It is neither wise nor realistic to count on this sort of mobilization happening every four years. “The smoothness of the election was not self-executing,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an organization that supports voting rights. “Don’t lose sight of how much work we did to make it this way.”
The nation will need to prioritize voting rights and election administration to a degree it has never adequately done. For example, why are Americans still waiting for hours in line to cast their ballots? In 2014, a bipartisan commission said no one ought to have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote. Six years on, the country is nowhere close to that goal.
The solutions are not a mystery. Here are three of the most obvious ones.
More money. In the first wave of the pandemic last spring, elections experts and officials pleaded with Congress to provide up to $4 billion to help ensure a smooth election. Lawmakers approved one-tenth of that amount. “We get what we pay for,” said Justin Levitt, an election law scholar at Loyola Law School. “We poured trillions into pandemic recovery, and a teaspoonful into the democracy that makes it work.”
Some of the shortfall was made up by private philanthropists, who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local governments. Professional sports teams offered up their empty arenas so voters could safely cast ballots in person. Donors provided masks and other protective gear for poll workers. All of that was welcome, and yet the American people pay taxes for just this purpose; they shouldn’t have to rely on the beneficence of the wealthy to keep their democracy intact.
Less voter suppression. It wasn’t so long ago that both parties supported the protection of voting rights. In 2006, Congress overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. Today, the Republican Party is awash in conspiracy theories and — there’s no other way to put it — fundamentally distrusts the American electorate.
In hundreds of lawsuits filed over voting and election procedures in 2020 — the most ever in an election season — Republicans consistently sided against voters. In too many cases, the courts let them have their way. They blocked reasonable, targeted measures to make voting easier during the pandemic, like extending ballot-arrival deadlines or increasing the number of drop boxes.
President Trump has spent the past five years building a fantasy world in which he can lose only because the other side cheated, and far too many people are content to live in it. In the absence of a whit of evidence, a majority of Republicans say they believe Joe Biden’s victory is the result of fraud. That’s why Mr. Raffensperger, a committed Republican, is being punished for his defense of Georgia’s electoral process with everything from death threats to a potentially illegal request by Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Republican, who Mr. Raffensperger said tried to persuade him to throw out legally cast ballots.