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Gaming the Ballot Box

Updated: May 16

J. Michael Atherton


The NH Republican platform says the following: “We believe that we the people are strongest when we stand together, that it is our responsibility to hold government accountable and that it is through the integrity of the ballot box that we do so.”  Most Americans agree with this position. Why, then, bring it up?


Put simply: Republicans do not support the integrity of the ballot box. They know saying this publicly would reveal their anti-democratic beliefs, so they want to seem to respect the right to vote. They want to appear as noble vote defenders. Such is not the case.  Republican claims to defend the ballot box are appearance without substance. It’s all smoke and mirrors, a game with loaded dice, and a veneer to hide their true motives.

Brennan Center for Justice, by josem for Unsplash

If they respected the vote, they would want it to represent the entire nation, not just their friends and family. The reason to include every voter rests on the fundamental belief of our democracy: the ballot box is the voice of THE PEOPLE. It is not just for whites or men or Christians or heterosexuals. The ballot box is for all voters. To limit the number of voters means Republicans respect neither the ballot box nor democracy. Their every effort is to shrink the voting numbers to allow their small Republican voting base to punch above its weight.


From "Blocking voters you don't like is a shameful American tradition," Roll Call. Photo by Tom Williams

The history of state-house Republicans throughout the nation reveals their constant efforts to build impediments to voter access. Like their obsession with building a wall to keep out refugees, they want, in effect, to build fences to keep out voters. Instead of physical fences they use inconvenience such as demanding notarized voter IDs or placing the polling places in difficult locations. Realize, they just took a page from the British colonial playbook. The Brits didn’t want colonists to vote either, so they located voting boxes in distant places to wear down colonists as they traveled constantly between hither and yon. So too Republicans shift voting places, as when Texas Republicans reduced the polling booths for 1,000,000 people to just 2 locations.  Republicans regularly demand proof of citizenship without any evidence that there has been any voter fraud worth such attention. They know that the demand to produce identity cards will stop many people from voting. Republicans know if they erect enough obstacles then some voters will stay home to let dedicated Republican voters make up the difference. Republicans dream about low voting numbers.

The GOP, of course, spins a different tale. They see themselves as bulwarks against voter fraud. Nonsense! Let the record show that there is almost no voter fraud in America. Taking a stand against voter fraud resembles objecting to meteors. Voter fraud and meteors are both theoretically harmful; however, in reality, where the rest of us live, they have no real impact. GOP obstructionists oppose a small issue they want to balloon up to make it seem important. Here are several weapons the GOP uses in its Stomp-Out-the-Vote campaign: inconvenience, inaccessibility, harassment, intimidation, and disinformation. Fighting against imaginary vote fraud allows the GOP to appear helpful; nevertheless, they are nasty bullies building obstacles to keep voters away from the polls and strangle the voice of democracy

You might want more examples of GOP bullying and their Stomp-Out-the-Vote campaign. “As of January 25, 2023, state lawmakers in at least 32 states pre-filed or introduced 150 restrictive voting bills.”* Here are a few examples from around the nation: no mail-in ballots, limited mail-in ballots, no early voting, limited drop box access, require mail-in ballots to be notarized, rejecting student IDs or out of state drivers licenses as sufficient for voting, expanding purges of voter roles, and passing laws to make it illegal to have voter registration drives. 


Note: no single obstacle would break the voting system. If GOP shenanigans broke the system, the public would notice and punish them, and they know it. To hide their actions, crafty Republicans resort to death by a thousand cuts. A little obstacle here, an inconvenience there, this person denied, and that person rebuffed. Soon voters say they have better things to do than “merely” vote and the GOP gets its wish


What to do?

Dover Democrats yard sign


VOTE. Ignore their obstacles and vote. Act like a proud American and vote. Let them hear you and vote. Don’t let GOP restrictions smother your voice. Resist intimidation, persist in being heard, push back and VOTE. 


About the author

J. Michael Atherton (Mike) has retired from 30 years of teaching philosophy (after 20 years of teaching a variety of subjects from elementary to graduate school). He spent four years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland (now Eswatini), followed by marriage to Cynthia Walter, the

birth of their first child, and a PhD all at the University of Chicago. They moved to Southwest Pennsylvania where Cynthia taught ecology and he taught philosophy while they raised two daughters. They moved to Dover in 2019 to be near their two grandsons in Maine. He has consistently found the Dems to be a group that publicly and privately follows their stated values: compassion, honesty, integrity, respect the dignity of all people, expanded freedom, responsible citizenship, promoting civil society, and protecting our e

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