It has been a year since the 2020 presidential election. The ongoing discussions on voter restrictions, harsher voter laws, and voter fraud have begun to quiet down a bit. However, it is important for us to keep this discussion going. The importance of free and fair voter laws, particularly the access to early voting, will help the sanctity of democracy in this country.
We have heard time and time again how unprecedented this past presidential election was when it came to voting. Typically voting in-person on the first Tuesday in November is the only real option for voters. But in 2020, registered voters could vote by mail, at an early location, and in some parts of the country, by car. With the threat the COVID-19 pandemic posed, and could continue to pose in upcoming elections, it was essential that this variety of options were in place.
In the most recent election, I and so many of my family members took full advantage of our early options. There was still no vaccine in sight and I was living with people who could be considered high-risk. Even the small threat of standing in a long line or being around too many people on election day was frightening to me. I also know I am not alone in that thinking. Many Americans were thrilled at the plethora of safe options. But, there are more benefits than just safety and comfort when it comes to early voting or voting by mail. One of these benefits is high voter turnout.
Voter turnout reached record-breaking highs in the 2020 election. More than two-thirds of the eligible voter population showed up. This was a momentous win in voter participation, a key element to upholding a fair and free democracy. Some of the success in turnout, particularly that of Democrats, must be attributed to the flexibility in voter options. That’s why Republicans immediately began taking action to shut it all down.
What Conservatives Have to Say:
President Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud placed local and federal Republicans on the defensive. Democrats now have the (slim) majority in the executive branch and both chambers of Congress. The voters who got those Democrats elected, were far more likely to use an early voting method in the past election. By eliminating said methods, Republicans are repressing those same voters, helping them win more elections.
There are so many aspects of new voter laws in conservative states that are harmful to our democracy such as imposing harsher voter id requirements, eliminating same-day registration, reducing polling locations and hours, etc. But for me, the most startling laws impact access to mail ballots and early voting. After seeing how beneficial the access to early voting was, for everyone actually, it baffles me that there would be an effort to abolish these possibilities. These attempts at suppression are happening more intensely at the state level. Georgia, Iowa, and Texas have all passed laws limiting early voting days or hours. Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas have enacted laws that will make it immensely harder to vote via mail. The Texas state legislature became so contentious over their new law that Democrats fled the state in an effort to block it. Unfortunately, it did eventually pass.
Although no restrictive voting laws are in contention at the federal level, House and Senate Republicans have still shot down potential protective laws. Republican members of the Senate blocked the Freedom to Vote Act from going to the floor for a vote. This bill would help with voting, redistricting, and campaign finance reforms. It works closely with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that is a response to voter discrimination. Not only have Congressional Republicans prevented voter protection bills, but they also refuse to disavow voter suppression laws.
It is far too hard to expect states, especially conservative ones, to do the right thing when it comes to fair and free voting. However, with a slim majority in the House and Senate, we can hope that Democrats, and some Republicans, will support and pass The Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These laws would be monumental in the process of blocking restrictive voting laws.
These infringements on the right to vote are encompassing our nation. It is essential that we salvage whatever is left from the rubble that is the erosion of voting rights.
Looking at the demographics of anti-maskers, which predominantly consisted of Republicans according to a recent Gallup poll, it is fair to the say that this particular group of people are less likely to use the safer options to vote. It is concerning that this many Laws that will restrict early voting or mail-in ballots have passed in conversative states and that Republicans in both chambers of Congress have been able to block bills that can protect these practices on the federal level despite having a Democratic President and the Democratic Party holding the majority in both chambers of Congress. It feels like polarization between the two parties have reached another high and that the focus is no longer to protect Democracy but instead, to gain power and block bills that can actually increase voter participation, hence democracy, from passing in order to gain said power. With democracy backsliding across 70-75% of nations due to COVID, as reported by different Indexes, if the U.S. cannot set the example for other countries and work to rebuild its own democracy, the U.S.’s role and power in the international community can be greatly diminished if autocracies can continue to rise in the meantime and start forming diplomatic or economic ties with each other and rely less on U.S.’s support.
I’d like to begin by applauding you for bringing such a pressing issue to our Democratic Erosion blogpost platform. The laws being set in place to end early voting are truly creating a rift in our democracy and leaning things in Republican favor. For a while now, I personally have not felt much faith in our voting system and believed it to be a sad representation of how divided our country really is, highlighting the key divides as it’s misused time and time again. I think mentioning the respective voting restrictions that have been put in place in individual states is important because it reflects the progression of our country’s own democratic erosion in some senses.
