Amid All the Angst, There are Bright Spots
While we may not be fully in the Age of Aquarius in terms of democratic values, there are some signs that voting folks seek the peace and harmony that enchanted us in the music of Hair. Last week, VoxFairfax offered a prescription of ideas to create healthier governance in the Commonwealth. Legislative advances in the General Assembly over the last week have produced movement on the ERA and a nonpartisan commission to craft electoral districts. Meanwhile, around the nation, there have arisen several similar events demonstrating that, indeed, the sun appears to be shining in.
In New Jersey a few weeks ago, the newly elected Democratic majority in the state legislature rejected a tempting proposal to initiate a plan to gerrymander the party’s electoral gains into the future. Hooray!
In New York, the State Senate witnessed a transformation into a Democratic majority after 50 years of opposition control, largely the result of both gerrymandering and prison population inflation of rural/suburban senate districts. This new majority also rejected revenge and, instead, in its first few days, passed legislation for early voting, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and mandating that primary elections for state and federal offices be held the same day. Hooray!
In Texas last week, the Tarrant County GOP overwhelmingly rejected a move to oust a party official on account of his Muslim faith. Hooray!
In the House of Representatives this week, members—including Republicans—condemned the race-baiting utterances of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and have stripped him of committee assignments. Hooray!
While none of these events may be defined as tectonic shifts or earthquakes, they do signal—in the cases of New Jersey and New York—the effects of substantially increased voter participation in the electoral process. Further, they tend to confirm that expansion of the franchise to vote by diminishing restrictive barriers, improving voter registration opportunity, and other similar reforms enhances citizen participation.
Letting the sun shine in on voting is only threatening to those who do not trust and therefore seek to control voters’ wishes. It’s time that elected officials understood this and demolish the barriers they have so long sought to maintain in order to preserve their power and influence. Happily, the trend seems positive.