Marble Falls A little more than a year out from the US election, it’s getting really scary out there. The sides are forming, and there’s little middle ground, with the space in between often being filled with little more than the impunity of power answering only, “because I could.”
Sure, the top of the ticket is nail-biting, especially as it appears likely that we are facing a rerun of 2020’s continually polarizing contest. Trump may be spending almost as much on his legal defense in one judicial district after another, whether state or federal, but polls have him many lengths ahead of any competitor in the Republican primary. More frightening are polls that have him neck-and-neck with current President Biden, and in some cases, even leading. This is the stuff of nightmares, but at least that fight is front and center and running right before our eyes.
Perhaps at this stage more worrisome to me are the brutal power plays of brazen impunity or behind the scenes Machiavellian maneuvers. Some of this is about controlling the election contest and rules at the state level. Some of it is about controlling Congress, no matter who wins as President. Much of it may be about tilting the contest, hook or crook.
In the impunity camp, we have G.O.P. legislatures in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana contesting federal orders to redraw congressional maps that disfavor Black voters even in spite of surprisingly favorable recent Supreme Court rulings insisting on fair and equal representation. In the North Carolina battleground state, the Republican-controlled legislature is voting to strip the governor’s longstanding authority to appoint majorities to the state election board and local election boards in all 100 counties despite their state Supreme Court having ruled that move illegal and the state’s voters having shot that down at the ballot box. They want to make the boards evenly matched between the parties so that any controversy can be settled at the state level and in the courts that they control. In Wisconsin, the Republican-controlled legislature is threatening to impeach a newly elected state Supreme Court justice before she even takes office, because they believe she might be the majority vote to rule against their undemocratic district gerrymandering. There’s no pretense of democracy in any of this, just naked power plays that mock any claims of the US as a nation of laws.
Behind the screens, we and the Voter Purge Project shutter to think about the potential voter suppression efforts to disenfranchise voters now that so many red states have left any nonpartisan attempts to assure clean voting lists. Eight states have dropped out of ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, leaving only twenty-five states and the District of Columbia from what was thirty-three states. These include big hitters like Texas, Ohio, and Florida, as well as worrisome outliers like Alabama, Louisiana, Iowa, and Missouri. ERIC was valuable in allowing member states to monitor voters moving from one jurisdiction to another, but also required voter registration efforts among the unregistered, which many of these states opposed. VPP has at different times found irregularities in many of these states, and worries that even without any chicanery the voting pool will be reduced and the accuracy of voter lists will become contentious. Since these lists are also determined by local jurisdictions, the potential for simple problems of data keeping as well as outright mischief and mayhem have now exponentially increased.
Fourteen months away from the US presidential election, we may have a heavyweight contest between two well-known candidates, both with presidential experience, but we may not have anything that could pass for a fair election on an even playing field.