Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Losing gracefully has become a lost art. I’ve noticed in recent years it has become harder for us to accept defeat when it is rightfully given. We fight back, we argue and most of all, we refuse to accept. This trend in our losing behaviors, I’m convinced, stems from watching recent elections and the behaviors of public officials.
Recently in Maryland, candidates for office are challenging election procedures and are attempting to influence the way our results are counted. Dan Cox, who is currently trailing in the polls for the gubernatorial election, has taken to the courts to try to change election procedures and question the integrity of our voting processes.
Our representation as Marylanders is being threatened by candidates who attempt to alter election results and spread election misinformation. We need better online systems to prevent election misinformation on social media platforms, which are the main sources for false news. Additionally, we need to support legislation such as the Freedom to Vote Act that will protect our constitutional rights from becoming tools for partisan agendas.
Call it the “Trump Effect,” but I’ve noticed after the loud defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, it has become normalized for government candidates to ignore or refuse to accept election results. Indeed, many GOP candidates running for office this year have developed entire platforms around voter fraud, which delegitimizes our election processes.
This effect is not only limited to the United States. In Brazil, the incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro has already claimed if he doesn’t win the upcoming election, it will be due to voter fraud. This has led many to fear potential violence if Bolsonaro rejects the results.
Similarly, much discussion has been generated over whether Cox will accept the outcome of an election if he does not win.
To protect our democracy and our rights as constituents, we need to ensure our public officials have no room to exploit our election processes. Jan. 6, 2021, showed what happens when an elected official oversteps the boundaries of their elected position and unless we amend our democracy and voting procedures, we could face another act of domestic terrorism.
Federal Senate Bill 2747, also known as the Freedom to Vote Act, would ensure inclusive and accessible elections that are free from unwanted interference for all Americans. By setting a national standard, states will ensure elected officials cannot use new voting laws to pursue partisan agendas. This prevents officials such as Cox from manipulating ballot counting to influence the outcome of the election.
However, bills such as the Freedom to Vote Act will be useless if we don’t address the election misinformation and trust problems our democracy faces.
Going into this new election season, social media companies with significant control over candidate news need to ensure we receive accurate information.
There are many steps social media platforms can take to decrease the spread of election misinformation. Twitter has already made steps to protect the civic integrity of the election by labeling misleading tweets as such for viewers to note. However, I believe social media platforms can further protect civic integrity by implementing systems that would allow users to immediately report any misinformation they view online. Users could potentially self-regulate the information they intake by giving individuals the chance to remove information they know to be false before it can reach more gullible targets.
The Maryland General Assembly can also help prevent election misinformation and reignite voter trust in our elections at the state level. By establishing and passing voter protection legislation, it can ensure all Marylanders receive fair voter education and aren’t barred from voting.
Moreover, it can help protect local papers and writers from biases and outside manipulation. By setting aside guaranteed funds for journalists, they can accurately report on state elections.
It’s about time Maryland stepped up and protected itself from politicians who try to play dirty. Candidates such as Cox will only continue to try and alter our elections for their own benefit unless we do something about it.
Candidates running for public office should not be given the chance to influence or change election procedures. It’s undemocratic. We need legislation that protects elections from undemocratic intrusions.
It’s about time we go back to the old days, back when democracy was trusted and voting was simply a process, not a debate. Let’s go back to a time when losers had dignity and accepted defeat with respect, not a temper tantrum or legal war.
Dalia Mustafa is a sophomore economics and government and politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.