Republicans Run Full-Tilt Voter Suppression With an Eye on November (Video)

Anyone still needing evidence of Republicans’ racist voter suppression tactics should look at what just happened in Georgia.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is calling Tuesday’s in-person presidential primary a “complete meltdown” after predominantly minority regions of the state were deprived of enough voting machines and polling places, leading to voters having to stand in line six to seven hours in the heat during a pandemic.

What machines there were either malfunctioned or were unable to be operated since some poll workers reported being inadequately trained on them after being hired shortly before Tuesday.

Some machines hadn’t arrived by the time the polls were scheduled to open.

Majority white areas are not reporting these problems.

One of Georgia’s voters who turned out Tuesday is 80-year-old Anita Heard.

About the debacle, she commented:

“America has gotten to the point that we are now taking the liberties of people, even voting, from them. How can we do this?”

The coronavirus/COVID-19 national emergency has led to most states’ governors issuing executive orders to either postpone primaries or encourage voters to mail absentee ballots to avoid in-person contact. Some states did both.

Georgia is on the list of states that delayed–twice.

In the interim, instead of ensuring a system by which all registered voters could cast ballots easily and safely, the state relocated 10 percent of its polling stations and closed more than 80 sites in the Atlanta metro area.

This would be alarming if it weren’t so predictable.

Georgia has been at the forefront of Republican election theft the past few years as Democrats and civil rights groups have accused Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his predecessor, Gov. Brian Kemp, of intentionally purging the state’s voter rolls and encouraging polling places to consolidate.

As Secretary of State, Brian Kemp had direct jurisdiction over the voter rolls, yet he refused to vacate his position while running for governor in 2018 against Democratic challenger, former Georgia House minority leader, Stacy Abrams.

A month before the 2018 election, The Associated Press reported under Kemp’s charge, at least 53,000 voter registration applications–mostly from black voters–are being delayed for “additional screening.”

Kemp’s office froze registration applications supposedly flagged in the state’s “exact match” process in which each application must precisely match the state’s Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration data. If they do not match, applicants are given an interval to correct discrepancies like misspelled names, middle names not being fully stated, or missing hyphens.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast, author of the Rolling Stone piece “The G.O.P.’s Stealth War Against Voters,” threatened to sue Brian Kemp to compel him to turn over voters’ names.

Palast then published on his website names of every Georgia voter purged from voter rolls.

In August of that year, it took the two-member Randolph County elections board under one minute to vote to shudder seven predominantly African American polling places.

More than 85,000 Georgia voters were purged from rolls in just the three months leading up to election day in 2016, in what National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president Derrick Johnson called “textbook voter suppression.”

Stacey Abrams said of her experience with Tuesday’s election:

“My absentee ballot, when it finally arrived, had an unusable return envelope.”

“Unusable,” as in sealed shut.

She explained:

“I attempted to steam it open because I’ve watched lots of mystery shows. It didn’t work and I unable to open the envelope, which meant that I was unable to return my ballot.”

But despite its reputation, Georgia is not an anomaly.

Iowa also made headlines this week when its primary went off without a hitch.

In fact, it set a record for primary election turnout.

Now state republicans are trying to ensure that never happens again.

A Senate bill passed Wednesday attempts to limit the secretary of state from sending mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters.

Should it become law, the bill would also prohibit Iowa public universities’ students from voting early on their campuses, shorten polling sites’ hours, change absentee ballot rules so they would have to be delivered by the time polls close, require counties’ property tax information be included on ballots for bond measures, and prevent satellite locations from being set up “in any state-owned building.”

Two months ago, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order postponing the state’s presidential primary to June 9.

That was until the state’s Republican-majority supreme court intervened, ruling elections must be held on schedule despite the public health emergency.

Moreover, Wisconsin GOP lawmakers refused to advance vote-by-mail provisions that would prevent crowds from risking spreading contagion by reporting to the polls.

The Republican-majority United States Supreme Court sided with them.

Make no mistake: this is a test-run for November, especially since there has been serious discussion lately about nationwide mail-in paper ballots.

If there is one thing Republicans absolutely do not want, it’s more people voting.

