I agree with Commissioner Daryl Miller’s statement that we must restore Americans’ confidence in our election system. (Morning Times, Jan. 12, 2021) However, I don’t believe that his proposed legislative and procedural solutions will be effective.
The problem is not that we have a flawed system, but that we have had, for the last four years, a president who has, through force of repetition, convinced his followers that we have a flawed system.
As presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pointed out during the 2016 debates, every time Donald Trump has lost, he has claimed that the voting was rigged. Even when he won the Electoral College in 2016, he claimed that there were three million fraudulent ballots — exactly the margin by which Clinton won the popular vote. This claim, to my knowledge, has not been proven.
As of this writing (1/13/21), 61 of 62 lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results in states that Trump lost have failed in the courts for lack of evidence. Many of the judges in these cases were appointed by Republicans. President Trump’s own Attorney General, William Barr, stated that there was no widespread election fraud. Yet die-hard Trump supporters are still convinced that the results of the election are illegitimate.
The toxic legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency will not be easily overcome. Even if we put every possible safeguard in place to secure the election process, the next con artist who wins the presidency will do exactly what Donald Trump did. And a significant portion of the American public will believe him or her.
We need elected officials to promptly stand up to members of their own party who are spreading lies and acting inappropriately. Criticism from members of the opposing party is too easily dismissed as “politically motivated.”
Some Republican members of Congress are now distancing themselves from Trump, though it took a deadly riot in which their own lives were threatened. Destructive behavior needs to be nipped in the bud, before it gets out of control.
We also need to reduce the partisan divide in government. A legislative action that will help is to end gerrymandering. There should be no “safe” seats in Congress. If we stop designing districts to create a clear majority of one party, legislative candidates will have to win the approval of citizens of all party affiliations.
The events of the past several months have shaken the faith of Americans — and of people across the globe — in our democracy, which has for almost two and a half centuries been a beacon for the world. I hope that, under a new administration, we can begin to restore honesty and integrity in our government.