Quote of the day

Alexander Keyssar wrote (2000 and 2009, xxi):

The history of suffrage in the United States was…shaped by forces that opposed or resisted a broader franchise, forces that at times succeeded in contracting the right to vote and often serviced to retard its expansion. Once again, most of these forces or factors have long been recognized: racist and sexist beliefs and attitudes, ethnic antagonisms, partisan interests, and political theories and ideological convictions that linked the health of the state to a narrow franchise.

One important factor, however, has received little or no attention: class tension. The concept of class has long carried heavy ideological freight and at times has been the great unspoken word in America’s officially classless society….A wide-angle look at the full span of suffrage history — considering all restrictions on voting rights throughout the nation — strongly suggests that class relations and apprehensions constituted the single most important obstacle to universal suffrage in the United States from the late eighteenth to the 1960s.

Voting and the ‘rule by law’

The PEI report for 2018 concluded:

The issue of voter suppression has been a major issue for debate where some new laws, focusing on voter identification and polling facilities, can be seen as suppressing the right of legitimate citizen voters to participate. Republican commentators, on the other hand, respond that election laws are needed to eliminate the risks of voter fraud. Several reforms to state electoral laws were litigated in the run up to the 2018 campaign. The score on ‘election laws’ was lowest in Wisconsin and Georgia. The legal framework was seen by experts as the second-worst aspect of election conduct over all in the US, after gerrymandered district boundaries (p. 10).

I use the term ‘rule by law’ to refer to laws enacted and enforced that lack democratic legitimacy and that also violate ‘rule of law norms.’ In the case of the restrictive electoral laws favored by some in the Republican Party, but not just members of that party, the goal is to remove actual and potential electoral challenges to Republican candidates. The goal, when achieved in practice, undermines the legitimacy provided by any election touched by such laws. Electoral legitimacy is diminished or eliminated because, as employed, these rules exclude some Americans from electoral participation because of the ascriptive categories directly and indirectly applied to them, categories such as race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, etc. and because apportionment schemes violate the one person, one vote rule and thus the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Thus, not only do these laws diminish the integrity of such elections, they also necessarily generate a legitimacy deficit for the governments thus elected. It follows that the laws cease to be artefacts produced by a self-governing people. They are components of illegitimate domination.