Paul Weyrich, the  founder of conservative think tanks The Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, admitted as much at a religious right gathering back in 1980:

Donald Trump publicly echoed that sentiment when he admitted during a recent interview with Fox & Friends it was good increased voting protections and ballot access proposals were omitted from last week’s coronavirus relief package because “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

A broken clock is right twice a day, as the saying goes.

The Republican party has not legitimately won the White House since Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Even though November 2018’s mid-term election results were historic, it does not mean the GOP has forgotten how to cheat to win.

From foreign trolls and botsFox NewsSinclair Broadcasting, right-wing hate radio, dog-whistle (and not-so-dog-whistle) racismmendacious Facebook ads, and Donald Trump’s thousands of lies, the Republican party has its machine’s gears well-oiled.

Yet there is one area the Grand Old Party has identified as the country’s oft-ignored Achilles’ heel–voting.

Eleven years ago the Republican party was licking its wounds after the country elected its first African American president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.

So Republicans came up with a strategy: concentrate on 16 states and gerrymander them so badly Democrats have little to no mathematical chance of winning in the 2010 mid-term elections.

But there was another, more insidious strategy.

Republicans knew they couldn’t come right out and criminalize voting, so they devised ways to make casting ballots harder, more inconvenient, and frustrating, hoping people would stay home rather than go through the rigmarole to practice their civic duty.

That’s when the term “voter fraud” started circulating around right-wing media. Simply accuse random people (mostly immigrants) of voting illegally, and enough “patriots” would rise up in an altruistic fervor to fortify the most fundamental of democratic institutions against those who seek to denigrate it.

Some (Republican) states began instituting “voter I.D.” laws, requiring birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, passports, to “protect election integrity.” After all, minorities vote primarily for Democrats. If they are to preserve their hegemony, Republicans must take evasive measures.

Voter fraud, however, is a myth.

Voter suppression is very much alive in America, and Republican states are setting a record for purging voting roles.

In December, the Associated Press (AP) published a report about Donald Trump’s re-election adviser Justin Clark admitting as much at a Nov. 21 Republican National Lawyers Association’s Wisconsin chapter event in a state Trump narrowly “won” Wisconsin in 2016.

In recent years, Republicans drew electoral districts blatantly benefiting themselvesattempted unsuccessfully to curtail early voting, and implemented an austere voter-ID law that discouraged as many as 23,252 voters in 2016 from casting ballots.

study from the Brennan Center for Justice reported last year that, between 2016 and 2018, at least 17 million voters were purged from nationwide voting rolls.

Voting districts with voter discrimination histories have purged 40% beyond the national average.

This is due almost entirely to the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County vs. Holder decision that rolled back section five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requiring states to receive Justice Department “pre-clearance” before initiating changes to voting laws that may impact minority voters.

Just before the 2016 election, North Carolina permanently closed 158 polling places in the 40 counties comprising the most African American voters.

In 2018, the nation’s highest court decided in favor of the Eighth Circuit Court’s decision allowing North Dakota to require voters to maintain residential street address, not post-office boxes, and an accepted form of identification stating that address, a move that blatantly targets indigenous voters since many live on reservations with P.O. boxes instead of street addresses.

It also ramped up Republican voter-suppression tactics when it decided in a split 5-4 decision along partisan lines to permit Ohio’s system for stripping voters from the rolls to proceed.

And then there’s Florida, where then-Republican Governor now U.S. Senator Rick Scott teamed up with Donald Trump to accuse elections in danger of being “stolen” after Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered recounts in the Senate and gubernatorial races when unofficial results fell within the margin to legally trigger a recount.

Republicans talk a good game about democracy and patriotism.

When it comes down to it, though, waving a flag is meaningless when one’s actions belie the very principles he or she claims to uphold.

Republicans do not want democracy.

They want an oligarchy.

But they know Americans outside the extremely wealthy do not.

So to maintain their wealthy donors’ hegemony, they try to prevent voters from exercising their fundamental right to choose whom they want to represent them.

Why else would they work so hard to suppress votes?

They can’t win unless they cheat.

Image credit: www.flickr.com

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal Nation Rising, and Zoedune.