SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 3

Image courtesy of pikrepo.com

As case after case filed in behalf of “the former guy”’s efforts to overturn the election results was decided in court after court, I was one of tens of thousands who checked Twitter for reassurance that these phony lawsuits would go nowhere.

And night after night, we received that reassurance from a slightly impish man doing dead-serious work. Marc Elias, a partner in Perkins Coie law firm and the chair of its Political Law Group, would take to Twitter after completing his day’s work. 

He’d tweet something about the case that had just been thrown out or struck down, give the scorecard of Trump’s losses and wins to date (eg, 45-0), and then close with a jaunty “Good night.” 

Though you’d probably assumed all that litigation was over, Monday marked the actual end of Trump’s efforts to get “his” Supreme Court to intervene in his behalf. The case involved Wisconsin, and the Court declined his invitation.

Marc Elias is on a mission not only to win court battles, but also to ensure that the public is well informed about what’s being done—and undone—in the area of voting rights. In other words, he’s working tirelessly to save our democracy.

Elias has a national reputation for his expertise in voting rights, campaign finance, and redistricting. He and his firm represent a number of US Senators and Representatives, as well as organized Democratic groups such as the Democratic National Committee, both the Congressional and Senatorial Campaign Committees, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, and several Democratic political action committees.

He’s also the founder of an organization called Democracy Docket, designed to keep the public informed about voting rights—and the efforts to suppress them. 

Democracy Docket’s sponsors include groups such as the League of Women Voters, Voto Latino, Fair Fight (the superb Stacey Abrams’ organization), the Alliance for Retired Americans, and “Hundreds of Individual Voters.” (I’m one of the small donor participants comprising the latter.)

You can sign up for free. The site includes an interactive map that shows which states are now trying to implement restrictive voting laws. Some cases are ongoing; others are just beginning. When you click on the state, the specifics appear, including copies of the actual case materials as the judicial process advances. 

There are also lots of interesting brief articles by various people. 

One, dated March 5, 2021, written by Elias himself, is titled: “In 2021, Take the GOP at Its Word.” The first sentence reads: “Imagine having $20 million and using it to oppose voting rights.” (emphases mine)

The second sentence reads:

“I wrote those words one year ago when we launched Democracy Docket. At the time, the idea that a national political party would spend such a large amount on voter suppression litigation seemed almost implausible. Yet, in the end, it far understated the Republican Party’s commitment to disenfranchising voters.”

We all know what happened next.

The funding won’t just be coming from the Republican Party, which promised last year that on voting rights, they were prepared to “sue Democrats into oblivion and spend whatever is necessary.”

For starters, Heritage Action for America, affiliated with the right-wing Heritage Foundation, announced on Monday that it will spend $10 million to “tighten election security laws in 8 swing states,” including Georgia, Michigan, Florida, and Texas.

Elias ended his brief piece this way:

“This time, for the sake of democracy, we all must believe what we saw in 2020 will continue again in 2021 and 2022. Once again, voting rights and American Democracy itself will be on the docket.

“I hope you will join me in fighting back.”

His sense of urgency came through in this interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow:

“I am begging America and the media to pay attention to this. Right now we are facing an avalanche of voter suppression that we have not seen before, at least not since Jim Crow. In state after state—it’s not just Iowa; it’s not just Georgia; it’s not just Arizona…It’s also Montana…Missouri…Florida…Texas. 

“The list goes on and on and on. Donald Trump told a Big Lie that led to an assault on democracy in the Capitol on January 6. The assaults we’re seeing going on now in state capitols with the legislatures may be less deadly…, less violent, but they are every bit as damaging to our democracy.”

I feel confident having Elias and his colleagues in the courts; they have a proven success record. But this time may be even harder. 

If you concur that broadening, not restricting, the right to vote is critical for not only retaining but strengthening our democracy, we have a formidable task ahead of us.

First, we must let our legislators know how urgent we feel it is that the two major pieces of voting rights legislation get through both chambers of Congress and are signed into law by President Biden. 

H.R.1, the For the People Act, passed the House and is now in the Senate as S.1. 

It could truly advance our democracy: expanding voting rights, lowering the influence of money in politics by changes in the campaign finance laws, reducing partisan gerrymandering, and subjecting federal officials to new ethics rules. (Remember when the former guy talked about the swamp he was going to clean out but actually made into a playland for himself and his cronies? This bill would put up guard rails against swampiness.) 

One of the most important components of S.1. to counteract all the efforts at suppression, reports Dale Ho, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, is Election Day Registration. EDR already exists in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Some of those states are red, some are blue, and some are purple. (Montana has it, but there’s a battle to get rid of it.)

Ho writes in the March 9 issue of Democracy Docket:

“The ten states with the highest turnout in 2020 all had same-day registration, with nine of the top ten offering same-day registration on Election Day (one of the top ten, North Carolina, only offers same-day registration during its early voting period). 

“The consensus among political scientists is that EDR boosts turnout by two to ten percentage points, with particularly strong gains among historically lower-turnout or disenfranchised groups like young, lower-income and Black voters.”

