A heated debate on the foundations of American democracy will begin tomorrow in the United States Senate. With Republicans changing local election laws across the country. And the democrats who see it as an attack on democracy. The objective of the debate is therefore “fair elections”, but the two parties seem to mean something completely different.
Democrats have proposed two new laws to ensure equal access to the ballot box for all. But despite their majority in Congress, they seem unable to pass these laws. Two senators from their own camp support the amendments to the law, but block the path in which they should be passed.
And so President Biden has been on the offensive since the beginning of this month. He says America is in a “battle for the soul of the nation” and Republicans want chaos. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called it a rant from a “reckless and inflammatory” president.
Those fierce words carry extra weight today on Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday in America. Part of King’s struggles in the 1950s and 1960s concerned the equal right of minorities to participate in the democratic process. According to many black Americans, it is promised land which King again saw blocked by the Republicans.
Changes in 19 states
Because that’s what it’s all about for Democrats. Since the 2020 presidential election, the prevailing story within the Republican Party is that large-scale fraud was committed in these elections. That claim has been refuted in dozens of lawsuits, including senior officials in the administration of Biden’s predecessor, Trump, calling it a lie.
Yet in 2021, this story has sparked action in many places across America. Nineteen states where Republicans hold a majority in state parliament have passed legislative amendments, changing the rules for elections.
For example, postal voting and the means by which a voter can identify themselves are limited. And the number of polling stations will be reduced. Measures that will lead to a decline in participation: the infamous voter suppression. And it affects Democrats, especially poor Americans and minorities like black people.
In addition, the way election results are determined is changing in a number of states. In Arizona, for example, a majority in the state legislature can now invalidate the result. In Georgia, a committee has been tasked with this, which is appointed by the parliament. Republicans hold a majority in both state legislatures. This is how party interests come between the voter and the election results, say the Democrats.
Correspondent Marieke de Vries was in Georgia last weekend, the birthplace of America’s civil rights movement. There are still action meetings for access to the ballot boxes these days:
“Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover.”