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David Crawley (copy)

David Crawley

A year has passed since the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and we are less than one year away from the midterm elections.

As we enter campaign season, we are seeing a disturbing trend: More and more GOP candidates are running on pledges that they will restrict elections and overturn them if they do not like the results. This is all being done under the guise of the “Big Lie” — the false belief that the 2020 election was stolen from former president Trump and given instead to President Joe Biden.

Because of this, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance has added the United States to its list of backsliding democracies for the first time. You need look no further for an example of this backsliding than Wisconsin, a state whose legislature is so gerrymandered that even when the Democrats win the popular vote, they lose the chamber in a landslide. This Republican legislature has in turn sought to limit the powers of the office of the governor as soon as a Democrat flipped it from them in 2018.

They, along with GOP-controlled legislatures across the country, have looked into systems where presidential electors are awarded based on the number of counties won, instead of the popular vote. As major population centers are concentrated traditionally into single counties, and as they tend to vote Democrat, this would give the new, radical and democracy-averse GOP an advantage.

You may think this is nonsense, but systems like this existed in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era for state offices. Mississippi used this system just two years ago to consolidate Republican Party rule.

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Although we must condemn and point out the democracy subversion being perpetrated by GOP politicians at the state and federal levels, we must not blame our conservative neighbors for their belief that the election was stolen. They have low confidence in our democracy, as most young people — even those on the opposite side of the political spectrum — do, as well. The reason for this is because our democracy is broken. It is under attack by dark money, partisan gerrymandering and an inaccessible election system.

Although the 2020 election was not “stolen” in the way many Republican voters believe it was, our democracy has certainly been dysfunctional and nonrepresentative for far too long. And we’re running out of time to do something about it.

We need federal legislation to renew Americans’ faith in our democracy, and to ensure that extremists do not try to steal elections before they even occur. The Freedom To Vote act is that legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin’s leadership in crafting this bill has been commendable, but we are not on top of the mountain yet. We must pass this bill this month. I speak with no hyperbole when I say this: Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., need to represent their constituents here in West Virginia, who support the reforms within this legislation, and pass it to ensure that our democracy does not collapse completely — before it is too late.

West Virginians are counting on Manchin and Capito to stand with us, against political corruption and on the right side of history.

David Crawley is the director of Un-PAC West Virginia.

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