Democracy is ‘not immune’ to coronavirus



The requirements of social distancing are making every facet of life more difficult to maintain — including democracy, a fragile system of governance not immune to being ravaged by COVID-19. Perhaps the biggest challenge for a democracy is conducting physical elections, observers suggest.

The pandemic has caused a public health crisis that endangers the lives of millions of people, and threatens to cause enormous economic suffering. But it is also causing a political crisis, because it presents major challenges to public policy and endangers the elections at the heart of representative government, according to an open letter from U.S. political scientists:

As we currently scramble to face the immediate crisis, we must remember that the November general elections are over eight months away. We have time to prepare, now, to ensure that these elections can take place, fairly, under any circumstances, and even if public health concerns prevent people from going to the polling booths to vote. A number of proposals to do this have been floated. We are particularly impressed by “How to Protect the 2020 Vote from the Coronavirus,” a report published this week by the Brennan Center for Justice. The report outlines a number of possible measures, including (1) polling place modification and preparation; (2) expanded early voting; (3) a universal vote-by-mail option; (4) voter registration modification and preparation, including expanded online registration; and (5) voter education and manipulation prevention. RTWT

The signatories, writing under the rubric of Secure Democracy 2020, include many contributors to the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy.

Democratic societies build resilience by strengthening the engagement of their citizens, because that is the way to build consensus and also to generate new ideas that work,” notes one observer. “There has not been a time since the second world war when the voice of citizens needed to be heard as much as it needs to be heard today.”

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