In addition to passing S.1, it’s imperative that H.R.4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, also become law. It’s noteworthy that the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday just occurred. On that day in Selma, Alabama, the violent reaction to non-violent protesters left the late, great Congressman John Lewis severely injured, with a fractured skull. 

But—and I continue to shake my head in disbelief—the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was enacted in response to such violence has been severely weakened by the Supreme Court.

In 2013, the Roberts Court claimed (Shelby County v Holder) that the provisions were no longer needed requiring some states to obtain federal preclearance before changing their voting rights laws. 

So H.R.4 is essential to redress the wrongs done by the Court’s action—and to combat the growing numbers of bills in state legislatures to suppress the vote.

Here’s a spanking new example: the Republican legislature in Arizona just moved to require that mailed-in ballots must be postmarked by the Thursday before Election Day. Even if the ballots are received on Election Day, they’ll be thrown out. The mind reels…

And here are our challenges:

—Passage of S.1 and H.R.4 requires the yea votes of 10 Republicans (assuming unified Democratic support). Republicans appear unified in their opposition to both pieces of legislation.

—These bills could be passed by a simple majority if the Democrats end the filibuster, an archaic rule that has its roots in slavery. (There is no doubt in my mind that whether or not the Democrats take this step, the Republicans will certainly do it if they return to power.)

—Two Senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they oppose ending the filibuster. And now, President Biden has said he is also opposed to the change. However, Manchin said recently that he could be open to requiring a “talking filibuster,” which suggests some flexibility. 

Sinema is, I believe, pliable. And the President, though I’m sure is committed to as much bipartisanship as possible, moved ahead to get his historic $1.9 trillion bill passed without a single Republican vote because he’s doing what he believes is right for the country. So I’m confident he’ll do his damndest to get those 10 Republican votes, but I don’t think he’ll let such urgent legislation die if he’s met with total stonewalling.

—But even if the bills pass, they will in all likelihood reach a hostile Supreme Court. There are already concerns that the majority will do further damage to voting rights through the two cases now before them. An examination of this issue and its potential to destroy the Voting Rights Act appears in Vox.

Then what?

We must assume that some or perhaps all of the restrictive bills will survive, and keep in mind that the Republicans still have structural advantages due to the Electoral College. 

Thus, we must, of course, vote in the midterm elections and any special elections that may be held in our areas.

We’ll have to support—with our money and time if possible—those organizations and individuals involved in voter registration and education and ensuring that people who would be disenfranchised by the contraction of voting opportunities are allowed to cast their ballots.

And we must begin our efforts now—because the opposition is already swinging away.

We are facing the greatest effort to turn back the clock on Black Americans since the end of the Reconstruction. And Black Americans—especially women—were probably more responsible for the election of Biden-Harris than any other group. They are the heart of our democracy.

But the Republican bills in the hopper don’t stop with disenfranchising Black Americans. The list for eliminating the franchise is long, targeting any group expected to support the Democrats. It includes young people through efforts to make it more difficult for college students to vote by restricting their votes to their home districts, rather than permitting on-campus voting.

Importantly, as you can see from the plethora of suppression arising from the states, we must be aware of and involved in what is happening on our local and state levels. Recall that if just a few state election officials had allowed Trump to bully them, we would not today be celebrating President Biden’s imminent signing of the American Rescue Plan. (I’d rather not ponder what would be happening in our national life.)

In Dale Ho’s article about EDR, he points out another obstacle we must grapple with:

“Extreme gerrymandering has largely locked up the political process in many states, distorting elections results. After 2017 and 2018 elections, five state legislatures were controlled by parties that had lost a majority of the statewide vote (Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina). 

“The next round of redistricting, which starts later this year, presents opportunities to address these distortions. But failure to reform these maps could entrench another decade of minority rule in these and other states.”

So there’s much to do to oppose these inroads and strengthen our democracy. It’s truly an “all hands on deck” effort. Are we up to the challenge?

Annie

31 thoughts on “SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 3

  1. Electoral-Vote, which I’ve found to be an excellent site for political analysis, believes that Manchin and Biden are engaged in a certain amount of political kabuki about the filibuster. See here and here. Certainly they both are aware by now of the need to get rid of it or drastically weaken it. If the Republicans unanimously refused to cooperate on a covid-19 relief bill which was supported by the vast majority of the public and even a majority of Republican voters, then they aren’t going to cooperate on anything. The Democrats already gave them a chance to play ball and do things in a bipartisan manner. Their answer was crystal clear. Time to move on.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s great! I’ll check out. Thanks, Infidel.

      Note: Senate just confirmed Merrick Garland, 70-30. I suspect there’ll be no movement on the filibuster til all Biden’s nominees are confirmed.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Forgot what I was going to say while reading the excellent comments, but thank you, Annie, for keeping us informed about this coalition, and on-going”the efforts to suppress ” voting rights, which the coalition works to prevent.

