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Reilly: Protecting The Vote

This month, Vermont joined forty-three other states and the District of Columbia in defying a federal government request for personal data on millions of American voters. Republican and Democratic election officials from across the country are saying ‘no’ to an order that would turn over birthdays, partial social security numbers, voter history, and much more.

Both Vermont Secretary of State Condos and Attorney General Donovan have declared the order a violation of privacy. But many are concerned that it’s more than that.

For starters, they say it’s a solution in search of a problem. Nonpartisan studies – time after time – indicate that voter fraud is statistically close to nonexistent. In other words: even when voter rolls are redundant and outdated, there’s no evidence that Americans are trying to vote more than once, or in fraudulent places. None.

And demands like the federal government’s will produce decisive voter suppression effects by adding new hoops that voters will have to jump through, providing new reasons to stay home on election day, and creating new methods for intimidating Americans on the margins.

No country is inherently great. We’re only as great as our policies and the health of our democracy. And access to the vote is the most elemental component of that health. Without the vote, we cease to be a democracy.

Luckily states – not the federal government – are on the front lines of the battle over voting rights. And both red and blue states have declared that this is not a partisan issue, but a matter of values.

State election officials are in the best position to defend and strengthen trust in our electoral process, and ultimately increase participation in it. That’s the goal. And their continued resistance against efforts that weaken voting rights will be essential in the months ahead. I applaud Vermont’s elected officials for taking a stand, and hope they’ll keep it up.

Abraham Lincoln reportedly said that “America will never be destroyed from the outside… If we falter and lose our freedoms… it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

If we set aside for a moment alleged Russian interference in our election, we can turn our attention inward - to the unsubstantiated fears that are the real threat to our democracy.

We must stay focused – and demand as much from our elected officials.

Weakening the vote is not an option.

Meg Little Reilly is the author of the novels EVERYTHING THAT FOLLOWS and WE ARE UNPREPARED. Prior to writing novels, Meg worked in national politics. She has a B.A. from the University of Vermont and an M.A. from the George Washington University. She grew up in Brattleboro, moved away for a time, and now lives in Hinesburg with her husband and two daughters.
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