Koen Rodabaugh headshot

The upcoming midterm elections are nearly upon us. It will be the first major election since 2020, when thousands of former President Donald Trump supporters flooded the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying that Trump had lost. Since that time, the GOP has effectively emboldened its base by gaslighting and downplaying the damage caused by Trump’s “Big Lie.” With 2022 in their sights, Republicans are using the rage they’ve developed within their base to cover up their own efforts to undermine the 2022 midterms.

Through all of their claims about election fraud, racist “great replacement” theory and an “installed” Biden Administration, the GOP has silently been whittling away the legitimacy of our elections. They’ve done this in two ways: restricting the conditions in which people can vote and gerrymandering congressional district maps to overwhelmingly favor Republicans.

GOP-controlled states have already increased the penalties for having multiple absentee ballots, letting someone deliver your filled-out ballot for you, or for donating to local election officials from misdemeanors to felonies. Harsher penalties scare people away from providing voters’ assistance and take away innocent people’s right to vote. 

States have also reduced the number of drop boxes in many states, making mail-in voting even more difficult. Additionally, the Brennan Center has observed that many states have proposed reducing the length of time early voting is available.

These restrictions on the time, place and manner in which people can vote are wildly unreasonable, racist and ableist. Absentee ballots, early voting and drop-box mail-in ballots were pivotal to the highest voter turnout in U.S. history for bothpolitical parties. Removing this electoral infrastructure directly targets demographics that generally vote for Democrats.

In addition to these restrictions on voting procedures, Republicans have been hard at work devaluing Democratic voters while maximizing Republican voter distribution. In a tactic known as gerrymandering, Republicans have put forward dozens of clearly partisan maps in violation of the voting rights act.

Under normal circumstances, state supreme courts and federal courts would be able to intervene and request new maps be drawn. Nowhere is this more true than in North Carolina, the de facto capital of gerrymandering. For over a decade, the state has had to redraw its congressional maps for egregiously racial and partisan redistricting, often favoring Republicans. In the most recent instance, the map was so biased that state courts deemed it necessary for the responsibility of map drawing to be taken from the hands of the General Assembly. 

Other states aren’t so lucky. In four different states — two of which, Georgia and Ohio, could be extremely consequential in the potential power shift in the U.S. House — Republican-drawn maps that were previously rejected have been reinstated. In their opinion, SCOTUS said it believed it was simply too late to redraw a new, fair map despite a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act. There is a potential for North Carolina Republicans to take this same route.

The GOP has blinded its base by falsely claiming a stolen 2020 election. As a result, they’ve been able to get away with severe voting restrictions that disproportionately affect predominantly Democrat voters, especially the disabled, elderly, poor and people of color. Under the guise of “stopping the steal,” Republicans are eroding our democratic traditions in order to win without popular support.

We, as educated voters, must reject these attempts and the politicians who espouse them. The battle for democracy has gone to the statehouses. Political offices, down to the local school board, are positions that could determine the resiliency of democracy in the United States. 

The onus is on us, the youngest and fastest-growing block of voters, to make our voices heard. Take the time to sit down and look at the positions of your local officials that are currently campaigning. Look at their campaign websites and Ballotpedia to gain a full view of a candidate’s goals and history. Make sure to remain updated on current events, both nationally and locally. NC State provides access to the New York Times, free for all students. 

Make sure to stay on top of your local politicians that are not currently in a campaign as well. Call your representatives and demand that they take action towards institutionalizing nonpartisan redistricting. Work with local political groups in your county to organize town halls to make your voices heard. Donate your time and money if you can to groups fighting back in the courts like the ACLU.  

Voting without knowing the positions of a candidate enables politicians to obtain political power that can be used to harm American institutions — we’ve seen the effects of this in 2020. If we allow uninformed voting to persist, the fallout could be much worse moving forward.

Crucially, democracy is not for a passive political culture. It requires us to stay informed and involved. It demands that we talk to one another about the challenging issues at every level. We cannot remain passive, and we cannot conscionably allow the authoritarianism of the GOP to destroy our democratic political society.