On January 3 the wingnut party will end and a House full of shiny checks and balances will ring in the new year. Voting rights will be at the top of the agenda when the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives. This battle will be the backdrop to both impeachment proceedings and the 2020 presidential election. It’s a winning message for Democrats and a hard sell for the GOP.
The public has renewed interest in voting rights and Democrats are gearing up to amplify this message. Voter suppression is a hotter issue now than it has been for more than half a century. The most recent incarnation of voter suppression was borne in 2013 after the United States Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act. Shortly thereafter Republicans went to work dismantling voting rights. They use the phony pretext of voter fraud to conceal their efforts to make it harder for certain constituencies to vote. It is no coincidence that suppression efforts commonly target those that oppose Republican candidates, ie people of color, students and the elderly.
Even losing gubernatorial candidates are garnering strong support for their efforts to expose the ways Republicans are manipulating the electoral system. Florida’s Andrew Gillum and Georgia’s Stacy Abrams are both Democratic gubernatorial candidates that have been publicly demanding reform in what has been described as an “existential fight over voting rights”.
Both Agrams and Gillum have turned to the courts without much success. In July the courts struck down unfair voting laws favoring Republicans in five states, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas. However, the courts have offered mixed results since then squashing efforts to rollback unfair Republican voting laws while counting some votes that would have otherwise been excluded.
Democrats have acquired some valuable experience in recent weeks. As quoted by CNN, Abrams describes the midterms as a learning opportunity, “we have used this election and its aftermath to diagnose what has been broken in our process.”
Democrats are fighting to make every vote count and one of the ways they are doing this is by supporting automatic voter registration. “We’ve got to demand a more perfect union, we have to demand a process that is more fair,” Gillum said.
Abrams said that “democracy failed Georgia” under the watch of Brian Kemp, the man who will be governor. Kemp is the former Secretary of State who used his office to lob false accusations at Abrams just days before the election. Democrats now have a platform from which to challenge this and other examples of Republican malfeasance. Democrats are already working on democracy reforms to combat Republican efforts to skew the electoral playing field.
Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes explained that new legislation being crafted by House Democrats is trying to, “create a roadmap for how to protect people’s vote and their voice everywhere in this country…If we can learn something from challenging these deficiencies in our voting process (in Florida) and our voting system in this country, you’re putting together a handbook not to steal elections but to have elections be an accurate reflection of the will and the voice of the people.”
There is still much work to do. Voting restrictions remain in at least twelve states. With Trump’s minions in control of the Senate, passing legislation may prove difficult. However, the House can shine a bright light on the ways Republicans sway electoral outcomes in their favor.
Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and dark money are three of the primary ways that democracy is under threat from the GOP. But at least one part of this despotic trifecta will be challenged by lawmakers in 2019.