Voter Suppression Shows Its Ugly Face Amid Historic Voter Turnout

A global pandemic ripping through the United States is not deterring American voters.

More than 91 million have cast their ballots, putting the country on pace to produce the highest voter turnout since 1908.

But this doesn’t mean warnings of voter suppression and states’ attempts to disenfranchise voters are unfounded.

Hours-long wait times and reduction of polling locations and absentee ballot drop-off points, sure to complicate results of an election Donald Trump is likely to challenge, are occurring this very moment.

Voters in Cobb County, Georgia waited in lines so long (up to ten hours), they meshed with DeKalb County voters.

This is being attributed in part to Georgia’s 159 counties updating software on approximately 34,000 ballot marking devices after September’s pre-election testing presented a defect that caused a candidates in the special Senate election to vanish from touchscreens.

As Truthout reported:

“The rushed timeframe severely undercut the ability of the state’s third-party testing lab to conduct a proper review of the modified voting machine software or to perform adequate testing of updated voting machines on a large scale. Yet Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger barreled ahead with the distribution of updated software to the counties anyway.”

This may have been a minor issue if the state had enough paper ballots prepared.

It didn’t.

The Texas state Supreme Court earlier last month upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s order disallowing more than one mail-in ballot drop-off location.

A federal judge later blocked the order.

Last week, the state Supreme Court overturned the federal court’s ruling, allowing Gov. Abbott’s decree to stand.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a lower court’s injunction two weeks ago when it ruled Texas election officials may proceed with mail-in ballot purges without notifying voters if voters’ signatures were in question.

This leads voters to believe their mail-in ballots are being counted without an opportunity to correct any discrepancies.

Texans are undeterred, though.

As of Friday, more than nine million had already voted.

More Texans voted early than the total number of state residents who voted in 2016.

Pennsylvania Republicans and officials from the GOP-led legislature asked the U.S. Supreme Court several weeks ago to review a state supreme court ruling requiring election officials to accept ballots postmarked by election day if they arrive within three days.

The nation’s highest court handed state Republicans a defeat when they upheld the lower court ruling extending mail-in ballots.

It was not so magnanimous last week when it handed a Republican Party victory  prohibiting Wisconsin from extending its election day absentee ballot deadline.

In Florida, Secretary of State Laurel Lee informed election officials the state was beginning to flag voters for voter roll removal if they owed money related to felony convictions.

The state presented localities a narrow view on how to operate ballot drop boxes.

Then there’s North Carolina, where four years ago the 4th Circuit Court determined State Law (SL) 2013-381  “targeted African Americans [for voter suppression] with almost surgical precision.”

Alamance County sheriff’s deputies and city police officers in Graham pepper-sprayed voters peacefully marching in the “I Am Change” rally to a local polling station last Saturday.

While it is normal for about one percent of mail-in votes to be rejected due to problems with voter signatures, missing addresses or dates, voters incorrectly bubbling in ballots, ballots submitted without privacy envelopes, or being received after stated deadlines, experts warn more than a million mail-in ballots could be rejected this election.

Andrea Mercado, executive director of New Florida Majority, a judicial rights group, explained:

“We’re seeing that here in Florida and it’s registering to us because we know that the GOP has used their stranglehold on power…to pass laws like the signature match law that disproportionately disenfranchises Black and brown communities.”

Daniel Smith, University of Florida political science professor, added more than 100,000 mail-in ballots could be rejected in Florida, stating:

“The vote-by-mail ballot rejections are going to be the hanging chads of 2000.”

National campaign director for voting rights group All Voting is Local, Hannah Fried, told Salon:

“Every vote cast can affect the outcome of the election. Every ballot that is rejected could also potentially swing the election and the Electoral College. Rejected ballots can be the margin of error that swings the election results in certain states.”

In 2008, 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 Republican National Lawyers Association’s Wisconsin chapter event.

The AP explained:

“Both parties are pouring millions of dollars into the states, anticipating they’ll be just as critical in the 2020 presidential contest.

“Republican officials publicly signaled plans to step up their Election Day monitoring after a judge in 2018 lifted a consent decree in place since 1982 that barred the Republican National Committee from voter verification and other ‘ballot security’ efforts. Critics have argued the tactics amount to voter intimidation.”

Donald Trump’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service are an integral part of this strategy.

Couple it with Republican-led states’ voter suppression efforts, and it’s a perfect storm manufactured to sweep Trump into a second term and allow Republicans to hold onto the Senate.

Although lines snaking for hours around polling locations may be welcome sights since they indicate voters are serious about not sitting out this election, they are also indicative of voter suppression.

This is all the more reason, though, to show up in droves.

Ballots will be thrown out, either legitimately or insidiously, so flooding the polls tomorrow could produce the overwhelming turnout this country has not seen in over a century.

If you have not voted yet, please get out tomorrow.

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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.