More than 100 democracy scholars called on Congress to pass national level voting rights legislation as an increasing number of GOP-led state legislatures work to implement restrictive laws at the state level in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections,” the group wrote in the statement issued through the New America Foundation on Tuesday. “Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.”
The group warned against the consequences of a democracy under threat, which, they said, includes the potential proliferation of violence.
“When democracy breaks down, it typically takes many years, often decades, to reverse the downward spiral,” the group wrote. “In the process, violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity.”
The group takes aim at restrictive voting laws in red states that give Republicans “the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations” in the event that Democrats win more votes.
“State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting,” the group wrote. “Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the ‘purity’ and ‘quality’ of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.”
The group also decries GOP state legislators who have argued restrictive voting laws are needed to ensure elections are free of fraud, noting that the 2020 election had met that standard. The statement acknowledges former President Trump’s falsehoods of election fraud having a strong influence on Republican voters.
“In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election,” the group wrote. “Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.”
The scholars argue that GOP efforts to delegitimize the election process coupled with the wave of new restrictive voting laws raises questions about whether the U.S. will remain a democracy.
“As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage,” the group wrote.
The group is urging national level reform to guarantee equal access to voting and fair elections.
“The most effective remedy for these anti-democratic laws at the state level is federal action to protect equal access of all citizens to the ballot and to guarantee free and fair elections,” the group wrote. “Just as it ultimately took federal voting rights law to put an end to state-led voter suppression laws throughout the South, so federal law must once again ensure that American citizens’ voting rights do not depend on which party or faction happens to be dominant in their state legislature, and that votes are cast and counted equally, regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which a citizen happens to live.”
After arguing that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is “essential but alone is not enough,” the group called on Congress to “do whatever is necessary” to pass national voting and election administration standards — including killing the filibuster in a 50-50 Senate.
“We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary — including suspending the filibuster — in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want,” the group wrote. “Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.”
The statement by democracy scholars comes days after Senate Republicans used the filibuster to kill the House-passed bill for the formation of a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission that would have investigated the deadly Capitol insurrection.