GOP Voter Suppression Kicks Into High Gear
The strategy to rig the rules in elections and give themselves an unfair partisan advantage goes to Donald Trump, the highest levels of his campaign and the top Republican leadership.
It’s clear there’s no law Donald Trump and his right-wing machine won’t bend, break or ignore to try to win the presidency.
– Mike Browne, Deputy Director, One Wisconsin Now, December, 2019
The Republicans are at it again (as if they ever stopped):
Suppressing, denying and outright excluding the votes of as many non-Republicans (particularly black people, brown people, other “people of color,” students, elderly people, and just plain poor people) as they possibly can get away with.
According to Yahoo News, the GOP has shifted its voter suppression efforts into high gear especially in Georgia and Wisconsin, where they are poised to purge more than 500,000 voters from the voting roles ahead of next year’s presidential sweepstakes.
Republicans are crowing over recent court rulings which will, when finalized, “disappear” nearly 234,000 voters in Wisconsin, and another approximately 300,000 in Georgia. That amounts to a full seven per cent and four per cent of those states’ respective electorates.
In both Wisconsin and Georgia, these deliberate disenfranchisements are being accomplished by means of letters informing heretofore registered voters that because they have not voted recently, they are no longer eligible to vote in future elections, and are therefore being purged entirely from the roles of registered voters.
Not surprisingly, fifty-five percent of these “non-eligibility” letters went to districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and especially to college towns and Wisconsin’s two largest cities, Milwaukee and Madison — where the state’s flagship campus, the University of Wisconsin, just happens to be located.
In 2016, voter suppression, restrictive “voter I.D.” requirements, and gerrymandering helped Trump eke out (steal) a “victory” in Wisconsin by a mere 22,000 votes. And the freshman Democratic governor of Wisconsin won his office in 2018 by less than 30,000 votes — after which, the suddenly (and surprised) lame duck GOP legislature tried every trick in the book to strip as much power from the incoming governor as it possibly could. The GOP-dominated Wisconsin Supreme Court has recently validated that obvious, shameless and naked power grab. Governor Tony Evers wrote this in response to the court’s opinion in the instant case:
This move pushed by Republicans to remove 200,000 Wisconsinites from the voter rolls is just another attempt at overriding the will of the people and stifling the democratic process.
Not to be outdone, of course, in Georgia, and with the aid of massive, open and in-your-face voter suppression, voter intimidation, voter I.D. shenanigans, and gerrymandering, the 2018 gubernatorial election was decided by less than 55,000 votes. There, you had the curious twist and perfectly GOP-inspired phenomenon of a Republican candidate running for the office of governor — a position which required him, as Secretary of State, to not just referee the election, but to actually count and certify the vote in an election in which he was a candidate.
Voting rights groups in both Wisconsin and Georgia have objected to these underhanded and nefarious tactics every step of the way — but to no avail.
Georgians should not lose their right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections, and Georgia’s practice of removing voters who have declined to participate in recent elections violates the United States Constitution, said Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of the Georgia group Fair Fight Action.
US District Judge Steve Jones in Atlanta issued his ruling just weeks after Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger released a list of 313,000 voters who were at risk of losing their registration. Fair Fight Action has argued that the purge, which the judge blessed, will disenfranchise at least 120,000 of those people — people who have not voted in the past seven years.
Amazingly, however, a new state law allows voting inactivity for up to nine years.
Moreover, the Secretary of State, who advocated changes to Georgia’s election law earlier this year and applauded passage of House Bill 316, is now attempting to violate that very law, which mandates a longer timetable before voters can be removed under ‘use it or lose it.’ As our groundbreaking lawsuit against the Secretary of State moves forward, we have asked the court to step in and stop this illegal purge, Groh-Wargo said.
Georgia has offered some circuitous reasoning as to why this particular purge is “necessary.”
Bryan Tyson represents Georgia in the ongoing litigation, and explained that “voter maintenance,” not voter suppression, is the issue here, because voter purges cannot legally be done within ninety days of an election. And, if voter maintenance is not effected before the end of this month — marking 90 days until the March 24 primary — it cannot be done again until 2021, when statewide redistricting must occur as per the US Constitution. The unstated implication here is that by redistricting time (2021), “demographic” changes will have so altered–physically darkened — the congressional and voting district populations as to render it virtually impossible to ever again elect a white “conservative” Republican to state-wide and/or even many local offices.
