Following Wisconsin’s Lead, Kentucky Overturns Voter Suppression Veto

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 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 steal votes?

Two weeks ago, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order postponing the state’s presidential primary to June 9, as his counterparts in many other states have done.

That was until the state’s Republican-majority supreme court intervened, ruling elections must be held on schedule despite the coronavirus/COVID-19 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.

Now at least seven have contracted the virus.

That was the green light for Republican states like Kentucky (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state) as the Supreme Court’s Shelby County vs. Holder decision rolling back section five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was back in 2013.

Kentucky Republicans were giddy last Tuesday after overriding a veto on a bill to prevent voter suppression.

In his veto message, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear explained:

“I am vetoing Senate Bill 2 because the provisions of the law would create an obstacle to the ability of Kentuckians to exercise their right to vote, resulting in fewer people voting and undermining our democracy. During this time, the offices that would provide this identification are not open to in-person traffic, which would be necessary to create the actual identification.”

Not only do Republicans want to re-elect Donald Trump.

Kentucky Republicans in particular want Mitch McConnell to retain his Senate seat, and his Democratic challenger, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, is part of a wave of Democratic candidates who have raised more money than their Republican opponents.

By overriding Gov. Beshear’s veto, Republicans in McConnell’s state have attempted to suppress voter turnout enough to allow McConnell to sail into re-election–as Republicans have made an art form.

KY state Senate Majority Leader tweeted:

As Majority Leader, Sen. McConnell is especially valuable to the GOP because of his success at ramming through federal judge confirmations while there is a Republican in the White House.

In light of Wisconsin’s debacle, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has appointed “voter protection directors” in 17 states to prevent prohibited polls access.

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Senate counterpart Ron Wyden (both Democrats) introduced “The Resilient Elections During Quarantines and Natural Disasters Act of 2020,” intending to replicate nationwide what their state has practiced since being passed into law in 1998.

The bill calls for $500 million to help states prepare for voter disruptions the coronavirus may inflict.

Wyden and Minn. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also introduced “The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA)” to allow all states 20 days of early voting, counting mail-in ballots submitted during 21 days before an election, and ensuring all voters have the option to submit absentee ballots.

Other states are taking notice.

New York State Senator Jen Metzger (D–Rosendale) has introduced a bill  (S8120requiring the state board of elections to create a vote-by-mail election plan during emergencies, which would allow state residents to cast via U.S. mail June 2020 ballots should the current crisis continue.

Her plan involves all eligible voters receiving and returning ballots through the mail or delivering them to designated locations–just like OregonWashington, Hawaii, Utah, and Colorado.

This is a complete nightmare to Republicans.

And they aren’t going to stand for it as long as their wealth donors have anything to do with it.

They’re already reviving a George W. Bush-era assault on the United States Postal Service (USPS) by rejecting funds it needs to help deal with and recover from the damage the coronavirus is inflicting on it so any prospects of mail-in balloting are rendered moot.

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

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.

The Brennan Center stated:

“As the country prepares for the 2020 election, election administrators should take steps to ensure that every eligible American can cast a ballot next November. Election day is often too late to discover that a person has been wrongfully purged.”

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.

Last August, it took the two-member Randolph County, Georgia elections board under one minute to vote to shutter 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.”

In Texas, since 2012, more polling places than in any other Southern state–750–have shut down.

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.

As progressive talk show host and author Thom Hartmann wrote in “American Democracy Is on the Brink:”

“If we fail to do something large, substantial and dramatic about the scourge of voter suppression, we must all begin learning how to rivet chains.”

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been 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 The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.