On the Twelfth Day of Election Season, The Republicans Took From Me…
This election season, Republicans across the country are using every trick possible to suppress votes.
Just like how the fabled Grinch snuck into homes to steal presents from sleeping children, Republicans today are finding clever ways to sneak into the election process and take away the gift of voting. Voters across the country are being exposed to a barrage of new voting suppression methods designed to reduce votes cast by democratic voters. These attempts stem from the fact that Republican strategists are realizing that they may lose big in the upcoming election. States such as Texas, Florida, and Arizona, which had been safe for Republicans, are now “in play” for Democrats. As panic sets in, Republican party operatives are implementing new strategies, as well as relying on some old ones, to prevent Democratic votes from being counted.
Below is a brief summary of twelve recent attempts by Republicans from across the country to engage in voter suppression and make it more difficult to get votes counted.
Republican Election Season Gift 1: In Pennsylvania, state Republicans a day after the first presidential debate have introduced House Resolution 1032 which would create an “election integrity” panel of three Republicans and two Democrats which “investigate, review, and make recommendations concerning the regulation and conduct of the 2020 general election”. This vaguely worded law could give Republicans the power to confiscate and prevent ballots from being counted.
Republican Election Season Gift 2: In Texas Republican governor Greg Abbott of Texas issued a proclamation ordering that absentee ballot drop-off locations be limited to one per county in the massive state. This action was taken because recent polls show that Biden and Trump are running neck and neck. Therefore, a strategy needed to be developed to reduce democratic votes. Why this strategy? Because Democratic voters are more likely to vote absentee ballot, while Trump voters are more likely to vote in person. Having only one ballot drop off location will make it difficult for a portion of voters to drive the distance to drop off their ballots. This will help Republicans as some counties, such as in Harris County, a democratic stronghold is larger than the state of Rhode Island and has a population of 4.7 million.
Republican Election Season Gift 3: In Madison, Wisconsin a “Democracy in the Park” event was held where poll workers were stationed at over 200 locations, mostly parks, where they collected absentee ballots. Poll workers made the decision to accept ballots in city parks because many voters are worried about their absentee ballots getting collected on time because the city has not yet installed early ballot drop off boxes and fears that the post office will not be able to return their ballots in time. Republicans are threatening to take the matter up in the courts and have the votes invalidated because they believe state law doesn’t allow in-person state voting to occur until October 20th. Republican legislators refuse to vote on bills to allow for early counting of mailed-in ballots.
Republican Election Season Gift 4: In Florida, residents voted to restore voting rights to felons after they have served their sentence. Florida Republicans quickly passed a law saying the right to vote would be withheld until all fees and fines are paid off. Because most felons do not have the financial means to pay off their fines and fees, there are now fundraising efforts to raise money to assist paying off those debts to the state. Attorney General Ashley Moody is now asking the FBI to investigate to see if fund raising efforts used to pay the fees and fines for felons who have served their time and reentered society violate Florida law. The Attorney General’s efforts makes clear that Republicans do not want ex-felons, most of whom are Black and Hispanic and vote mostly for Democrats, to be able to cast their votes in a state that is in-play for team Blue.
Republican Election Season Gift 5: Staying in Florida, their Senator Rick Scott has proposed a bill titled Help America Vote Act of 2020, that would require all mail-in ballots to be counted within 24 hours of when voting closes on election day. In a year when the nation is struggling with a ravaging pandemic and where voters are relying on mail-in ballots in unprecedented numbers, it is clear that such a law would result in an untold number of votes going uncounted. Once again, because Democratic voters are much more likely than Republican voters to vote through the mail, the result will be the suppression of Democratic votes.
Republican Election Season Gift 6: Republicans in the Senate have had nearly five months to vote on the HEROES Act which was passed by the House and would provide $3.6 billion dollars for state and local election officials to help provide a safe and secure vote during a pandemic. Republicans understand that not awarding the funds to the states will ensure the election will be a fiasco resulting in fewer votes being counted, absentee ballots cast by Democrats the most likely to be suffer.
Republican Election Season Gift 7: President Trump has made repeated calls, often at campaign rallies, to have his supporters monitor and patrol voting places in search of supposed voting fraud. It has been long standing practice to allow volunteers and party officials to observe polling places in the United States. But states don’t allow random people to show up unannounced. They need to meet qualifications, get training, and register in advance. Trump supporters have already been seen patrolling polling places in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Many people, especially minority voters, view this as intimidation. Republican strategists are hoping enough Democratic voters are fearful enough to vote to steer the election to Trump. Republicans have used this strategy in the past. The events in Orange County in 1988 demonstrate how effective it can be.
