Elections – the Foundation of Our Democracy

Alan Zendell, July 14, 2022

Today was the final day of early primary voting in Maryland, which made me think about how fragile our democracy is. You have to be registered as either a Democrat or a Republican in Maryland to vote in a partisan primary. I would register as an Independent if that weren’t the case, but this year, since our moderate Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, is term-limited, I voted in the Democratic primary because of all the candidates from both parties, Tom Perez seems the most qualified to me.

Perhaps more to the point, the Trump wing of the Republican Party has made no secret of its intention to gerrymander and rig elections any way they can. Maryland is gerrymandered as well, but by the Democrat-dominated legislature. In the past twenty years, my county has been sliced and diced, with neighborhoods bouncing from one district to another like ping pong balls. I hate that, but at least our legislature doesn’t try to prevent people from voting and has never passed laws that would enable any partisan body to nullify votes by the opposition. That’s especially important in national elections, specifically those for president and U. S. Senators, where the counts are statewide rather than by district.

I have feared that the very real attempts to interfere with voting rights would make people think their votes mattered even less than in the past. Whether or not that’s true, it was chilling to arrive at my polling place to find a total of thirteen people present. One was campaigning outside for a state assembly candidate who was a friend of hers, eleven were election workers, and I was the thirteenth. At 9:30 in the morning, I was the only voter who was present, but that wasn’t the only disturbing thing.

I absolutely do not believe in The Big Lie. Too many responsible researchers and judges have ruled that there is little or no election fraud in this country for me to doubt that our recent elections have counted votes fairly. But I am deeply troubled by Maryland’s lack of election security which could result in a problem in coming elections, as people who care more about winning than the Constitution seem to be gaining precedence – not here, thankfully, but in a frightening number of red states. Anyone who knows my name, my street address, and the month and day (not the year) of my birth could enter any polling station and steal my vote, because Maryland does not require proof of identification. Even the poll workers I spoke to are appalled by that.

I was also troubled by the number of people who were running unopposed, which included the sheriff, my state senator, my county council person, the county prosecutor, and the clerk of the circuit court. I refuse to cast a vote for anyone who runs unopposed.

I could have voted by mail, but I missed the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot. My wife voted by mail, however, and has repeatedly chastised me for being so irresponsible. To her credit, she spent hours researching candidates; I did not, but she generously shared her findings with me. Where we disagree most is in school board elections. I have my own system based on years of experience tutoring high school students in math and physics. I vote for any candidate with an Asian surname or anyone who is an immigrant from a third world country, since they are the parents who demand the most from their own children in school.

Frivolity aside, we are all going to have to take the midterm elections seriously this year, no matter where we live. Americans have shown a dangerous tendency toward intellectual laziness in recent years, as social media platforms, especially Facebook, have been less than responsible in controlling their content. I am horrified at the number of people who believe everything they read on the internet or who swallow everything they are fed by radical fake news media at both ends of the spectrum.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, thousands of Americans died in the attempt to rid themselves of the tyranny of the English king. Ninety years later, we experienced far worse carnage as the issue of slavery tore our country apart. And a mere eighty years ago, millions of Americans gave their lives or their health and well-being to defeat the wave of fascism that was overwhelming Europe and Asia.

Until recently, most of us believed that couldn’t happen here, but you’d have to be comatose not to notice that we were wrong. Until this year, I believed that the theocracy described by Margaret Atwood in her novel A Handmaid’s Tale, in which women are reduced to virtual slaves with no rights at all, was not only fiction, but ridiculous. To my horror, I’ve changed my mind. If we don’t wake up and think for ourselves, and rid ourselves of legislators and Congress men and women who have lost sight of what America was intended to be, Atwood’s Gilead could well be our future.

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