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Blue voter suppression from the GOP threatens democracy

Judy Garland • Nov 25, 2018 at 7:15 AM

Prior to the midterms, Republican Brian Kemp, the narrowly elected next governor of Georgia, said: “As worried as we were going into the start of early voting, with the literally tens of millions of dollars that they (Democrats) are putting behind the get-out-and-vote efforts for their base, a lot of that was absentee ballot requests. They had just an unprecedented number of that which is something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote ...”

From 2013 to 2017, Kemp oversaw voter suppression tactics, one of which purged 1.3 million Georgians from the polls, without notification — because they had chosen not to vote in a given election. You know, use it or lose it. Of those, 340,134 were legitimate, perhaps had died or moved from the state. However, 850,000 were eligible voters. One of those had voted in every election for 40 years, and it took her daughter two hours to get her a provisional ballot.

On Nov. 3, Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Camp, forced into a run-off Senate election in December against Democrat Mike Espy, said this: “Maybe we just want to make it just a little more difficult to vote.”

North Dakota’s election officials, to prevent Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s re-election, for the first time ever, required a street address to vote. This is because Ms. Heitkamp won her last election with heavy turnout by Native Americans whose tribal registry had always been sufficient. Many thousands who live on the reservations don’t have street addresses, which election officials knew well.

The election board in Dodge City, Kansas, moved the town’s only polling place from a central location to an isolated place outside of town, with no bus service, because of a “nearby construction project” which was non-existent. Not very inconvenient for the more affluent who live on the north side of town, but a significant distance for those, mostly Hispanic, who live on the south side. Maybe deliberate, maybe not, but notifications of the change gave the wrong address.

Trump favorite, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost to Democrat Laura Kelly in the governor’s race in their deep red state, had overseen a virtual voter suppression crusade during his tenure and had his most egregious deeds undone by the courts at significant taxpayer cost. (Kelly won because Republicans, repulsed by the arrogant Kobach, crossed over.)

These are only the most publicized voter suppression efforts, but, in every case, they’ve happened in red states, centers of a concerted Republican campaign to limit the right to vote. Because they are always directed at minority voters who tend to vote Democrat, it has to be called what it is, a way to cheat to win and racist. Add these to radical redistricting already in effect, and you have what Republicans consider a winning strategy. Why not, if you can’t win fairly?

Some states have gone aggressively to voter suppression, like Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota and Kansas, but red states, in general, are very open to it. State legislatures strongly influenced by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the Koch front group, Americans for Prosperity, are all ears, especially when ALEC makes it easy by writing voter-suppression legislation for them.

Both ALEC and the Koch brothers support the Tea Party-affiliated group, True the Vote, which has led the GOP voter suppression efforts since 2009. The group organized under the guise of “preventing voter fraud,” but have proven they are not committed to voter integrity but voter suppression. In a fundraising letter before the midterms, they complained that in Texas “state officials have notified us that counties are being buried under hundreds of thousands of incoming voter registrations, all being strategically submitted (en masse).” Think about it. Citizens registering to vote in record numbers is a BAD thing. And help us raise funds to prevent it.

True the Vote, and, mind you, the president of the United States himself, have done their best to inculcate an atmosphere of conspiracy around voter fraud, and they’re having no difficulty finding like-minded people to aid their misguided cause. They, of course, would like us to forget the embarrassing debacle which was Trump’s short-lived Voter Fraud Commission. It was formed in May 2017, and he tapped (surprise!) Kobach to lead his brilliant inspiration. By January he disbanded it as it had failed to find any evidence, but, as Trump must do, declared it was because of a massive conspiracy against him personally.

Voter suppression is nothing less than a threat to our democracy. If the GOP is culpable, as it surely appears to be, then the GOP has to be held accountable. It’s a harsh indictment of the thousands of honorable local election boards across our country, like the one my husband serves on, who know how to conduct free and fair elections. This must not be considered normal, good people.

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