The United States supposedly operates under a democratic republic, meaning that each citizen has an equal say and elected representatives follow the majority rule, even if it conflicts with their personal interests. I say “supposedly” because this structure has been under attack and often compromised via voter suppression. Whether this involves prohibiting women’s suffrage, obstructing African American voters with restrictive regulations, allowing foreign entities to interfere with our elections or even destroying the morale of the politically invested by following a self-serving agenda, as we saw a couple times last week, voter suppression continues to threaten democracy as we know it.
Last week’s first major instance of voter suppression took place during the Iowa Democratic caucuses on Feb. 3. In short, the release of the final results was delayed by a few days on account of vote inconsistencies and technical difficulties, at which point Pete Buttigieg was declared the narrow state delegate victor over Bernie Sanders despite losing the popular vote. To modify a caucus format that’s already horribly overcomplicated, each precinct reported raw vote totals for initial and final alignment. I’m all for ranked-choice voting, but this particular implementation was too convoluted. Besides the confusion that arose from reporting these separate numbers, the close battles that were decided by coin flips became subject to controversy. Imagine that one team is down by a few runs at a baseball game’s conclusion, but then the umpire conducts a coin flip because the outcome is “too close to call,” and due to dumb luck the losing team “wins.” Each hotly-contested caucus precinct operated in a similarly ludicrous fashion, except that the “close gaps” between candidates were often more significant.
It’s rather suspicious that a small state like Iowa took so long to release its full results and did so in a way that illegitimately affected the media narrative surrounding each candidate. There was also a blatant conflict of interest in that the developer of the newly-introduced voting app IowaRecorder – which contributed to the aforementioned vote inconsistencies and technical difficulties – had received money from Buttigieg and Joe Biden, among others. Regardless of the candidates who have benefitted from or been damaged by this debacle, we should all be outraged by the Iowa Democratic Party and Democratic National Convention’s gross misconduct, as it might discourage civic engagement and lead to less-than-desirable results.
As we witnessed at the conclusion of President Trump’s impeachment trial on Feb. 5, voter suppression is administered not only during elections, but also by many elected officials. The U.S. Senate acquitted Trump of abuse of power by a 52-48 vote, with Utah Republican Mitt Romney the only one to cross party lines in favor of conviction, and of obstruction of Congress by a party-line 53-47 vote. Our U.S. senators — although elected on a state-by-state basis — serve in the federal government and thus are obligated to act on behalf of the entire country. With this in mind, Senate Republicans would’ve been wise to take a page from Romney and even from Senate Democrats representing deep-red states (e.g. Alabama’s Doug Jones, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin) in honoring the Constitution above any personal interests. Again, the issue isn’t so much about the culprits’ identities; if a Democratic president were acquitted of the same charges by a Democratic-majority Senate, I’d be just as outraged. But with 18 million more Americans represented by the senators who voted to convict Trump, and with recent polls indicating that a majority of Americans were in favor of removing him from office, it appears that certain elected officials are nonchalantly disregarding their public duty and the will of constituents.
In light of recent events, it’s imperative that you register to vote and make your voice heard! 🗳
Here’s a handy resource I found with state-by-state primary and general election voter registration deadlines: https://t.co/DchPw0AP7L
— Michael Katz (@mik1297) February 5, 2020
As cynical as I’ve been – and for good reason, mind you – I won’t allow myself or you to fall into the traps that’ve been set before us. Instead of becoming disincentivized to engage civically, I implore you to channel your frustrations positively by making your voice even louder! As I tweeted immediately after the final verdict of Trump’s impeachment trial, these injustices should further compel us to vote in our state primaries and in the Nov. 3 general election (and to register to vote if you haven’t done so already). Once we allow ourselves to become better informed, develop our own opinions and act upon our knowledge and beliefs, we’ll regain our power and uphold a true democratic republic.
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