Will Pandemic Election of 2020 Birth New Bipartisan Voting Rights Act?

Photo by Steve Houghton-Burnett. Follow @ stevehb.

Post originally published on https://www.3PMonline.com, Third Party Mechanic (Nov. 18, 2020

he Pandemic Election of 2020 may usher the broadest evolution of voting procedures in modern US history. This year, we were all essentially “disabled” and experiencing “substantial hardships.” Changes in voting procedures could be rationalized as reasonable accommodations. Question: will the new national model survive post pandemic? Once the pandemic is gloriously over, will we retain these voting methods or will states want to return to voters demonstrating their support by voting “present” at a physical booth?

On June 9, 2020, Georgia held a primary that was widely criticized for numerous mechanical missteps. Voters waited in line for hours in the heat, machines malfunctioned, registered voters could not be identified, poll workers were untrained, etc.

At the time, news commentators noted that the problems arose in predominantly minority communities. They expressed urgency to ensure that the “chaos” did not dilute or drown the votes of minorities and the disadvantaged. Mail-in votes literally flooded the system.

However, news analysis on the results of the Nov. 2020 general election focuses almost exclusively on turnout. Hardly surprising since the ballot count is approximating 67% of those eligible to vote in the US, which are levels last seen in 1900. A global pandemic is certainly a uniquely powerful game changer.

The dominant media narrative is a political one: one candidate motivated more of his base and persuaded more undecided voters to share his vision for the future.

That picture seems counterfactual. It cannot be denied that the margin of victory is thin, especially in pivotal states that have begun recounts due to results within the state’s mandated triggers, or that have been named in lawsuits. While the popular vote does separate the candidates by more than five million ballots, two states (California and New York) account for much of the difference. There were 5 million more voters for the Democratic presidential candidate in California alone. That skewed pattern does not reflect the national divide where the candidates stood on far more even footing.

Both candidates elicited historic ballot counts, reflecting both their ability to galvanize support among their base and that each secured new comers who share their political vision.

Why is there scarce media mention of the mechanics of the electoral process for the general election of 2020? Specifically, there was a war being fought in battleground states in the months before the election, as state bureaucrats changed voting mechanisms, rules, and ballot counting procedures — while we were bound at home.

Some states, such as Georgia, did so in part as the result of a coordinated and long-fought effort by voting rights advocates to challenge disparities in voting access.

Yet, Georgia also made changes just prior to the Nov. 2020 general election that election officials attributed to the pandemic, such as reducing the number of polling places.

Combined, there has been a sea change in how votes are cast, collected, and tabulated. The mechanical operation of the electoral process has been as significant driver the outcome as any inputs from either candidate or party.

Yet, perusing the post-election media analysis, one could walk away with the impression that political choice alone drove citizens to cast ballots. What about the simple ease of being able to mail a ballot from home, not having to worry about verifying ID cards, not having signatures comparisons that may otherwise result in illegitimate ballots, implementing curing procedures for defective ballots, extending voting periods both before the election and for curing after the election, closing voting locations in numerous counties in given states, employing new ballot counting or verification machines, etc. In other words, we are not simply talking about more voters casting more ballots (since they did so for both candidates); this is about a far greater perce

Tinkering with the voting apparatus to impact outcomes is not a new phenomenon. That is why the United States originally passed the Voting Rights Act.

For Georgia’s June 2020 primary, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party protested the closing of large swaths of polling locations. But, it is a decades-long Republican initiative against the Voting Rights Act that may well have clipped the wings of their arguments.

When some Georgia voters endured a pandemic, pouring rain and massive waits earlier this month (June 2020) to cast their ballot, President Donald Trump and other Republicans blamed local Democrats for presiding over chaos. “Make no mistake, the reduction in polling places is a result of a concerted effort by Democrats to push vote-by-mail at the expense of in-person voting,” said Justin Clark, the Trump campaign’s senior counsel. “Nothing more and nothing less.”

But the meltdown was also a manifestation of a landmark Supreme Court case that gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The 2013 decision — Shelby County v. Holder — was heralded by conservatives at the time for invalidating a longstanding “preclearance” process that required certain states and jurisdictions with high minority populations and a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

Seven years later, the fallout from that decision is colliding with unprecedented changes to the way elections are being conducted. In response to the coronavirus, many states are encouraging mail-in voting. That — combined with a reduction in poll workers — has prompted the consolidation of polling places. That reduction would have been much harder to pull off in Georgia without the Supreme Court decision.

Will voters, candidates, representatives, and senators — on both sides of the aisle — now champion a new Voting Rights Act that embodies democratic principles and enshrines rights for all voters (minority, poor, elderly, disabled, or outsider)?

Post originally published on https://www.3PMonline.com, Third Party Mechanic (Nov. 18, 2020)



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INVESTIGATIVE, ILLUSTRATED & AFFORDABLE PUBLISHING about government influence in citizens’ lives. We ask. We tell. We push. WWW.3PMONLINE.COM