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July 14, 2024

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Republicans Gear Up Voter Suppression

POSTED: March 04, 2021, 10:30 am

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What the Republican Party took from the 2020 presidential election and the January 6 riot at the Capitol is that the party needs to work harder to suppress the vote. The GOP is now going full throttle to prevent a repeat in 2022 of Democratic turnout in 2020. In Georgia, where Republicans have a lock on state government despite the election of two Democrats to the United States Senate, the party is hell-bent on ending ballot access devices that Black voters too advantage of to increase turnout. Most notably and symbolically, the ‘Souls to the Polls’ tradition of Black churches mobilizing voters to the polls. Clearly, Black voters exercising their voting rights and going to the polls in mass is kryptonite to the Republican Party, as it chooses to engage in post-Reconstruction style voter suppression rather than compete earnestly for the confidence of voters. This strategy is a tacit admission by the GOP that democratic participation is not their concern. What’s more important is rigging the system to push an extreme agenda.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump pushed a false narrative that the nation’s election system is rigged because he foresaw his defeat. Republicans are continuing to make this fraudulent claim and doing so under the false pretense of supporting ‘ballot security.’ That is a term steeped in voter suppression and contrary to the evidence and research concerning election irregularities. The foremost Republican expert on voting is Ben Ginsburg. He has represented the Republican Party over decades and was their point person on elections. During the presidential election, Ginsburg repeatedly made clear that Republicans have never found any evidence of systemic election fraud. This is true despite the GOP turning over every rock to try to find instances of the Democratic Party or Democratic voters manipulating the electoral system to gain advantage. Ginsburg denied any such knowledge of voter fraud and stood by the integrity of balloting in 2020.

Republicans, however, are taking a different tact. In states like Georgia, where efforts by Stacey Abrams and others, produced a large Black voter turnout, the GOP is accelerating legislation to curtail absentee voting, ending automatic voter registration, ban drop boxes for mail ballots, limit early voting and weekend voting, and impose unnecessary and deliberately intimidating voter identification requirements. It is a smorgasbord of voter suppression. The focus is not on ensuring fair elections but instead placing barriers to Black voter participation. It is a naked and racist strategy designed to frustrate Black voters and excise them from civic participation. Hiding behind the ruse of ‘ballot security,’ what the Republican Party is really attempting to do is manufacture a crisis when none exists for the sole purpose of purging Black voters from the political process.
This latest attack on Blacks’ voting rights exposes the emptiness of the Republican Party. It was not long ago when President George W. Bush spoke of ‘compassionate conservatism’ and the Republican National Committee claimed it wanted to bring Blacks back into the GOP. The party even selected an African-American, Michael Steele, as party chairman and boldly proclaimed it was a ‘big tent’ party. Donald Trump’s fascism and racism was apparently a more compelling vision for the Republican Party than any ideal of regaining the trust of what was once its most loyal constituency, the Black electorate. Instead, the party has opted for a 21st century version of the Dixiecrats of the mid-20th century, complete with White violent extremists in tow.

For their part, Democrats in the House have supported a comprehensive voter access bill championed by Maryland congressman John Sarbanes. Officially H.R. 1, the legislation has been given the symbolic designation of the first bill of the 117th Congress to represent its significance to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Popularly referred to as the ‘For the People Act,’ the bill would expand early and absentee voting, allow automatic voter registration and call for an end to partisan gerrymandering during redistricting of state and congressional districts. H.R. 1 also advances a public campaign finance system that would use a small-dollar donor matching system. In all, Sarbanes’ bill is the direct antithesis of the voter suppression monster Republicans are seeking to unleash. The House passed H.R. 1 on March 3rd in a 220 to 210 vote, with no Republican support, and now the bill goes over to the Senate where it faces an uphill battle to approval.

While this jockeying is occurring between the political parties, the United States Supreme Court is hearing a case from Arizona that could have major implications on continued enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. At issue is the practice of discarding of ballots of voters who vote in the wrong precinct and restrictions on who may collect early ballots and deliver them to polling places. A lower court ruling threw out the restrictions as being discriminatory toward minority voters. Having discarded the most powerful enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Section 5, the nation’s high Court will now issue a ruling that could place Section 2 of the Act in jeopardy. Section 2 addresses practices by states that make it more difficult for minority voters to cast ballots and elect representatives of their preference.

Where does all this leave Black voters? For one, it suggests advocates will have their work cut out for them to maintain and increase Black voter registration, and turnout in the coming midterm elections in 2022 and in state gubernatorial elections. One of the side-effects of voter suppression tactics is diminishing the appetite for voting among those groups that are the targets of such tactics. By making voting more difficult, Republicans know it will frustrate voters and compel many to forego casting ballots. It is a means by which to skew the election before ballots are ever cast. It is why Black voters will have to be vigilant and committed to clearing whatever hurdles are imposed to block their vote.
In southern communities in particular, Black voters need to prepare early for upcoming elections. This means checking their voter registration information to make sure it is accurate, as well as knowing in advance their polling location and the period in which voting will be allowed. Voters should also make sure they have appropriate identification and that the information on their ID matches the information on their voter registration record. Lastly, Black families should make certain all family members are properly registered to vote. This is particularly important to increase the number of young, 18 to 24-year old, voters. As Republican legislators seek to restrict access to the ballot, Black voters need to respond accordingly and double-down on efforts to get to the polls.

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