It doesn’t surprise me that President Donald Trump used how well the Democratic party was doing in the 2020 elections to claim election fraud and incite an uproar in the Republican party. What does surprise me is how blindly his followers listen to and believe his nonsense. Like with the Capitol riots, his fans believed they were literally being called to take action by Donald Trump himself; this is how deep their loyalty goes, to cause so much violence and suffering for the nation in what they believed was in efforts to save the nation. It is a sad situation we live with.
I believe that by even having something such as mail-in voting, you really open it up for people to participate who otherwise cannot attend the in-person voting. Like you mentioned, more than two thirds of the eligible voter population submitted ballots and showed their presence and participation. It’s just unclear why the accessibility which is truly and almost blatantly beneficial for all would threaten the Republican party so much. One could argue, however, that it is in fact very obvious that the Republican party does not appreciate any opportunity that endangers their victory, no matter how clearly helpful and necessary in the case of the 2020 election.
Great Blog! It’s scary to know that our laws are not upholding citizens’ fundamental rights with voting. The right to vote is necessary for our democracy and the fact that the United States government can take away people’s rights to vote is scary. For as long as I can remember, growing up voting has never been a common thing like going to the dentist. Voting has always been on the back burner and was seen as something that isn’t beneficial for many people. But with the laws we have now it is impossible to simply vote. If you’re an ex-felon you are barred from voting but you are forced to live in a society that does not take your wants and needs into account, I think that’s unfair and racially targeted. Anti-voting laws are always a targeted law, not a law that can benefit the masses but laws that slow down a specific population from using their rights.
I am frustrated but I can also say that I am not surprised at the fact that the Republican party is doing this. The parties may have switched but this is the same tactics made by southern politicians during reconstruction and Jim Crow. I do hope the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act get passed because so many people would benefit and there would be a huge voter turnout. These bills can and would entice people to want to be active in their voting.
Access to a fair and free election is an important characteristic in a true democracy. These voter suppression laws, while not new, are becoming ever more strict and contribute to democratic erosion in the United States. In the past, we have seen these efforts aimed at excluding the voices of marginalized communities, but this practice is extending to the overall electorate. According to MIT Election Data, absentee voting, voting by mail, first became an issue talked about in Congress during World War II because of the large number of American troops abroad. This was broadly introduced as a way to continue to provide American Citizens with the means to participate in democracy. One reason why people may be in support of their legislatures limiting mail-in voting is that they do not know how long the practice has been around and why it was introduced. These methods were not created in 2020 with a democratic agenda. They have always been in place and stand to serve a great purpose.
For you, and for others with a deeper knowledge of the 2020 election, my question is if the election had such a great turnout because voting was more accessible or because people knew just how divisive the election was? Meaning, in 2016, Clinton was the popular vote, but Trump ultimately won because he won the electoral college. This has happened in recent history in the 2000 presidential election. In 2004, voter turnout increased by 4.8%, according to a 2004 article on Brookings.edu. Could increased voter turnout in 2020 be a simple result of circumstance rather than mail-in and early voting practices?
Other than that, great post as to why elections and therefore democracy are under threat in America.
Everyone should have access to vote in an election regardless of how it is done. The height of COVID-19 I was surprised that people were against mail-in ballots and subsequently shocked when I heard the reasoning. I think that it is unfair for our government officials to even think that getting rid of mail in ballots should even be a topic. It is weird the length that groups of people would go just so that everyone doesn’t have an equal playing field.
Grace, to answer your question I believe that the heightened turn out rate for the 2020 election was due to both accessibility and divisiveness. I know firsthand a plethora of people who weren’t going to vote if they had to stand in line. COVID was a scary situation and waiting in line was not something that many were willing to do for health reasons. I would say that I do not know what the numbers are, but I am sure there is something that would give a more concrete percentage.
I found this article to be very shocking even though I was aware of the current and past Republican actions to
suppress voter turnout. My only question is what is another way to bring these actions to light and force Republicans
to change their ways? Social media and the mainstream media do their part to spread the ways in which Republicans
try to alter laws to benefit themselves but they still continue to do so. It seems
as though there is nothing stopping
them and their voters continuing to support them. It is a sad reality and major change needs to occur in order to prevent the election system from being biased towards the Republican party.
I knew about Republicans pushing to make it harder to vote, but I hadn’t seen the individual laws and which states they’ll apply to. Even though I live in Massachusetts, I am still a resident of Arizona and vote there. Even in this past election, it was difficult to get an absentee ballot so I had to hope that my early voting ballot came in time for me to get home and vote or have my parents mail it to me. Though I plan to change my residency soon, my family votes by mail and this will directly impact them. Especially during Covid when voting by mail has become more of a necessity than a preference, these laws are quite literally doing more harm than good, if any good at all. You did a great job at research and putting it together in a relatively quick read. Great post!