As their conservative white voter base continues to shrink, Republicans increasingly are turning to voter suppression tactics to make up the difference and maintain their hold on power, maneuvers nearly always rationalized by the specter of rampant voter fraud.
A recent report by The Daily Beast highlighted five of these tactics and outlined the devastating effect each has on shutting down the voices of left-leaning and disproportionately non-white Americans.
> A review by The Daily Beast found at least five voter-suppression practices in active use today. All are led by Republicans, all have disproportionate effects on non-white populations, and all are rationalized by bogus claims of voter fraud. They include:
- Closing polling places in communities of color
- Purging eligible voters from the rolls without their knowledge
- Barring felons from voting
- Voter ID laws
- Eliminating early voting
> Each one of these alone is troubling. In the aggregate, though, they paint an unmistakable picture of Republican efforts to hold on to power in an increasingly non-white nation by making it harder for non-white people to vote.
Crucial to this endeavor was the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in the case Shelby County v. Holder, which undercut the Voting Rights Act, the Daily Beast noted.
By taking away the protections associated with the law, the Supreme Court gave states the greenlight to implement discriminatory measures with little to no oversight.
> Prior to Shelby County, states with a history of racial discrimination had to secure advance clearance from the federal government before changing voting processes. But Shelby County did away with those requirements, opening the floodgates to voter suppression. In the case of polling places specifically, pre-Shelby County, states had to notify voters if their polling places had changed, but that requirement was removed in 2013.
This was the same year President Barack Obama began his second term, after securing reelection in 2012.
> According to Carol Anderson, author of One Person, No Vote: The Impact of Voter Suppression in America, the Obama coalition brought in 15 million new voters, mostly young people and people of color. 2012 was when the demographic writing was on the wall.
> Since then, a study by the Leadership Conference Education Fund found that 868 polling places had been closed in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. A second study found 214 polling places (8 percent of the state’s total) have been closed since 2012 in Georgia, where Secretary of State Brian Kemp is now the Republican candidate for governor. He’s running in a dead heat with longtime voting rights activist, Democratic state representative Stacey Abrams.)
> As a result of Kemp’s closures, 53 of Georgia’s 159 counties have fewer precincts today than they did in 2012. Of those 53 counties, 39 have poverty rates that are higher than the state average, and 30 have black populations of more than 25 percent. In other words, three-quarters of the counties affected are disproportionately non-white.
Intentionally or otherwise, such polling place closures result in the disenfranchisement of far more voters of color than those who are white:
> In sum, the 2018 report of the nonpartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights—a massive, 400-page tome based on voluminous statistical data—concluded that in states like Georgia “cuts to polling places resulted in decreased minority-voter access and influence.”
Kemp also is a fan of another Republican voter suppression tactic: purging voter rolls.
> Voter rolls are supposed to be maintained to ensure accuracy, but lately the criteria for being purged, and the difficulty of getting un-purged, have amplified considerably. And as the Commission on Civil Rights report concluded, “voter roll purges often disproportionately affect African-American or Latino-American voters.”
> Once again, Georgia and Brian Kemp provide a chilling example. This week, the Associated Press revealed that Kemp has implemented an “exact match” policy that disqualifies voters if their names do not precisely match records held by the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. Typos, missing hyphens, or clerical errors cause voters to be purged unless they can prove the purge was in error.
Investigative journalist Greg Palast has painstakingly combed through the list of the 53,000 voters currently caught up in Kemp’s voter registration limbo and found thousands of names wrongly placed on the list.
If those voters fail to contact the state in order to be reinstated, they will be unable to vote in the upcoming midterm election — which is now less than one month away.
> There’s no doubt as to why Kemp is doing this. In a closed-door session of Republican politicians last July, Kemp said, “The Democrats are working hard. There have been these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines. If they can do that, they can win these elections in November.”
> Kemp cited the risk of voter fraud, but his own office’s investigation in 2014 found only a few dozen potentially fraudulent voter applications among tens of thousands that were investigated. While voter fraud is fake, voter suppression is very real.
Ohio has found another way to purge its voter rolls:
> If you fail to vote for two elections, you’re sent a notice; and if you don’t answer the notice, you’re purged from the rolls.
> Once again, to get a sense of what that means, check the numbers. In 2016, 2.2 million Ohioans didn’t vote. In 2014, 4.6 million didn’t. If you assume that the 2016 non-voters probably sat out 2014 as well, that means 2.2 million people have now been sent a single mailed notice that they had to send back to get put back on the rolls in time for the 2018 election.