A heated debate on the foundations of America’s democracy will begin in the US Senate tomorrow. With the Republicans changing local electoral laws all over the country. And the Democrats who see this as an undermining of democracy. The aim of the debate is therefore ‘fair elections’, but both parties seem to mean something completely different.
Democrats have proposed two new laws to guarantee equal access to the ballot box for all. But despite their majorities in Congress, they seem unable to pass those laws. Two senators from their own camp are in favor of the amendments to the law, but are blocking the way in which they should be passed.
And so President Biden has been on the offensive since early this month. He says America is engaged in a “battle for the soul of the nation” and that Republicans are out for chaos. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called it a diatribe from a “reckless and inflammatory” president.
Those fierce words are given extra weight today on Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday in America. Part of King’s struggles in the 1950s and 60s was about the equal right of minorities to participate in the democratic process. According to many black Americans, it is promised land that King saw now blocked again by the Republicans.
Changes in 19 states
Because that’s what the Democratic concerns are about. Since the 2020 presidential election, the prevailing story in the Republican party has been that large-scale fraud was committed in those elections. That claim has been refuted in dozens of lawsuits, including senior officials from the administration of Biden’s predecessor Trump, calling it a lie.
Yet in 2021 this story has led to action in many places in America. Nineteen states where Republicans hold the majority in the state parliament have passed legislative changes, changing the rules for elections.
For example, voting by post and the ways in which a voter may identify themselves are restricted. And the number of polling stations will be reduced. Measures that will result in lower turnout: the infamous voter suppression. And that affects, the Democrats, especially poor Americans and minorities such as blacks.
In addition, the way in which the election results are determined is changing in a number of states. In Arizona, for example, a majority in the state parliament can now invalidate the result. In Georgia, a committee has been made responsible for this, which is appointed by the parliament. Republicans hold the majority in both state parliaments. This is how party interests come between the voter and the election results, the Democrats say.
Correspondent Marieke de Vries was in Georgia last weekend, the cradle of the civil rights movement in America. There are again action meetings for access to the ballot box these days: