In the United States the Republican Party is on the back foot and they know it. On the whole their main support is in the rural areas, whereas the the main support of the Democrats is in the larger cities. This tendency is increasing as young people move from the country to the cities, where enterprising migrants also tend to congregate.
For historical reason the US Constitution gives the rural areas a built- in political advantage as each state, regardless of population, is allocated two members of the Senate. So Wyoming,the smallest state, with a population of 600 000, elects two Senators, as does the largest, California, with a population of over 39 million. This advantage affects the number of "electoral college votes" allocated to each state for the actual election of the president.
So last year, 2020, we saw the Republican Party, and not just Donald Trump, scrambling furiously to reduce the turnout of voters among people most likely to vote Democrat.
Voter registration, for decades made more difficult for people of colour, even after emancipate, continued to be difficult, and for immigrants as well. The funding of the Post Office was reduced in order to hamper its capacity to deal with postal votes, Trump himself went out of his way , months before the actual election, to claim that vast numbers of postal votes would be "fake", and the numbers of polling booths in migrant and "black" areas were reduced so that those who chose to vote in person would be discouraged by long queues.
Weeks after the election Trump and the Republicans were still challenging the result .
President Biden has probably only two years to reverse this process becasue it is very likely that in the mid-term elections the Democrats will lose their majority of 1 (the casting vote of the Speaker because the present composition is 50/50) after which further reform will be stymied.
In the UK the Conservatives are taking similar steps as the US Republicans in order to hijack our own democracy.
Measures have already been introduced to make it more difficult for the young, students, migrants, and itinerants, all most like to vote for progressive parties, to get on to the registers or to use their vote if they are on it.
Voter registration has largely been made more complex by requiring each person to register individually rather than by household. Measures to make it easier for "attainers" - 16 and 17-year-olds who could become old enough to vote during the life of a register, though approved by the Lords, were rejected by the Commons with its 80 seat Conservative majority. A requirement to produce evidence of identity at the polling station is about to be introduced - though there is no current evidence of even the slightest significant "personation." (There used to be in Northern Ireland, where "vote early, vote often" was a popular slogan)
In the recent past hesitant steps have been taken to make at least some of our elections more democratic. There are forms of proportional representation for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, and in these nations' local government elections.
In England we have had the luxury of a "supplementary vote" in elections for Executive Mayors and for Police and Crime Commissioners. This system provides that if the person with the most votes does not have more than 50% of the votes cast than all but the top two are eliminated and their "supplementary" or second preferences are transferred and counted so that the person elected has an over-all majority of sorts.
Out of the blue, (sic) as far as I can see, this system has been withdrawn and we shall be back to "first past the post." I am bewildered by two things:
- First how can the Home Secretary bring about this change by fiat - surely it is a matter for parliament, and better still, only by consent of the people doing the voting:
- Second, why has there been so little publicity about it? Such matters should provoke outrage.
"Free and fair elections," though perhaps the most important, are only one ingredient in a well-functioning democracy. We are told that the Government is to use its 80+ majority in Parliament (based on only 43.6% of the total vote) to repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act, thus giving the prime minister the right to call a general election when it best suits his party.
And to cap it all, they plan to reduce the right of the courts to examine whether or not the government has acted legally - a provision first introduced in Magna Carta in 1215.
The cynical clique temporality in charge of our government is systematically removing the building block of our democracy.
Where is the outrage?