Widespread participation remains the most important characteristic for the government of a democratic republic. We measure participation by the proportion of the electorate that votes.
The world’s second largest democracy had nearly 160 million, two-thirds, of the eligible population show up to vote in 2020. This was the highest rate since records for eligible voters have been kept.
Similarly, the 62 percent of the voting age population that turned out was the highest since the Nixon-Kennedy election. Texas mirrored the country with three-fifths of eligible voters voting. This proves we should be proud of our governmental process.
The turnout came during the worst pandemic in a century with unemployment at nearly 15 percent nationally. For Texas the rate reached nearly 13 percent, with tens of thousands of early deaths.
The achievement of electoral participation occurred because of the widespread efforts of poll workers and party activists in both parties. This resulted in vigorous registration drives. Local officials, recognizing the fear of viral infection, encouraged both early voting and mail-in voting.
This was accompanied by extended voting hours and 24-hour voting. Poll workers risked personal danger from infection by keeping the polls open under difficult and sometime antagonistic conditions.
The response to voting difficulties meant Texas represented one of the most forward-thinking efforts in the nation. By comparison, New York makes registration a complex and sometimes byzantine process. Similarly, Delaware is notorious for complicating the vote-by-mail options.
Texas should rejoice in its achievement after years of low turnout.
Many politicians claimed that the high turnout was self-evident proof of a fraudulent election. Beginning at the top, former Attorney General William Barr, after carefully examining the claims of fraud, concluded the U.S. Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.
The Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger declared after 250 investigations, he didn’t see anything that would change the state results.
In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offered $1 million for reports of election fraud. Enough to encourage reports of fraud. Patrick didn’t have to pay.
The office of the Attorney General of Texas, led by the indicted Ken Paxton, expended at least 22,000 staff hours in search of fraud resulting in 16 prosecutions, mostly for minor infractions. This included jailing Hervis Rogers for voting while on probation after waiting more than six hours to vote.
Based on a large turnout and consistently no significant evidence of fraud, Gov. Greg Abbott has repeatedly called for modifying the election laws in Texas. Why pass new laws to undermine a successful election? He seems to be determined to change the successful election back into the old days of low turnouts.
Free elections require a high turnout. This has been a mantra of the League of Women Voters for years. It doesn’t matter which party wins; the critical point is participation. Since when is retaining power more important than assuring the continuance of a democratically elected republic?
Only demagogues and autocrats would disagree.