War on Electoral Democracy

March 12th, 2020 - by BIll Berkowitz / Buzzflash

Election 2020: GOP Maximizing Voter Suppression Strategies Is a GOP Go-To Electoral Election Theft Tool

BIll Berkowitz / Buzzflash

(March 5, 2020) — McLennan County in Texas, the home to Waco’s Baylor University, grew by nearly 15,000 people between 2012 and 2018, with the majority of that growth coming from the Black and Latinx communities. Despite the population boom, “the state closed 44 percent of the county’s polling places in that same time period,” The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman recently reported.  

While voting is the backbone of American democracy, and should be made as uncomplicated and convenient as possible, suppressing the vote is becoming one of the Republican Party’s go-to strategies. “Restricting the terms and requirements of registration is one of the most common forms of voter suppression,” “Block the Vote: Voter Suppression in 2020”, an ACLU report pointed out. “Restrictions can include requiring documents to prove citizenship or identification, onerous penalties for voter registration drives or limiting the window of time in which voters can register.”

Across the country, voter suppression efforts are being promulgated in a number of ways. According to The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, “In the 2016 presidential election, 16 million Americans encountered problems voting, including long lines, inaccessible polling places, strict voter ID requirements, broken voting machines, purging from voter rolls, and voter registration complications. In total, 1.2 million people were unable to cast a ballot because of election administration errors.” 

Thirty-six states have “identification requirements at the polls. Seven states have strict photo ID laws, under which voters must present one of a limited set of forms of government-issued photo ID in order to cast a regular ballot — no exceptions,” according to the ACLU report. 

A number of states have initiated a cleaning up of voter rolls, or voter purges. According to the Brennan Center For Justice, “between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls.” 

The Brennan Center study found that: “In the past five years, four states have engaged in illegal purges, and another four states have implemented unlawful purge rules”; “States use inaccurate information”; and, “A new coterie of activist groups is pressing for aggressive purges.” 

In Texas, hundreds of polling places have been closed, making it much more difficult for black and Latinos to vote. “Last year, Texas led the US south in an unenviable statistic: closing down the most polling stations, making it more difficult for people to vote and arguably benefiting Republicans,” The Guardian’s Richard Salame recently reported.  A Leadership Conference Education Fund report found that 750 polls had been closed statewide since 2012.

While eight years ago, there was one polling place for every 4,000 residents, by 2018 the number “had dropped to one polling place per 7,700 residents. A 2019 paper by University of Houston political scientists found that after the county’s transition to vote centers, more voting locations were closed in Latinx neighborhoods than in non-Latinx neighborhoods, and that Latinx people had to travel farther to vote than non-Hispanic whites,” The Guardian reported.

“Closing polling places has a cascading effect, leading to long lines at other polling places, transportation hurdles, denial of language assistance and other forms of in-person help, and mass confusion about where eligible voters may cast their ballot,” the Leadership Conference Education Fund report said. “For many people, and particularly for voters of color, older voters, rural voters, and voters with disabilities, these burdens make it harder — and sometimes impossible — to vote.”

As Salon’s Igor Derysh recently pointed out, “Though the poll closures are not linked to any specific policy, most came after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, allowing states with a history of voter suppression to make election changes without approval from the federal government. Many Southern states rushed to shut down nearly 1,700 polling places as soon as they were free from federal restrictions.” 

In early February, Politico reported that the Democratic Party will be “spending millions of dollars to fight voter-registration purges, ID requirements and rules regarding signature-matching and ballot order, and they are also hiring voter protection staffers and recruiting and training volunteers in key states,”.

Election 2020 will determine the presidency, control of the House and Senate as well as control over state houses, where decisions regarding redistricting will be made.

“Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places. Let’s start protecting our voters. We know where they are. … Let’s start playing offense a little bit. That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program,” Justin Clark, a senior political adviser and senior counsel to Trump’s reelection campaign, told a Wisconsin chapter meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Association

“Republicans are doing everything they can using gerrymandering, using voter suppression, voter ID laws, changing polling places, closing polling places, to try to block access to the ballot,” Patrick Rodenbush, communications director for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, told Politico.

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