The Growing Fight Over Voting Rights

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  • Jan. 6: A Foreordained Horror
  • ‘Mr. Mayor, Treat the Tumor on Rikers Island as Your First Priority’
  • Covid Pathogens From Abroad
  • Exercise Heals After a Loss
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
 Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Biden Endorses Changing Rules for Voting Bills” (front page, Jan. 12):

President Biden, in an impassioned and long overdue speech directed at both parties, made his strongest case yet for the passage of voting rights legislation, though success remains highly in doubt.

Given the rapid pace of concerted Republican efforts on the state level to curtail the hard-fought voting rights of Black people, the stakes couldn’t be higher to both prevent disenfranchisement and to guarantee fair elections. But it’s likely that essential voting rights legislation will fail because of arcane rules that can paralyze the Senate.

Making voting more difficult and politicizing the traditionally nonpartisan election process are essential pieces of an undemocratic Republican agenda to win elections by any means necessary. This poses a huge threat to democracy that must be urgently and vigorously opposed.

Roger Hirschberg
South Burlington, Vt.

To the Editor:

Re “Democrats, Voting Rights Aren’t the Problem,” by Yuval Levin (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 4):

Three factors make for a legitimate election: electoral rolls that include all eligible voters, ease of access to polling places and accurate vote counting.

Republicans in state legislatures are busy on all three fronts to change rules and procedures so they don’t lose future elections. The first two factors constitute voting rights, so Mr. Levin is wrong to claim that these rights aren’t the problem. But he is right to focus on the third factor. What happens after an election is crucial.

It is in the Democrats’ interest to work hard on the third front even though they argue, correctly, that vote stealing in recent elections has been repeatedly shown to be a non-problem. This is because Republicans, the very people screaming falsely about past stolen elections, are now doing their best to steal the next one.

Republicans’ rhetoric can and should be used against them, building a wall against their own schemes, by instituting the measures Mr. Levin recommends. I would add expanding use of the paper ballot so recounting is easy and the results difficult politically to reject. And ensuring that representatives of both parties are present at all stages of vote counting and able to publicize any effort by the other side to manipulate the outcome.

An added advantage of focusing on the third front is that each party, for different reasons, can feel compelled to cooperate with the other one. So we could actually get democracy-saving legislation passed with support from both sides of the aisle.

David B. Abernethy
Portola Valley, Calif.
The writer is professor emeritus of political science at Stanford University.

To the Editor:

This essay illustrates exactly why the issue really is voting rights. Yuval Levin writes as if he is some sort of independent observer with no agenda, and then attempts to make the two parties look like two sides of the same coin. But he is diverting attention from the big issue — giving people the best chance to vote.

The only reason that counting votes became an issue in 2020 was that Donald Trump lost, and the counting was the only issue the Republicans could hang their conspiracy theories on.

The truth is that the current Republican Party wants to suppress voting, and with good reason from their point of view — as Stacey Abrams demonstrated in her organizing efforts in Georgia’s Senate races in 2020-21, if lots of voters turn out, swing states can go Democratic.

If the Republican Party really wanted to support voters, it could support mail-in ballots and help with fair redistricting. Maybe then the Republicans could return to being a principled group representing conservative viewpoints, and start contributing to the country.

Steve Pomerance
Boulder, Colo.

Jan. 6: A Foreordained Horror

President Donald Trump spoke to a crowd near the White House during continued protests as a congressional joint session took place to count electoral votes and confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, on Jan. 6, 2021.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

To the Editor:

The horrific events of Jan. 6, 2021, were foreordained in 2016 when Donald Trump, then a candidate, refused to say that he’d accept the November election results in his contest against Hillary Clinton.

Those of us lacking a malevolent imagination could not have predicted the death and destruction at the Capitol — but Mr. Trump’s total disregard for democratic norms was there from the very beginning. Clearly the concept of the peaceful transfer of power was antithetical to his grandiosity.

Our democracy was looted and shattered, possibly beyond repair, last year. Mr. Trump is where it started; given the dangerous and violent passions he inspires in his supporters, I fear we are not at the end.

Merri Rosenberg
Ardsley, N.Y.

‘Mr. Mayor, Treat the Tumor on Rikers Island as Your First Priority’

Rikers Island has been gripped by its worst crisis in 20 years during the pandemic.Credit…Uli Seit for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Behind Violence at Rikers, a Broken Institution” (front page, Jan. 1):

There is a pulsing tumor in our beloved city that Mayor Eric Adams needs to address to keep his promises about government accountability and crime prevention. That tumor is Rikers Island.

It is a management failure costing more than $400,000 per incarcerated person per year. Rikers is not safe because guard shifts go uncovered. A “Lord of the Flies” situation is created in which people are forced to become predator or prey. Spillover of violence into the streets is inevitable if Rikers continues to be a breeding ground for violence.

There are good and heroic people working on Rikers who need to be kept safe. Incarcerated people need to be able to rely on officers to protect them.

To resolve this situation requires a strong mayoral hand with an intolerance for uncovered shifts and abandonment of duty. It cannot be leveraged by any commissioner, no matter how good, without a firm mayoral commitment.

Mr. Mayor, treat the tumor on Rikers Island as your first priority.

JoAnne Page
The writer is president and chief executive of The Fortune Society.

Covid Pathogens From Abroad

Medical staff wearing personal protective equipment at a London hospital in January 2021. Officials shelled out billions in contracts for coronavirus tests, vaccines and protective equipment.Credit…Pool photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Ex-Aides Urge U.S. to Remake Covid Strategy” (front page, Jan. 7):

The advice by the prominent medical advisers to stem the Covid pandemic and to deal with future pandemics should take into account that, as seen with Omicron, these mutating variants often originate in low- and middle-income countries.

To effectively address outbreaks from future pathogens, these countries often lacking the disease management infrastructure and funds of wealthy countries need to be provided assistance in procuring the diagnostic tests, vaccines, drugs and even protective equipment to prevent devastating infections and deaths.

To deal with pathogens that do not adhere to national boundaries, myopic approaches will be self-defeating. Low- and middle-income countries will need the same tools as the United States to control viruses within their borders, before they infect the rest of the world and also wreak havoc on the health of the populace and economies of the wealthy countries.

Mark Kessel
The writer is chairman of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics.

Exercise Heals After a Loss

  Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Love Lost, in Life and in Exercise,” by Bill Hayes (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 3):

Kudos to Mr. Hayes for this moving essay. Like him, I’ve been an obsessive athlete my entire adult life, but unlike him, when my first life partner of 30 years died, I was eager to return to the comfort of exercise routines. But on the first day back, sitting at the edge of the pool, I was overcome by paralyzing panic. Would I be able to swim, or would I sink to the bottom?

After a terrible loss, I was often at a loss, and I wanted to grasp this opportunity to remind myself that I could go forward on my own. When I finally forced myself to make the high-stakes jump, it was to affirm that I might survive despite my newly dismembered life.

My body remembered, the rhythmic movement soothed, and my mind was momentarily set free from its landlocked grief.

Jonathan Silin
The writer is the author of “Early Childhood, Aging and the Life Cycle: Mapping Common Ground.”

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