Trump's election lies spurred an insurrection. Threat to democracy isn't over. | Opinion

From unwarranted threats to impeach election officials, attempts to silence calls for fair electoral maps and more, there can be no doubt that threats to democracy remain

Dave Mahoney
Special to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Three years ago, the world watched in horror as an insurrectionist mob – spurred to action by a defeated incumbent President – attacked the U.S. Capitol and the members of law enforcement sworn to protect it, along with the lawmakers inside doing the people’s business.

It was a brazen assault on our democracy. Ultimately put down due to the courage and professionalism of members of law enforcement.

But it was not the end of the threat to our democracy.

This Jan. 6, the final anniversary of that awful day before the next presidential election, offers a moment to reflect on present threats to our democracy, and to resolve anew to meet this challenge of our time.

Accountability for the events of that fateful day is underway. Fake electors in Wisconsin have acknowledged their culpability. Grand juries have indicted former President Trump and his accomplices, who now await criminal trials or sentencing.

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Nevertheless, the “big lie” persists. Extreme, ultra-MAGA elements refuse to acknowledge that President Joe Biden defeated former President Trump in a free, fair, safe, and secure election. In furtherance of their lies these actors continue to spread disinformation intended to undermine the very fabric of our political system.

These conscious efforts to degrade public trust in our electoral system increase the risks of civil unrest and are designed to deter citizens from engaging in our system of government that declares ‘we, the people’ as sovereign.

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From unwarranted threats to impeach election officials, attempts to silence calls for fair electoral maps and more, there can be no doubt that threats to democracy remain.

That is where we come in. Law enforcement did their job on January 6th, 2021. This year, it is our collective responsibility to do our own part to stand against the ongoing threats to American democracy. It is up to federal and state leaders to lead the charge in creating effective and equitable policies and actions that prevent corruption and election subversion from destroying our elections.

The legislative means to do just that are available to our elected representatives. The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are essential tools in the fight to preserve the integrity of our elections and ensure that every citizen has equal access to the ballot box.

FILE - Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump gather on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

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The Freedom to Vote Act adds critical provisions that create processes for drawing fair maps and prevent partisan interference in our elections. The bill also establishes vital protections, such as post-election audits, to ensure the integrity of the vote while improving the processes and systems that make our polls fair and open.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act adds further layers of protection to our elections. This bill would finally modernize the protections listed in the Voting Rights Act to protect millions of minorities, new, and infrequent voters from policies or practices that serve to strip them of their constitutional right to vote.

These are not controversial reforms; they are common sense. In the wake of the now-years-long efforts to undermine our democracy, they also represent a crucial step in rebuilding confidence undermined by the events leading up to January 6th, as well as those that endure to this day. The very passing of these bills into law will make clear policymakers are capable of responding to the threat.

Thankfully, our own U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, is committed to supporting these bills and working to restore real confidence in our elections. We, the people, cannot let her fight for this change alone.

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Too much is at stake. Protecting and strengthening American democracy is not someone else’s job. It is a responsibility we should all view as sacred. Each of us has seen the progress possible thanks to the American idea of self-government.

Now is the time, three years after that awful January day, to unite in efforts to uphold the rule of law, to urge further protection of voting rights, and strengthen the system passed down to us by generations of Americans who came before.  

David Mahoney, a Democrat, served for 15 years as Dane County Sheriff and retired in 2021 after more than 41 years in law enforcement.