Republican Election Season Gift 8: This one comes from Trump himself. He has repeatedly claimed at campaign rallies that the only way he can lose the election is if the election is rigged in favor of Biden. These claims are designed to create a lack of confidence in the outcome of the election and to send a clear message to his supporters that they are to challenge a lost election and take to the streets to prevent a Democratic from occupying the White House.
Republican Election Season Gift 9: Limiting the ability of the post office to deliver returned absentee ballots in a timely manner. President Trump has stated that he declined approving $25 billion in emergency funding because he does not want to fund the post office because Democrats want to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump said:
“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Why does this matter? Because a recent NBCLX/YouGov poll found that 65 percent of Democrats who plan to vote by mail said they will send in their ballots at least a month before Election Day. On the other hand, 49 percent of independent voters and 40 percent of Republicans said they plan to send ballots at least a month ahead of time. Lous DeJoy, postmaster general and huge donor for Trump, has ordered mail sorting machines to be removed and for postal workers to not work overtime. This will have the affect of counting all mail-in ballots an extremely difficult task.
Republican Election Season Gift 10: Shortening the time for the Census Bureau to collect information for our nation’s once-every-decade head count. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has decided to ignore a federal court order and to shut down the Census count. Ending the count early will ensure an undercount- especially in communities of color, high poverty areas, and immigrant neighborhoods- all of which tend to vote heavily for Democrats. Undercounting will also impact the amount of federal dollars that will go to states for public services such as Medicare and Medicaid. This is not the first attempt to use the Census Bureau to limit voting. In 2019 the Trump Administration tried to insert a citizenship question into the survey which was a blatant attempt to scare away Hispanic voters and to make easier the drawing of gerrymandered political districts that favor Republicans.
Republican Election Season Gift 11: Much of the voter suppression attempts have been focused on the Black and Hispanic communities. But the original occupants of this country are not immune from voter suppression attacks. A recent report, Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native American Voters, was released June 4, 2020, and provides detailed evidence that Native people face obstacles at every turn in the electoral process: from registering to vote, to casting votes, to having votes counted. The report details barriers to voting which include long distances to polling sites off-reservation, inadequate language assistance with voter guides or ballots, and poll officials’ rejection of tribal IDs. Also discussed was state redistricting plans that use a method called “cracking” to split a reservation into different voter districts, diluting voting strength. On September 25, 2020, a Montana court permanently struck down a state law that severely restricted the right to vote for indigenous people living on rural reservations. The law set an arbitrary limit on the number of ballots an individual could collect and also restricted the categories of individuals who were permitted to collect ballots. These limitations were intended to suppress turnout on rural reservations, where geographic and socioeconomic barriers to voting make ballot collection even more difficult.
Republican Election Season Gift 12: If Republican voter suppression efforts get scrutinized or challenged, then they have an “ace up their sleeve”- the courts. This is why Mitch McConnell works so hard at filling judicial seats. Republican judges at the state level as well as the federal level can make rulings that allow for voter suppression to continue. Since his ruling in Shelby County V. Holder in 2013, which ended the requirement that certain states and local governments had to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has signaled his disdain for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The attitude of the current Supreme Court means that election laws, such as the recent Texas law which permits voters over the age of 65 to obtain an absentee ballot, but forbids most younger voters from voting by mail, will be upheld if challenged and make their way to the Roberts Court.
The above list of Republican voter suppression attempts should not be seen as exhaustive. Nor should voters think that the Democratic party is incapable of voter suppression. The Democratic Party has used voter suppression in the primaries to prevent progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders from leading the party. But right now in the general election, it is the Republican Party which is engaging in widespread, nationwide voter suppression.
Because minority voters are much more likely to vote for Democrats, it allows Republicans to use race to identify which voters to target for voter suppression. The fact that we live in largely segregated neighborhoods means Republicans can hone in their voter suppression with the efficiency of Google Maps.
There is no doubt that Republican voter suppression efforts will be a key factor in determining the outcome of the 2020 election. Let us hope they are not enough to affect the outcome of the election or to cause Americans to lose faith in the survival of their democracy.