After the last election, it seems the losing party has taken voter suppression to a new and dangerous level in several states instead of listening to the people and becoming more inclusive. Fortunately, the Maine Legislature is discussing an inclusive measure to reduce voter suppression.

L.D. 231, an act that combats voter suppression, lets independents vote in one partisan primary. Voting for enrolled Republicans and Democrats remains the same.

At first glance, it seems counter-intuitive for those not enrolled to decide who will represent a party in the general election.

But then first glances do not reveal everything that needs consideration when making changes to our election laws. Looking a little deeper, one sees inconsistencies that beg several questions: Who pays for elections? What part do partisan primaries play in the complete election process? And what voting limits are consistent with electing candidates who represent most voters, the hallmark of a democracy?

Everyone’s taxes fund primary elections, but independent voters receive no benefit from the taxes they pay for primary elections. An impartial law would require political parties to either finance their primaries or allow everyone with the constitutional right to vote to participate.

That is an obvious argument, but a more nuanced perspective recognizes primary elections are the first election in a two-election process that elects political candidates. Suppose political parties paid for their primaries — excluding independents would still be suppressing their constitutional right to vote in the complete election process.

Increasing voter turnout elects more moderates from both parties because most voters are moderates. We need state and national leaders who recognize the other party’s good intent and work to create fair and equitable laws. As the voting population increases, democracy and the people win. Restricting primary voting to the party faithful allows divisive partisan politics to prevail.

Opposition to semi-open primaries is part of a nationwide effort of voter suppression. The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation are leaders in the national effort to suppress votes. Paul Weyrich founded these and other organizations based on voter suppression.

In 1980, 15,000 Christian conservatives gathered in Dallas and launched a conservative base still influential today. Weyrich spoke to the group and said, “Now, many of our Christians have what I call the “goo-goo” syndrome. Good Government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

To combat national voter suppression, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021.” The act will, most importantly, increase voter turnout by making it easier for registered voters to vote and eliminate partisan gerrymandering.

Journalist David Daley reports partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression effectively controlled many state governments for ten years following the 2010 census. Making voting more difficult for those who do not support the party allows them to win state and national elections even though the opposing party received more votes. “One of our two political parties is so afraid that it will lose an honest election that they have spent 50 years building barriers between voters and the ballot box,” he wrote. Regardless of party, gerrymandering creates a deeply divided, minority rule government backed by partisan judges appointed to the federal bench who rule gerrymandering is constitutional.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled extreme partisan gerrymandering is a political question, not reviewable by federal courts. Justin Levitt, an election law professor at Loyola Law School, said, “We are in Mad Max territory now; there are no rules” and “I think you’ll see more legislators in more states [where there is unilateral control] taking up the mantle of extreme partisan aggression against people who disagree with them.”

Now that the election is over and the census has been taken, we are about to redraw new congressional districts in every state that will be in effect for 10 years. H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021,” will create fair, honest, and open elections by ending partisan gerrymandering and ensuring everyone eligible to vote can vote.

Creating a national election system will restore faith in the election system, increase voter turnout, and give all parties an even chance at winning elections. Any party that supports voter suppression by opposing L.D. 231 in Maine or H.R. 1 on the federal level will be taking its last gasp.

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He welcomes comments at [email protected]

 


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