Voting Rights and Wrongs

Arizona’s memorable color-coded-tee-shirt ballot “audit” recedes in the mirror as the Department of Justice has begun to take cognizance of the mischief such uncontrolled freelancing might do to trust in elections. That is the gigantic variable that is starting to surface, as 2020 and all its mischief also recedes into history. Sure, a majority of one party’s impassioned advocates think there was mischief last November, but more sober observers are sticking to the narrative of the Big Lie (not the narrative of QAnon – that pedophiles stuff ballots along with baby-blood-soaked diapers). Sigh.

There is much to be done to make elections sane and sacred again. The good news is that work is underway. We are not finished with legal probes of ballot-“audit” mischief following Nov 4. Though 47 states seem to think the road to democracy leads through tighter voting procedures, there are three major pieces of legislation on the Congressional docket, two of which face major challenges in the Senate. HR 1, the For the People Act, all 700+ pages, has already been passed by the House. Its path through the tender sensitivities of West Virginia and Arizona looks bleak. HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, might find a way — in the dubious moment the filibuster is relaxed for matters of voting or civil rights. Legislated easing of voting restrictions (and tighter control on Dark Money and gerrymandering) looks like it’s in for a bumpy ride this summer.

Progressives have noticed, and so has the Democratic Party, so — adventures will ensue. All the dreams of smoother pathways to voting rights are on blinking hold for the moment. Great swaths of activism aim to pressure key votes in the Senate. And I am no betting man, but I am not swelling with hope for this direct road to greater participation in the plebicite.

More likely we will see gridlock on steroids, vicious partisan battles, some truly memorable gerrymandering based on the abortive census of the plague year, an infrastructure bill jammed through on reconciliation, followed by a spring to remember of truly wild-eyed voter registration.

The midterms will be an acid test of citizen activism versus Senate stasis, in the voting realm. Can the Democrats maintain or increase their slim majorities, on the strength of renewed in-person contact? Will Covid re-enter the political drama and stall potential voter outreach? Might we see historic turnout in the coming midterm vote? Would that be enough to push through new voting rights legislation?

And what of disinformation? Hacking? State legislatures overturning the votes of majorities?

We are in for a wild ride in the coming 18 months. Those Interesting Times the Chinese warned us about are upon us, and show no signs of abating.

Check your voter registration.

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