elections created the environment for states like Georgia, Florida and Texas to enact new voter suppression laws that seek to fence racial minorities and young voters out of the political process. In Georgia, these laws have enabled activists to file mass challenges, attempting to strip the rights of tens of thousands of citizens to vote. In Arizona, right-wing election vigilantes are staking out drop boxes in order to intimidate voters from using a safe, secure and legal method of returning their ballots.
Recent news reports show how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has weaponized the power of the state against those who disagree with him. He has literally used the criminal investigatory process to intimidate voters from participating in an election where they might vote against him.
In Pennsylvania, Republican-controlled counties ignored their obligations to certify accurate election results in the 2022 primary election. In Michigan, Republicans on the state’s canvassing board refused to certify two ballot initiatives, one pro-voting and one pro-choice. In Nevada, a Republican-controlled county had to be ordered by the state Supreme Court not to livestream the pre-election counting of mail-in ballots. An Arizona county approved a hand counting process that could delay the certification of statewide results for weeks.
All of this is being done with the approval of the Republican Party. The GOP no longer presents voter suppression and election subversion with a wink and a nod. It enthusiastically embraces these anti-democratic tactics. There are no dog whistles left in the GOP; they have been replaced by blaring sirens of authoritarianism.
In our constitutional system, the final bulwark against attacks on democracy is the judiciary. It is the role of courts to protect fundamental rights when the political branches fail to do so. And there is no right more fundamental than the right to vote. As the U.S. Supreme Court said more than 50 years ago, the right to vote is “preservative of all other rights.”
After the 2020 election, courts did their job to protect the results of free and fair elections. Lawyers working for a corrupt president asked courts more than 60 times to chip away at democracy. Courts refused.
Two years later, Republicans and their lawyers are back. Once again, they are trying to make it easier to disenfranchise voters, throw out legal ballots and undermine election results. This time they are armed with more resources and, unfortunately, more dangerous legal theories. We don’t yet know whether courts will again reject these assaults on our elections.
For the rest of us, we cannot stand idly by while Republicans continue their attacks on our elections. We also must be active in the protection of democracy in every way we can. First and foremost, we must all vote. But voting alone is not enough. Each of us has an obligation to stand up and speak out. We must condemn the Republican effort to break our democracy without equivocation or false comparison. We cannot allow the erosion of democracy to be normalized or rationalized.
We also must deny Republicans the benefit that they seek from damaging our democratic system of elections. If, despite our efforts, they are able to break it, we cannot let them own it. Democracy is not an item for sale at Pottery Barn. Instead, we must pick up the pieces and rebuild a system of free and fair elections with the care and attention it deserves.