Voter Suppression in the 2018 Midterms

We’re less than two weeks away from the November 6th midterm elections and the strategies of each Party are well defined. Democrats are determined to rally their base and to encourage Independents and inconsistent voters to go to the polls. Republicans are determined to get out their base and to suppress the vote of everyone else.

The GOP voter-suppression strategy has two parts.  At the national level, Donald Trump fans fear by suggesting there is widespread voter cheating.  In a recent Tweet, Trump wrote: “All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!”  (A recent report from The Brennan Center (https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/voter-fraud ) found that voter fraud is “very rare.)  The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights observed: “President Trump’s statement regarding vote fraud is one of the most naked attempts to promote voter suppression that we have seen in modern times.”

The second part of the GOP voter-suppression strategy is at the state level.  There have been Republican voter-suppression laws enacted in 15 states (Arizona to Texas).   The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights noted; “This administration and the Justice Department’s silence regarding widespread voter suppression has been deafening. To date, this Justice Department has failed to file a single case to enforce the Voting Rights Act and has failed to take any action to protect the rights of minority voters.”

The State of Georgia has a particularly egregious campaign of voter suppression. There’s a tight race for Georgia Governor that pits Democrat Stacey Abrams against Republican Brian Kemp.  (The 538 website forecasts that Kemp will get 49.6 percent of the November 6th vote and that Abrams will get 49.2 percent — if this happens, no candidate gets 50 percent plus of the vote, there would be a runoff in December.)

Republican Kemp happens to be Georgia’s current Secretary of State.  He has not recused himself from decisions about Georgia voter eligibility; that’s resulted in a variety of voter suppression issues.  The most recent is Kemp’s invocation of the “exact-match” law to deny 53,000 voter-registration applications.  (This law requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls.)  Kemp has thrown out applications for infractions as minor as a hyphen missing from a surname. (By the way, African-Americans make up thirty-two per cent of the state’s population, but they represent nearly seventy per cent of the suspended applications.)

In a separate action, investigative reporter Greg Palast alleges that Kemp incorrectly purged 340,134 voters from the Georgia data base after dinging them for “no activity.” ( https://www.gregpalast.com/we-sued-brian-kemp-this-morning/)  (By the way, in 2016, Brian Kemp was the only Secretary of State to refuse election-security assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.)

Writing in The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb observed: “The events in Georgia are part of a broader political project. The xenophobia and the resentment that Donald Trump stirred up during the 2016 election are fundamentally concerns about the future of the American electorate. (His reported comment that too many people are immigrating from “shithole countries” in Africa and the Caribbean was paired with a lament that not enough are coming from Europe.) He has repeatedly stated that he lost the popular vote because non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton.”

Thom Hartmann agrees that Trump and Republicans, in general, are conspiring to suppress the vote.  Writing in Common Dreams (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/10/22/stop-gop-voter-suppression-or-else ) Hartmann noted: “In North Carolina, for example, 158 polling places were permanently closed in the 40 counties with the most African American voters just before the 2016 election, leading to a 16 percent decline in African American early voting in that state. An MIT study found that, nationwide, Hispanic voters wait 150 percent longer in line than white voters, and Black voters can expect to wait 200 percent longer in line to vote.”

Many of the new Republican voting laws complicate the notion of a “valid id.”  The New Hampshire Supreme Court just struck down a GOP-led effort targeting students.  Alternet reported, “[The] court struck down a law the GOP had passed in 2017 to impose additional residency restrictions on voters that was crafted to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning college students.”  There have been similar victories in Iowa (http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/tns-iowa-voting-rights.html) and Wisconsin.

Even in Georgia, the courts are moving to protect the right to vote.  On October 24th, a Federal judge stopped Secretary of State Brian Kemp  from rejecting mail-in ballots under Georgia’s exact match law.  PoliticusUsa (https://www.politicususa.com/2018/10/24/georgia-federal-judge-illegal-gop-mail-ballot-attack.html ) reported that Kemp must, “Notify voters of problems with their ballots and [give] them the opportunity to verify their eligibility to vote.”

Georgia Republican Kemp is going to extraordinary lengths to thwart the gubernatorial campaign of Stacey Abrams because she is a formidable candidate with a good chance of winning.  Recently, at a campaign event, Kemp expressed alarm at the success of Abrams’s campaign in generating “an unprecedented number” of absentee ballots, continuing “[this is] something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote — which they absolutely can — and mail those ballots in.”

Kemp, and Republicans in general, should be scared.  Throughout the nation, Democrats have fielded a huge number of competent candidates and Dems have mounted an aggressive effort to get out the vote.  As long as they keep demanding the right to vote, in the courts and at the polls, Democrats will prevail on November 6th.