US Election 2020: Voter suppression and the ‘slippery slope’ towards authoritarianism

By Charlie Fletcher

JOE Biden may have won in the end – very narrowly, if you look at the analytics – but early voting in the 2020 US election cycle showed evidence of something darker in the works.

It wasn’t the disputed claims of voter fraud coming from the Republican party.

In fact, troubles with the democratic process occurred long before the election even started and will continue to happen without a collective demand for something better.

Voter suppression—rather than voter fraud—was perhaps the defining term in the 2020 election. Here’s how it happened and how the impacts of such suppression have dangerous implications for the future of democracy. 

The Attacks on Alternative Voting Methods

As far back as 2018, President Donald Trump was tweeting doubts and condemnations about the legitimacy of mail-in ballots. Then the pandemic hit. 

The need for safe and socially distanced voting measures required mail-in ballots at an unprecedented rate. Along with voting opening up as early as September, voting by mail became a comprehensive and convenient way for Americans to avoid the dangers of Covid-19 while still practicing their right to vote. 

However, President Trump’s tweets as well as his efforts to defund and delegitimize the United States Postal Service (USPS) have all played into the narrative that mail-in voting is not safe or secure. This narrative, paired with one of Covid-19 being a scam, hoax, or innocuous part of life, meant a larger number of Republican voters opted for in-person votes.

As a result, a doomsday scenario played out for Democrats during the election. The initial batch of counted votes went largely to Trump. This gave the sitting president fuel for his unfounded claims of election fraud when mail-in votes swung the election President-elect Joe Biden’s way. 

Laying doubt and delegitimizing democratic processes are aspects of voter suppression that many Republicans have recently embraced. However, this may only backfire, potentially resulting in losses for the party.

In the ongoing Georgia runoff election, for example, some Trump supporters are calling for a boycott of the vote as a whole. This form of suppression may only help to secure a win for the Democratic candidate, even if the vote count doesn’t end up representing the ideology of registered voters in Georgia.

Fighting these unfounded claims of voter fraud and delegitimization attempts are necessary for continuing the long American history of protecting our voting rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an example of this fight, making voting safer for minorities and disenfranchised communities. However, we still have a long way to go before voting is truly a free and fair process.

The Impracticality of Waiting in Line During a Pandemic

2020 has perhaps revealed far more instances of voter suppression than it has voter fraud. Aside from the constant diatribes from the president regarding alleged problems with mail-in voting, the systems in place frequently discouraged voters from coming out during early voting and beyond.

For example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an order in July of 2020 that stopped counties from accepting absentee ballots at more than one location and cut short the time allowed for accepting said ballots. In light of the mistrust placed on the USPS, this left voters needing to submit an absentee ballot with little options. 

With millions of voters allowed a single drop-off site, the ability to free and fairly cast a ballot was severely limited. Though more polling locations were available during early voting and on election day, the ongoing pandemic made waiting in lines not only inconvenient but dangerous. 

Add to that danger the reality that many Americans simply do not have the time or ability to stand in lines for hours to cast a vote. In certain other nations, voters are given time-off to do their civic duty.

In America, limited protections exist in ensuring that all eligible parties can vote. The essential workers working overtime in hospitals to fight Covid-19, for example, would have to somehow find the time in their busy lives to wait in the long lines of 2020’s record turnout. 

When all is said and done, the attacks on voter alternatives equate to voter suppression. These attacks have been specifically calculated to disenfranchise and suppress voters, a strategy that continues from the Trump 2016 campaign’s attempt to “deter” 3.5 million black voters.

The Impacts of Suppression

Regardless of the scale of these voter suppression attempts or whether or not they were successful, their use in a democratic government should be unconscionable. Voter suppression tactics like these can allow for authoritarian figures to steal elections, negating the power of the people. 

Americans and citizens of every other democratic nation in the world should be wary of leaders who attack democratic processes and delegitimize votes without any evidence, especially when these leaders threaten to ignore the people’s will and remain in power despite the outcome.

Voter suppression is a slippery slope towards an authoritarian regime. Americans desiring continued freedom should combat acts of suppression wherever they occur, and unfortunately, 2020’s early voting was a big example of such an occurrence.

Charlie Fletcher is a writer and journalist from the pacific northwest with a variety of interests including activism, social justice, politics, and workers’ rights. You can follow more of her work on LinkedIn or by checking out her portfolio

Featured Image: Pixabay

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