Voter suppression is not a new facet of the American electoral system. The Biden vs. Trump showdown has forced many Americans to confront a fact that some American communities have long known all too well – our electoral system is fragile and easily exploitable. Now, these weaknesses have never been more apparent to the American public and the global community. Though the democratic system seems to have survived this election, the blatant voter suppression tactics and flagrant flouting of the democratic process by our leaders has put the future of American democracy into question.
This anti-democratic sentiment does not only stem from our leaders, as is usually the case when democratic systems are overthrown. It is difficult to comprehend how so many ordinary citizens support this blatant infringement on what is popularly thought, especially among affluent Americans, to be a cornerstone of American values – the right the vote. There’s a simple answer: the not-so silent “majority” knows that the easier it is to vote, the harder it is for Republicans to win. And the recent pandemic and subsequent popularization of mail-in ballots has made voting the most accessible it has ever been in American history. This is why so many Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to invalidate said mail-in ballots and suppress the popular vote – even after their beloved leader trusted the mail-in process to send in his own ballot.
Election interference is as old as the nation. Voter suppression, however, is not just a piece of our history; it is the present-day reality. A reality that is ignored and perhaps even encouraged by those in power. In recent elections, voters in minority-dense areas have faced intimidation, illegal removal of their names from voter registries, and attempts to make polling stations inaccessibile. The 2020 election forced many Americans, who never before feared that their votes would be invalidated, to confront the fact that the US has not evolved past blatant voter suppression. Such tactics are not in the past, and our system is easily exploited by those who wish to dismantle it.
Though some Trump supporters did turn to disruption and intimidation among other long-seen tactics in an effort to suppress the popular vote, the President himself also leveraged the pandemic in an unprecedented attempt at voter suppression on a massive scale. It’s no coincidence Trump attempted to defund the USPS and cast doubt on its integrity in the months preceding the election. It’s also no coincidence he discouraged his supporters from sending in mail-in ballots. This tactic allowed Trump to attempt to invalidate the inevitable blue spikes at the end of states’ vote counts, as mail-in ballots were counted last. It was an undeniably premeditated attempt to suppress the democratic vote. This narrative of voter fraud, though unfounded, has convinced many Republicans to believe Democrats have stolen the election: a recent poll found that 70% of Republicans do not believe the 2020 election was free and fair. Trump’s rhetoric may not have handed him victory, but it has given Trumpists ammunition to discredit the rightfully elected candidate, and has created much unrest and talk of violence among his most committed supporters.
The majority of Americans are celebrating that our democracy won out right now, and rightfully so. But we cannot forget how close we came to a stolen election. We cannot forget how many Americans voted for a man who does not respect American law or American values. How many people on the right reacted to losing with bloodlust and violence. How many Americans see through Trumps attempt to block a free election, yet still want to see him remain in office.
Americans, do not become complacent. The Republicans who do not accept the election results will not disappear by the next election cycle. In each coming election we must fight for every person’s right to cast a ballot. Up until now, you may not have questioned your ability to vote unobstructed, but as Trump has so blatantly demonstrated, the ability to hold a free election is fragile in America. Recent voter suppression attempts may have a reached an unprecedented scale, but they are nothing new. And if we get a leader in power who is even a hint more cunning or corrupt, the outcome next time may not be in favour of our electoral system.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the views of The Liberty Club