Both parties, Democrats and Republicans, understandably, seek partisan advantage in the debate over voting laws. Democracy in the United States is at stake.

First published in June 2021.

Republicans are trying to restrict voting to decrease the number of votes turned out among constituencies they consider more favorable to Democrats.

Democrats seek to stop the Republican efforts to restrict voting in areas that hurt them and to expand programs used during the pandemic (to lessen voters risks to the virus), such as expanding the time to submit and count absentee ballots and Sunday voting. Democrats believe the more voters vote in those areas, the better their changes of winning.

What no one in either party says is what is good for the average voter – the people those lawmakers are elected to represent.

What is that? I think it’s that voters want more options to cast legitimate ballots. Times have changed. Many families have both parents working. Those families led by a single parent need to balance work and child care and so need options on how to cast their vote.

Why should that be done? Because the spine of a democracy is voters casting ballots freely to determine who should be leading them at the federal, state and local levels. Seems a basic to offer those options to them.

Some new state laws take the secretary of state – the official in charge of election management – out of the process to decide when a vote is final and certified. Most if not all of those secretaries of state – Democrat or Republican – take their jobs seriously. They only want to oversee and certify a fair election. That is their sworn duty.

When that responsibility shifts to a state’s legislature it pushes that vote certification to people with a vested interest in the outcome. It brings partisanship into the counting where it doesn’t belong. State legislators in those cases become the ones deciding not necessarily who fairly won the election, but which way an election goes because it’s good for them or their party.

That’s not democracy.

There is some debate over whether we are witnessing the beginning of the end of democracy in America. If we lose the ability to have a fair and legal election, that will happen. Politicians will be deciding who wins, not the voters.

Donald Trump didn’t start this. His positions before and since the election, though, contributed mightily to the perceived need for major changes in election laws by claiming for years really that elections are not decided fairly. That is sparking the dozens of voting law changes around the country.

Trump has convinced about millions of American voters and a majority of Republican voters that the 2020 election was stolen from him. It was not.

Whatever one thinks about Trump and his policies, you have to admit his carnival barking rivals P.T. Barnum.

One reason Trump was so focused on getting the Republican secretary of state in Georgia to change the election results was because he thought if he could “demonstrate” one state got the counting wrong, he could move on to other states with more credibility. He knew the number of votes he needed and he considered that Republican secretary of state in Georgia “his” person since Trump is the leader of the party.

When that official, Brad Raffensperger, refused to cheat for Trump, Raffensperger demonstrated the ethics of all secretaries of state, dedicated to an honest election. With the changes some states are making, a Raffensperger will be removed from the certification process.

Brad Raffensperger. | Twitter/@GaSecofState

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, never the statesman, recently said, “The idea of democracy and majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for. The Jim Crow laws came out of democracy. That’s what you get when a majority ignores the rights of others.”

Not exactly, Senator. That’s what you get when a misguided and/or prejudiced majority ignores the rights of others – just as your party is doing in the states now.

Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who lectured on politics at Bowdoin College before going to the Senate, called the American democracy, “a 240-year experiment that runs against the tide of humanity” and that tide usually leads from and back to authoritarianism. King fears the empowerment of state legislatures to decide election results. “This is an incredibly dangerous moment and I don’t think it’s being sufficiently realized as such,” he said.

Put in other words, the future of the country literally is at stake with some of the voting law changes being proposed, and adopted.

While people are focused on the pandemic, on providing for their families, on finding jobs, on health care, on child care and more, not many are likely focused on the changes being made and proposed to voting laws around the country. Understandably. A vast majority of Americans think that last election was fairly decided and recognize Joe Biden as President.

Neither side is 100 percent right on this issue. The principal on voting is simple: it ought to allow everyone the opportunity to cast a legal vote and have their vote counted – whichever way an election goes.

If we lose that, we do lose America. 


B. Jay Cooper, former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


[This piece was originally published in The Screaming Moderate and re-published in PMP Magazine on 17 June 2021, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Flickr/Tim Evanson. - Voting carrels in the 2019 Ohio general election. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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