The presidential election is over, and former Vice President Joe Biden is the projected winner, bringing an end to an administration defined by cruelty, injustice, corruption, xenophobia, misogyny, and racism. Although we can allow ourselves a quick, collective sigh of relief that a majority of voters have rejected another four years of Trump’s vile brand of populism, it’s no time to rest on our laurels. Unable to accept the legitimate results of the election, President Trump appears intent on inflicting maximum damage to the public’s confidence in our nation’s free and fair elections through baseless claims of voter fraud.
While some of Trump’s worst acts as president - such as the notorious Muslim ban - can be reversed immediately after President-Elect Biden takes office, some of the damages inflicted by this presidency could be generational or even permenant. By falsely claiming that the presidential election was “rigged,” Trump stands to delegitimize the electoral process in the eyes of millions of his supporters. It’s hard to quantify how destructive this is. Stable democracies are only possible when citizens across the political spectrum have a shared confidence that the electoral process is fundamentally free and fair.
While Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on the electoral process are driven by his narcissism and absolute inability to admit wrongdoing or defeat, much of his support from political elites is motivated by a colder calculus. The senators, representatives, party leaders, and partisan media outlets echoing his claims of voter fraud know full well that it’s a lie. There has never been any evidence of widespread voting fraud in the modern era. None.
But to more cynical and anti-democratic minds that’s besides the point. If you can sow enough doubt in the integrity of our elections through relentless gaslighting, not only can you suppress overall voter turnout by undermining people’s faith in the process, you can justify any number of measures intended to make it harder for people to vote. These voter suppression laws have been implemented all over the United States, including here in New Mexico.
"These measures are rooted in the tradition of racist Jim Crow Era voting laws intended to protect White minority rule."
In two of the state’s largest population centers, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, mandatory photo ID is required to vote in municipal elections - a provision that not only erects a needless barrier to accessing the ballot box but one that disproportionately affects voters of color, lower income voters, and community elders who are all less likely to possess a qualifying ID. Just a few years ago, Republican Secretary of State Diana Duran (later convicted of felony embezzlement and money laundering charges) presented baseless allegations to the New Mexico legislature that the state’s voting system was plagued with a “culture of corruption.” In her testimony, intended to bolster a proposed statewide mandatory photo ID law, she claimed that more than 100 non-citizens were illegally registered to vote in New Mexico. When Duran refused to provide supporting evidence for her claims, the ACLU of New Mexico sued and forced her office to disclose the public records that debunked her claims.
In addition to mandatory photo ID laws, other states have shortened early voting periods, limited absentee voting, purged thousands of legitimate voters from registration lists, reduced the number of polling sites, disenfranchised voters with past felony convictions, and even criminalized mass voter registration initiatives - all of which are squarely aimed at suppressing votes in communities of color, especially Black communities. Far from “protecting election integrity,” these measures are rooted in the tradition of racist Jim Crow Era voting laws intended to protect White minority rule.
It couldn’t be more clear who is really trying to rig the system by undermining public trust, suppressing legitimate votes, and blocking access to the ballot box. Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote, and those who try to dismantle or dilute that right are un-American, unpatriotic, and complicit in upholding the systems and structures of White supremacy. Now is an excellent time to take a good hard look around at which politicians and elected leaders are undermining our democracy with word, deed, or silence - and remove them from positions of power and influence at the first available opportunity. The future of our democracy may well depend on it.