democracy is a work in progress

Voting Rights, Gerrymandering, Voter Suppression, and more

Problem Brief


What’s at Stake

Trust That Democracy (Still) Works

The rise of extreme partisan gerrymandering and the renewal of aggressive acts of voter suppression alone might not be sufficient to put our democracy at risk. Voter suppression, after all, is nothing new, and gerrymandering has been an accepted practice for two hundred years. But put them together with other actions by elected officials that reflect a disregard for the Constitution (not holding a hearing to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court) and for the law (ignoring Congressional subpoenas and firing the FBI Director because he persisted with an investigation), and there is deep cause for concern.

Republics can and do fail. History over the last 100 years is instructive on this point. It cannot be overstated: any act, constraint, or legacy of our system that undermines the engagement of all citizens in the political process is a threat to our right to govern ourselves and preserve the freedoms we have. The act of voting is the most basic level of engagement, and it is under attack.

  • When the act of voting becomes onerous, a choice between feeding your family or taking time off from your low paying, hourly wage job to make the long trek to the polling center and/or to stand online for hours, it ceases to be a choice for many people.
  • When candidates run unopposed or in a district that was created along partisan lines so that the outcome is predetermined, voters have less incentive to pay attention to the issues or the candidates. When that happens, they don’t vote.
  • When presidential candidates win a majority of the popular vote but still lose the election, everyone who believes that democracy reflects the will of the people also loses.

We can’t ignore those who, unintentionally and otherwise, attack our right and ability to vote, nor can we allow bureaucratic inertia and technical vulnerabilities to degrade the electoral process and diminish the power of our votes.

Contributors: George LinzerMichael Deal

Reviewed by: Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress

Published: December 5, 2019

Updated: March 5, 2020

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