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.
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?