The Democratic nomination of Joe Biden is basically settled. Realistically, it has been since the beginning of March. But many states, including my own, still have primaries upcoming. In some cases, there are still primary races for non-presidential contests. For most of us in these states, though, we have been disenfranchised from the primary process. My state is both late-voting and small, so I’m pretty used to being disenfranchised. It never stops annoying me. But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about.
There has always been a lot of debate in the U.S. about voting. For the past fifty years, it’s basically played out that Democrats, and those on the left generally, want every person who can to vote. And the Republicans, and those on the right generally, want to restrict the number of people who vote. That’s a big part of the reason that it’s been morally unconscionable to vote for a Republican in my lifetime. Of course the Republicans don’t openly admit to what they’re trying to do. They mask it in terms of fraud and racist dog whistles, but they know their positions are not broadly popular, so they wouldn’t win if everyone actually voted.
Some of the tried and true techniques the Republicans use to suppress voting are closing or moving polling stations, changing dates and times when voting will happen, and last minute changes to the voting process itself. These methods create confusion, which ensures that some people won’t bother voting. Plus, these methods will make some of the people who try to vote do it incorrectly, so their votes will not count. And, of course, the people who are most likely to be tricked out of their votes with these methods are the poor, non-native English speakers, the uneducated, and people with difficult schedules.
Since coronavirus has taken over the land, there’s been a shift. Now it’s the Republicans who are insisting that polling places be open at their regular times and places while Democrats are trying to make last minute changes and delays. Republicans are trying to stick with the traditional methods of voting while the Democrats are trying to introduce new processes at the last minute. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!
It’s not that people’s ideologies have changed. The Republicans simply realized that if elections happen while everyone is panicked about the virus, turnout will be low. Democrats, panicking about the virus, have decided that any attempt at normality during a public health crisis is too big a risk. We’re left with a lot of chaos and finger-pointing.
None of this should be an issue. It’s 2020. It’s the future for Pete’s sake. The fact that we don’t have safe, reliable online voting is crazy. It’s even crazier that many parts of the country don’t have safe, reliable mail in voting either. It’s because the Republicans have been so successful in their voter suppression over the last fifty years, but it’s still shocking. It seems like it’s too late to get anything implemented that would help this primary season. I honestly don’t know if it’s possible to get anything implemented before November.
And now we’re stuck in a situation where everything seems wrong. It’s not that I don’t understand where the Democrats are coming from, but the idea of delaying or cancelling an election terrifies me. My state already delayed our primary. It was supposed to be at the end of April and now it’s going to be at the beginning of June. That shook me, a lot. I can’t believe more people aren’t upset about it. But, the other option, implementing a new voting system mere days or weeks prior to an election, is also pretty terrifying. Trust is vital to any election. I don’t see any new system having the trust of the people unless it is carefully planned and thoroughly tested. I just don’t know how that can happen for this election.
I guess this is just a long winded way of saying that everything is messed up. I wish I knew what to do about it. I’m pretty sure we’re all screwed when it comes to the 2020 election, but I’ll try to hold out hope that life is somehow back to normal by November and we can all vote like we’ve done in the past. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than not voting at all.