Friday, January 21

How the US Republican Party has tried to restrict the vote this year

2021 will go down in history as the year America’s democracy was attacked from within.

Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the presidential election in a pulse that culminated in the Jan.6 assault on the Capitol failed and Biden was sworn in. However, the lies that the former president spread about the fraud and the legitimacy of the 2020 results have remained in time in a dangerous way. The hoaxes about the electoral process have reached the very heart of the Republican Party.

Republican lawmakers have taken the fears generated by these baseless claims and turned them into weapons to create new laws that make voting difficult. Between January and October, 19 states in the country enacted 33 laws to restrict access to vote, according to Brennan Center for Justice estimates.

Republicans have not stopped there. Now it is clear that there is a joint effort to take control of the electoral structure, so that the process becomes partisan. Trump supports those who continue to deny legitimacy of the presidential elections and who want to reach positions that control the rules of the elections and the counts. These moves have heightened fears that Trump is laying the groundwork for another coup in 2024, when his supporters in those key positions could help overturn the election results.

These actions are against the backdrop of the electoral redistricting process that takes place once every ten years and is dominated by Republicans in many states. Republicans are making the most of that power, drawing up districts that will strengthen their control of state legislatures and allow them to win congressional seats in the next decade.

Joe Biden has described this attack as “the biggest challenge for our democracy since the civil war.” However, the Democrats in the US Senate have been unable to pass two bills that would have heavily shielded the right to vote. The possibility that Biden and Senate Democrats could find a way to pass those bills in Congress looms as a litmus test of his presidency.

These are some of the examples of how the right to vote has emerged as the most important story in American politics in 2021.

New voting restrictions

When state congresses were formed in early 2021, many moved quickly to enact laws that make voting difficult. Many of these new measures put the focus on voting by mail; a form of voting that an unprecedented number of Americans turned to in 2020.

One of the most notorious political battles took place in Georgia, a state Trump targeted with unsubstantiated allegations of fraud following a shocking loss to Biden. Republicans enacted a law which requires voters to provide additional identifying information both on the vote-by-mail application forms and on the ballot itself. They also restricted the availability of mailboxes to deposit the vote, an element widely used in the 2020 elections. The law also punishes giving food and water to people who queue less than 50 meters from a voting center.

In Florida, Republicans enacted a new law that restricts the availability of voting boxes, imposes new rules around proxy voting, and makes voters have to request a vote by mail more frequently.

The fight over new voting restrictions erupted in July, when Democrats in the Texas Congress walked out of office for several weeks, preventing Republicans from having the quorum necessary to pass new ballot measures. Ultimately, the Republicans succeeded in passing a law that prohibits voting 24 hours, establishes periodic citizenship checks in the electoral rolls, makes it difficult for voters to attend, and grants greater authority to party electoral observers

Undermine confidence in elections

A staggering number of Americans still believe that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. A September CNN poll concludes that 36% of Americans do not believe that Biden was the rightful winner of the election.

Trump has fueled that disbelief, as he has repeated claims about wrongdoing that have already been debunked. In turn, Republicans from various states continue asking for the count to be annulled. In fact, some Republicans have gone further and authorized investigations into the election results even when the result had already been officially declared valid.

The review that had the most impact was that of Arizona, where Republicans hired a company with no electoral experience called Cyber ​​Ninjas, to review the 2.1 million votes cast in Maricopa County, the most populous county in the state. This work, which lasted a month and included the manual counting of all the ballots, was highly criticized by electoral experts, who pointed out that the company had a poor methodology and that its director had endorsed the conspiracy theories about the elections. In the end, the work of the Cyber ​​Ninjas confirmed Biden’s victory in Maricopa County.

Republicans elsewhere have taken up similar criticisms. In Wisconsin, Congressional Republicans have hired a retired conservative Supreme Court judge to evaluate the election, but that work has been marked by neglect and allegations of partisan bias. “It’s a scam, speaking in silver,” Matt Masterson, a former head of the Department of Homeland Security who works on managing the election process, said in December.

These attempts have been accompanied by an even more alarming effort in Republican legislatures to empower legislators and allow them to alter election results. The Brennan Center for Justice notes that congressmen from seven states, including Michigan, Arizona, Missouri and Nevada, have introduced 10 bills this year that would allow them to nullify or change the election results. Some of the bills would allow party lawmakers to reject the election results outright, while others would allow them to meddle in the vote count.

Attacks on election officials

In the last year, there has been an increase in electoral administrators who have resigned for threats and harassment. Experts are very concerned about this situation and believe that it could leave room for inexperienced workers or those who are active in a party to take control of the elections. Ben Ginsberg, a veteran Republican election lawyer, said earlier this month that this move was an attempt to wrest the election administration “from the professionals” and give it “to the politicians.”

Trump too has endorsed several candidates who have defended the hoax of electoral fraud and have supported them when they have run for the position of secretary of state in many states of the country. The secretary of state of a state is the highest electoral authority in that territory, so he has enormous power to question the results of future elections. So far, he has shown his support in the GOP primaries in Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada – all of which are key states that could play a role in 2024.

Changes in electoral districts

At the beginning of each decade, US state congressmen draw new constituencies. In 2020, Republicans dominated electoral contests that determine who controls the redistricting process. And this year, they have used their power in a considerable way in what is known as ‘gerrymandering’.

In Texas, where 95% of population growth is due to non-white people, Republicans drew maps that reduce the political power of minorities. They haven’t drawn new districts with a minority majority, giving Republicans an advantage in winning the state’s two new seats in Congress.

Republicans have also tried to bolster their advantage in politically competitive states like North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia. Democrats are manipulating constituencies in states where they have power, such as Illinois and Maryland, but they control the redistricting process in far fewer places than Republicans. These rigged districts they will protect the republicans in the face of threats to their political control over the next decade.

Federal legislation on the right to vote

One of the biggest frustrations The first year of Biden’s presidency has been that Democrats have been unable to pass two key voting laws in Congress. A bill would establish a minimum of access throughout the country, guaranteeing measures such as 15 days of early voting, as well as a ban on partisan manipulation of districts. The second bill would reinstate a critical part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires states with repeated evidence of voting discrimination to obtain federal government approval for voting changes before come into force.

There is growing frustration that Biden has not pushed hard enough to remove the filibuster in Congress, which Republicans have relied on to paralyze these bills. Democrats have vowed to find a way to curb that obstructionist momentum next year.

Translated by Emma Reverter

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