It is election time, for better or for worse.
I half expect a public announcement any minute that Russians, Chinese or someone else has “hacked” the election. Where once that idea would have been laughable, it certainly isn’t anymore. One can only hope that our intelligence agencies, cybersecurity experts and election officials are successful in protecting the vote itself.
As serious and threatening as the idea of election meddling by a foreign government or non-state actors might be, the truth is that we are most vulnerable to the pernicious attacks on democracy by our own political system.
The most obvious form of political manipulation is gerrymandering with its evil twins, “packing” and “cracking”. There are also voter ID laws, limitations on absentee voting, purging of voter rolls, laws restricting or eliminating the right of ex-felons to vote, voter registration restrictions, closing polls at an early hour, particularly during the early voting period, and, the most obvious of all, holding elections on a weekday when most people have to work and can’t leave work to vote.
It seems clear that all of these hurdles, particularly when taken together, are put in place to suppress voter turnout and thereby influence the outcome. I have even heard educated, serious people claim that it is the duty of any political party in power to stay in power through whatever means are available. That sort of thought process led us to where we are today. Even George Washington saw party politics as dangerous to democracy. His fear was not misplaced.
Shouldn’t our aim be to encourage voting? Is it in any way healthy for a democracy to have elections decided by a small fraction of the eligible voters? Isn’t it true that this systematic voter suppression has led to a majority of the population feeling helpless, disenfranchised, angry and polarized?
The argument to the contrary is always that we need laws which guarantee the integrity of the vote and that if people don’t care enough to overcome all of the obstacles in their path to vote, then they should lose. Both of these points are specious.
A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to cast a fraudulent ballot. That is not hyperbole, that is a fact.
As to the overcoming of obstacles to voting, who among us can truthfully say they would vote if being late to work or leaving early from work to vote will cost us our job or if waiting in line to vote interfered with taking children to school or disrupted child care arrangements?
For more about this important issue, see the article “Taking Back the Vote” that appears in the October 29, 2018 issue of Time.
Don’t forget to vote and take a friend!