    I’ve shared your earlier post, part 2, just now.

    stay safe,
    -Shira

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Shira—for your support and for sharing Part 2.

      It’s so terribly ironic: we now have an administration that’s demonstrated how willing and able they are to help the American people—at the same time that the opposing party—offering nothing but obstruction—is trying to make it impossible for the people who put this administration in place to choose those they want to represent
      them.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly, Annie: ironic, and very, very sad. I see how it is possible, via the lack of real education, for many to vote against their own interest, but I cannot for the life of me understand the deep lack of human empathy on the part of those elected to help, who obstruct, knowing -they have to know, the tremendous harm that they are doing. How can a human being be so callous toward his fellow human beings? How do we cultivate a culture in which critical thinking and a sense of human community are the norm, hopefully in fewer than 60 years (if then)?

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Annie –

    Marc Elias was on a recent episode of Vanity Fair’s Inside The Hive podcast (I think in January), and it is worth hunting down, a fascinating interview with a fascinating man. I highly recommend it.

    Many thanks for this post, there’s a lot to chew on here.

    Regards,

    Tengrain

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A good American friend of mine said to me in 2016, don’t worry, our system has clear separation and so many checks and balances that we have every reason to be confident. Well, we all know what transpired and how one unprincipled man can undermine all the checks and balances in the world. Whilst I have lived and worked with and in America over many decades I have never appreciated the complexity of your system and the risks inherent in such complexity. As a European living in Ireland I don’t see your analysis as academic to us; our systems are also under threat as never before, with bad actors copying many of the strategies that we have observed over the past five years. And as we know America has a history of exporting it’s innovations (good and bad). Keep the good work up and Thank you. David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, David. I do think, though, that Trump’s gaining power in the US was
      actually part of a worldwide phenomenon. So many countries are now wrestling with the restive right wing–especially as climate change exacerbates immigration trends. We in the US just smugly thought our democracy was stronger. It’s been a tough lesson–and we now know we can’t take anything for granted.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. With all due all respect to Mr.& Mrs. Potatohead, Dr. Suess and other shiny objects, thank you, Annie, for this all important series and keeping our eyes focused where they need to be at this critical time. I’m happy to have purchased a ticket to board the Democracy Docket train and look forward to future blogs about bees, butterflies and octopuses.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have come to believe that most Trump sycophants who continue to insist he won the election don’t really believe it. It’s just a device — a “red herring,” if you will — to act as cover for their real objective, which is for their way of life and thinking to gain the upper hand and rule the country. What needs to be faced and taken very seriously is their lust for power, not their misleading, bogus claims of voter fraud.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I miss the days when there was such a thing as bipartisanship in the US. The increasing refusal of Republicans to back legislation proposed by Democrats (the recently passed Biden stimulus package is the latest example) boggles the mind. Not one vote from GOPers who were all to willing to endorse tax cuts for the wealthy. This, along with voter suppression, is rooted in racism and maintaining minority rule.

    Like

    1. I emphatically agree, Gail. Thanks for your comment. I fear the reality-based bipartisanship Tom Friedman described (my previous post) isn’t something we’ll see. I hope I’m wrong…

      Like

  8. I’ve been reading through the comments here and agree that complacency about the vote in particular would be misplaced. Thank you for introducing me to a new warrior on protecting our democracy. He’s doing superb work with a great attitude, and even a wink now and then as befits a guy who knows he’s in the right — and winning. Day by day, Annie, with the totality of those days moving the dial toward the kind of life we hope to preserve. Thanks for keeping us informed. That’s the beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I live in Michigan where the gerrymandered lines that define various voting regions are absurd. Thanks for beating the drum on this important issue. I hadn’t thought about the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn reforms that the Democrats put into action. Egads, the battles are unending.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Carol: the battles are unending. We just ordered another round of post cards to send to voters where there are special elections.

      While I’m not thrilled with the current focus on the direction of the filibuster, I can’t imagine the Democrats won’t find a way to pass the voting rights acts.

      Michigan must be an “interesting” state to live in at this point. I hope the Democrats can make inroads in the state legislature.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Voting rights is one of the biggest issues facing us this year, and I am deeply troubled, as I have written a few times. Thank you for this, Annie, for while Marc Elias has crossed my radar many times in the past few months, I was not aware of Democracy Docket, but now I am! Thanks again! While I would dearly love to see the filibuster ended, realistically I know it isn’t going to happen right now, so next best thing is, as Manchin said, to make it painful to invoke. My other hope is that President Biden will expand the Supreme Court to make it more balanced before the challenges to these draconian voting suppression bills/laws start making their way through the court system.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I try to stay positive, but damn it’s hard. Manchin said he opposes the voting rights acts. And there’s no way to change the number of Justices without getting rid of the filibuster. So it will be up to us, the people, to continue working for and supporting efforts to vote in numbers that simply defy all the suppression…and to hope that the Republican stonewalling so grates on the Democrats that they finally unify, end the filibuster, and conduct the people’s business.

      Like

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