FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Voter Suppression, Not Russia, is the Gravest Threat to Elections in the US

We all have heard about WikiLeaks and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller has once more put that on the front pages. Too often lost in the furor, however, is the far more damaging TrikiLeaks — the tricks and laws used to suppress the vote by partisans, largely Republicans here at home.

After the Supreme Court’s right-wing gang of five gutted key sections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, Republican-controlled states immediately ramped up efforts to create obstacles for voting, particularly for people of color. They mandated specific forms of state ID, made it harder for students to vote, eliminated same-day registration, reduced early voting days, closed polling booths in African American neighborhoods leading to long delays, purged voters from the rolls, perfected partisan gerrymandering and more. In some cases, as in North Carolina, their discriminatory intent was so public that the laws were overturned in federal court, but in most places, the new barriers were in place in 2016.

Did it make a difference? Voting rights expert Ari Berman says, “absolutely.” Overall 14 states had new restrictions in place, passed since the Shelby decision. Look at Wisconsin. Trump won by 22,000 votes. In Wisconsin, 300,000 African American voters didn’t have the newly required strict photo ID. Black voter turnout in Milwaukee declined by 51,000 votes from 2012, while as Lawyers Committee President Kristen Clarke noted, voter turnout rates were depressed across the state.

Now we’re headed into 2020. Republican bastions like Texas, Tennessee and Arizona witnessed surges of Democratic support in 2018. Not surprisingly, they are launching new efforts to suppress the vote. In Texas, the secretary of state announced a plan to purge 95,000 people from the voter rolls because they weren’t citizens. Independent research then demonstrated that in Harris County, which includes Houston, 60 percent of the 30,000 people on the list had received citizenship long ago. Some of the supposed research was 25 years old. Once more citizens had to go to court to try to stop the suppression.

In Texas, state lawmakers are also moving to add criminal penalties for people who improperly fill out voter registration forms, an effort to intimidate nonprofit groups that work to register people to vote. In Arizona, Republicans are making it harder to cast an early ballot. In Tennessee, GOP lawmakers are pushing legislation to fine voter registration groups that submit incomplete forms, even by mistake, up to $10,000. Tequila Johnson, co-founder of the Equity Alliance that focuses on registering people of color, called them out: “We have never seen a bill like this on the floor, until we dared to register 86,000 black and brown people to vote. This screams racism.”

Much, much more attention should be paid to this battle. Happily, the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has made voting rights a priority. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, has launched an investigation of voter suppression in Georgia in 2018, where the victor, Brian Kemp, oversaw the election as secretary state. And, as Cummings detailed, 1.4 million people were purged from the voting rolls from 2012 to 2016, 53,000 — 80 percent of them people of color — had their registrations put on hold; 214 polling places were shuttered, contributing to lines of more than four hours in heavily black precincts.

Some states, happily, are moving to make voting easier and more accessible. Florida citizens passed a historic referendum restoring the right to vote for felons who have paid their debt to society. (Now, Republicans in the legislature are trying to undermine that initiative). Automatic Voting Registration laws have passed in several states. More states are providing longer times for early voting, adding voting booths to reduce long lines and more. Cases to rollback partisan gerrymandering have been successful in federal courts — and now are headed to the Supreme Court. The Brennan Center reports that bills that expand voting rights have seen some movement in 35 states, while those restricting rights have moved in 10 states.

What’s clear is that interference with our elections and with the right to vote will come far more from the efforts of domestic politicians than it will come from whatever mischief the Russians plan. It is revealing that the Trump White House has little to say about Russians. It is even more telling that the Justice Department is absent without leave in the fight against voter suppression at home. The right to vote — the most basic right of a democracy — is still contested in too many states — and must be fought, state by state, by citizens of conscience.

 

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 11, 2019
Aaron Goings, Brian Barnes, and Roger Snider
Class War Violence: Centralia 1919
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
“Other Than Honorable?” Veterans With “Bad Paper” Seek Long Overdue Benefits
Peter Linebaugh
The Worm in the Apple
Joseph Natoli
In the Looming Shadow of Civil War
Robert Fisk
How the Syrian Democratic Forces Were Suddenly Transformed into “Kurdish Forces”
Patrick Cockburn
David Cameron and the Decline of British Leadership
Naomi Oreskes
The Greatest Scam in History: How the Energy Companies Took Us All
Fred Gardner
Most Iraq and Afghanistan Vets now Regret the Mission
Howard Lisnoff
The Dubious Case of Washing Machines and Student Performance
Nino Pagliccia
The Secret of Cuba’s Success: International Solidarity
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Mammon: Amazon and the Seattle Council Elections
Kim C. Domenico
To Overthrow Radical Evil, Part II: A Grandmother’s Proposal
Marc Levy
Veterans’ Day: Four Poems
Weekend Edition
November 08, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Real Constitutional Crisis: The Constitution
Sarah Shenker
My Friend Was Murdered for Trying to Save the Amazon
Rob Urie
Left is the New Right, or Why Marx Matters
Andrew Levine
What Rises to the Level of Impeachability?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Enter Sondland
Matthew Hoh
And the Armies That Remained Suffer’d: Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide
Kirkpatrick Sale
2020: The Incipient Bet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Growing Ecological Civilization in China
Conn Hallinan
Middle East: a Complex Re-alignment
Robert Hunziker
Ignoring Climate Catastrophes
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Repatriate the Children of the Jihad
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Neoliberalism’s Children Rise Up to Demand Justice in Chile and the World
John McMurtry
From Canada’s Election to Public Action: Beyond the Moral Tumor of Alberta Tar-Sands
Pete Dolack
Pacifica’s WBAI Back on the Air But Fight for Non-Corporate Radio Continues
Steven Krichbaum
Eating the Amazon
Louis Proyect
A Socialist Party in Our Time?
Norman Solomon
The Crass Warfare of Billionaires Against Sanders and Warren
Ramzy Baroud
Microsoft Should Not Fund Israeli Spying on Palestinians
Ben Terrall
Nelson Algren and the Pathologies of Life in the USA
John Kendall Hawkins
Flying Leaps, 30 Years Later
Roger Harris
Sierra Club Takes a Commendable Turn on Population, Climate Change, and Inequality
Martha Rosenberg
A New Disease Big Meat Doesn’t Want You to Know About
Dan Bacher
Illegal Loggers Murder Indigenous Forest Guardian in Brazilian Amazon
Christopher Brauchli
The Contemptible Secretary DeVos
Ralph Nader
America’s Streets and Squares Are Waiting: Massive Rallies Work!
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
New Mexico Postcard: The Call of the Sandhill Cranes
Ted Rall
Progressives Care More About Taking the Democratic Party Than Getting Rid of Trump
Philip Doe
Just Another Whitewash: the Federal Investigation of the Firestone Fracking Fire in Colorado 
Dean Baker
The Problems with the “Swiss Model”
Jesse Jackson
A Long Overdue Debate on Medicare-for-All
Brett Wilkins
30 Years Ago, American Nun Dianna Ortiz Was Kidnapped and Tortured in Guatemala, She’s Still Waiting for Truth & Justice
Mel Gurtov
From President to Autocrat
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail