A matter of trust? What one voting rights expert will be watching for in the mid-term elections

A matter of trust? What one voting rights expert will be watching for in the mid-term elections

October 25, 20223 min read

With the 2022 mid-term elections drawing near, Tulane University voting rights expert Brandon R. Davis is paying close attention to voter turnout, especially in states where lawmakers have passed new, more restrictive voting laws after many states expanded access, via mail-in ballots and online voting, during the 2020 presidential election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davis, an assistant professor of political science in the Tulane School of Liberal Arts, is an expert on voting rights with a particular expertise in race and ethnic politics. He responded to several questions related to the Nov. 8 election and why it might be one of the most crucial mid-term elections ever. He can be reached at bdavis21@tulane.edu.

What are the biggest issues heading into the mid-terms when it comes to voting right?

The biggest issues right now are reestablishing trust in the electoral process and a sense of duty which creates an obligation to see democracy continue. Distrust is a powerful source of governmental dissatisfaction and an impediment to political participation. An individual incident that might adversely affect trust, such as a government corruption scandal, could increase participation in a specific election or over a specified period, but years of cynicism regarding governance or elected officials can create institutional distrust. A sense of civic duty has been found to be the most compelling motivation to vote. Even economic incentives are less effective than civic duty in inducing participation.

How difficult will it be for some Americans to cast ballots?

Depending on the state it could be more difficult or not. Some current concerns are new limitations of mail-in voting, particularly in states that had mail-in voting prior to 2020 and the loss of experienced poll workers and election workers.

What states have the most restrictive laws and how will these laws affect the election?

I’m not sure about a particular state. They all tend to use one or some combination of the five major tactics that reduce turnout: voter ID laws, limits on early voting, registration restrictions, voter roll purges and disenfranchisement. Used independently or collectively they are all effective at reducing turnout.

Is there anything voting rights groups can do to make it easier for people to vote?

Register people to vote and check voter rolls to ensure previously registered

voters are still registered. There is also a need for poll workers and watchers. The key problem of any representative democracy is providing a voice for minority interests in a system dominated by the votes of the majority. The legitimacy and stability the democracy depends on the nation’s ability to fulfil this obligation.

How do you persuade people to go out and vote, even with some of the obstacles in place?

Voting is so important because it is the foundation of political equality. It is the badge of the citizenship. Without voting rights, we are robbed of full citizenship and the protections provided leaving those who cannot vote vulnerable to political, economic, and social subjugation. Actual voting depends on the particulars of the election and involves a myriad of both individual and institutional factors. For a society founded on petitioning government and political participation a decline in trust can have major implications for American Democracy.

Connect with:
  • Brandon R. Davis
    Brandon R. Davis Assistant Professor

    Brandon R. Davis, PhD, focuses on American politics, law and society, and race and ethnic politics.

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