Voter Suppression is Real, and it is Treasonous

Voter Suppression is Real, and it is Treasonous

Voting rights are under attack nationwide as states pass voter suppression laws. These laws lead to significant burdens for eligible voters trying to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right. Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls.

Make no mistake. The measures to keep American citizens from voting is coming from the Republican minority, who has managed to seize control of the nation and now sees their only chance to maintain power is to keep democrats from voting.

So in largely Democratic areas, there will be just one ballot box serving millions of people. Polling places have been closed so that the few remaining open have staggeringly long lines. Court cases brought by Republicans are limiting the time that mail-in ballots can be received and counted.

All of this is to keep Americans from voting.

Now why would any patriotic American government official try to keep fellow Americans from voting? That sounds unpatriotic and downright treasonous.

The answer is that the Republicans are in indeed in the minority in this nation, but they have found a way to snatch power by restricting citizens right to vote – almost exclusively in democratic strongholds.

This is treason.

As the Republicans power is threatened in 2020 by demographic shifts and backlash to a deeply unpopular president, the effort to rule from the minority for a long time to come has become more desperate and more brazen.

Slow down the mail.

Speed up a Supreme Court appointment. 

Shut down polling places in Black communities. Open up more in white ones.

Stop counting people of color in the 2020 Census so they have less representation in Congress and fewer federal dollars invested in their districts.

Just stop counting the actual ballots. (After all, that tactic has worked before.) 

Texas is ahead of the country as a whole in demographic changes. Non-Hispanic white people are already a minority there, accounting for about 40% of the population. But whites represent two-thirds of the state’s congressional delegation and state legislature.  

The white Republican men who hold the state’s most powerful offices have used an array of tactics to prevent more people from voting this year.

Changing demographics have turned Georgia into a battleground state where disenfranchisement tactics narrowly prevented a Black woman, Stacey Abrams, from becoming governor two years ago. Republican Brian Kemp, who beat her in that race, was the architect of those tactics as Georgia’s secretary of state. They included polling place closures, depriving election officials in Black communities of resources, and purging Black people from voting lists. 

In her book “One Person, No Vote,” historian and Emory University Professor Carol Anderson pierces the narrative that emerged around Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

“Republican legislatures and governors systematically blocked African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans from the polls,” Anderson wrote. “Pushed by both the impending demographic collapse of the Republican Party, whose overwhelmingly white constituency is becoming an ever smaller share of the electorate, and the GOP’s extremist inability to craft policies that speak to an increasingly diverse nation, the Republicans opted to disenfranchise rather than reform.”

In 2008, Barack Obama won Indiana, a bastion of Republican control, on the strength of turnout by people of color in Indianapolis. In response, the state closed early voting centers there and opened more in predominantly white communities.

Beyond polling place closures, 2020 voter suppression tactics are modern-day cousins of the white supremacist measures taken to keep Black people from voting in the Jim Crow era.

Then, poll taxes were used to keep Black and low-income people from having a say in elections. 

Today, Republican officials in Florida are requiring people convicted of a felony to pay all associated court fines and fees before their voting rights will be restored. Like so many Jim Crow tactics, it was a back door cancellation of rights that had been extended to predominantly people of color — in this case, by the people of Florida through a statewide referendum.

Then, literacy tests were used to keep Black people from voting. The real point was to build so much subjectivity into the standards by which passing the test was judged that local election officials could prevent whomever they wanted from voting. 

Today, overly complicated requirements for casting absentee ballots build that subjectivity into the process. Your vote might not count because a local official decides that your signature doesn’t match, or you forgot to place your ballot inside an additional security envelope when you sent it in. Some states are allowing voters the chance to correct errors if there’s time before Election Day, while others (again, Texas) have ruled that local officials have no obligation to even notify voters that their ballot was rejected. 

Then, segregationists used a McCarthyist fear of communism around every corner to fight organizers registering Black people to vote. Today, almost every measure that disenfranchises Black, Latino and Native American citizens is based on a false narrative that voter fraud is a widespread problem or threat. 

“These claims of widespread fraud are nothing more than old wine in new bottles,” Max Feldman wrote for the Brennan Center in May. “President Trump and his allies have long claimed, without evidence, that different aspects of our elections are infected with voter fraud. Before mail voting, they pushed similar false narratives about noncitizen voting, voter impersonation, and double voting in order to enact laws that reduce turnout and discredit adverse election results.”

Some tactics that date back to the era before the Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965 haven’t changed at all.

Taking voting rights away from people convicted of felonies started as a way to specifically target Black men, paired with efforts to aggressively arrest them. Today, some form of felony disenfranchisement is the law in every state except Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C., and as of 2016 it prevented more than 6 million adults from voting. That’s up from about 1 million in 1976 and a little over 3 million in 1996. Black people are affected at a rate more than four times greater than white people.

n Tennessee, you can be convicted of a felony and lose your right to vote by protesting for voting rights. And across the country, local election officials are worried that protesters and aggressive “poll watchers,” egged on by Trump, will show up at the polls on Election Day and intimidate voters.

In March, when in-person voting seemed risky due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump said that he was against federal funding to expand voting by mail. Why? Because, he said, it would increase overall turnout to the point where “no Republican would ever be elected again.”

Republican officials at the federal and state level have rejected requests for funding that would help local officials overcome a shortage of poll workers, expand polling places to accommodate proper social distancing and purchase personal protective equipment.

This is treason. This is America.