Not to worry, though. Tyson also assured the judge that these purges could be reversed within forty-eight hours — if a judge decides later that this whole business is unconstitutional.
Florida Stands Alone
And then there is “the Great State of Florida.” Florida is practically in a class by itself in terms of disenfranchising voters, voter purges, voter suppression, voter intimidation, and attempts to restrict the franchise to as few people (preferably white “conservative” Republicans) as humanly possible.
One recent example should do:
On November 6, 2018, Florida voters approved state Constitutional Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to 1.4 million individuals with felony convictions. The only exceptions to the new amendment were convicted murderers and felony sexual offenders. As for everyone else, once they completed their sentences, including probation and parole, they would once again be allowed to vote. Amendment 4 took effect on January 8, 2019.
But! Three months later, in March, 2019, GOP lawmakers introduced bills restricting the eligibility of many, if not most, of the re-enfranchised felons by Amendment 4.
Specifically, the new legislation would, among other things, require that all felons pay in full all court-imposed fees and fines before they would be allowed to vote.
Although The Brennan Center, among many other civil rights and equal justice-loving organizations, has urged both Florida’s House and Senate to abandon these draconian bills because they “flout the will of Florida voters and create administratively unworkable carve outs,” Florida’s Republican legislators have completely ignored their entreaties. (The Brennan Center might have added that these fees and fines amount to a rejuvenated form of the despicable poll tax of old).
Indeed, on May 3, 2019, the Florida legislature passed SB7066, which redefined “term of sentence” to include restitution and any and all monetary obligations, even after a court has determined that those obligations should be converted from criminal penalties to civil liens. In June of 2019, SB7066 was approved by the state’s Republican Governor.
Florida has always exercised one of the most punitive voting policies in this nation-state. Prior to just this year, Florida was one of only four states whose constitutions expressly and permanently disenfranchised citizens with past felony convictions. For the record, the others are Iowa (where a lifetime ban remains intact); Kentucky (where the rookie Democratic governor restored voting rights by executive order almost immediately after taking office this month); and Virginia (where the Democratic governor has been slowly but surely restoring felony voting rights on a rolling basis).
Let’s be clear: The sainted “Founding Fathers” never wanted all people to have an equal (or even any) say in governing this nation-state. They purposely and specifically limited the elective franchise to not just ordinary white men, but rich white men (white men, who like themselves, owned property, including, of course, black slaves).
And so, from the very beginning, the struggle to expand voting rights to ever-increasing groups of citizens (black men, 1866; women, 1920; Native Americans, 1924; southern black people, 1965; 18-year-olds, 1972) has been just that — a ceaseless and sometimes violent struggle every step of the way against propertied and privileged white males who have always believed, understood — and tried their damnedest to enforce their belief — that they, and only they, are worthy of holding and exercising decision-making power in this “republic.”
Thus, today’s Republican Party voter suppression efforts follow a direct line of oppression, using black people as their original and well-worn template. Literacy tests, constitutional “grandfather” clauses, poll taxes, verbal and physical intimidation, etc., ad infinitum, were the favored ways and means of keeping the newly freed black people (and their descendants) from voicing their concerns at the ballot box.
However, when these relatively benign measures failed to stop black people from at least trying to vote, violence, up to and including wholesale murder, was employed as a final fail-safe measure to insure a whites-only electorate.
Finally, what the Republicans are treating us to today….what we are witnessing and experiencing at this late date of 2020, is an updated version and reiteration of very old, tried and true, and spectacularly successful, practices and policies that have kept white men firmly ensconced at the helm of this government since its inception.
A Final Word About Modern Democrats versus ‘The Party of Lincoln’:
Please save your angry fulminations and remonstrances that it was the Democratic Party who instituted slavery; that it was the Democratic Party who rebelled against the Union in the Civil War in order to maintain slavery; that it was the Democratic Party who instituted Jim Crow thereafter; and that it was the Democratic Party who violently kept black people from the polls, etc., etc.
As though you don’t know this country’s true and documented history. As though the Democratic Party of 1865 is the same Democratic Party of 2020. Puleeze…. As though the Republican Party of 1865 (“the party of Lincoln”) is the Republican Party of 2020 — Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Bush(es), and Trump. As though you don’t know (or don’t want to know) that the Radical Republicans of the 1860s were vanquished by the Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1876–7, and that from that point forward, the two parties basically, gradually but decisively, switched places on the question of black liberation.
So… miss me with your selective and revisionist history.