Voter Suppression – Barriers to Voting

In the US, all Federal elections are actually conducted by State and local officials.  33 States are now under control of the Republicans.  These State officials use and abuse every mechanism available to them (see the next section)  to make sure their team wins every election.  Therefore, it is no mystery why, in national poll after poll, Americans support the Democratic positions on the key issues, but somehow Republicans end up being in the majority in Congress year after year!

Gerrymandering congressional districts:  legislators in the States draw the district lines for the US congress in such a way as to help out their own party.  In some states (e.g., California), this power is given to a non-partisan commission.  But, in a majority of the states, and particularly in red states, the state legislatures are accountable for setting Congressional district lines.  This would be bad if each state abused its electioneering powers in some way.  The real problem is that there is a COORDINATED approach to draw district lines to optimize results for one’s own party (See the Redmap references below).  This is one of the biggest issues in our elections today and we need to fix it ASAP!!

Voter ID Laws:  many states require one or more photo identification for the voter to cast a ballot on election day.  That is an onerous requirement for the poor, the infirm, the old, and any others who are citizens, but cannot afford to spend the time and money to acquire State-issued identifications.

Barriers to Early Voting / Absentee Voting:  in many states, Republicans study voter behavior.  If early voting or absentee balloting is shown to help Democrats (e.g., elderly people and church going Black families who prefer early voting), Republicans will pass laws to restrict voting to specific days and times to suppress the vote.

Distribution of Polling Stations:  In state after state, Republican legislators reduce the number of polling places available in large urban areas.  Reports about long election-day lines in states like Ohio or Florida have been a staple of election-day news coverage.  This is not a lack of resources or a mistake.  It is conscious strategy by Republicans.   If you make it hard for people to get to the polling station or if the lines are uncommonly wrong, you can get people to leave without voting. By most statistics, only 25% of poor people vote.  There are different reasons for this, but one of them is that the poor cannot afford to travel or miss work in order to vote.  And yes, the poor skew Demoratic by a big margin.   An egregious example:  In the state of Alaska, a polling place has been re-located 75 miles away from a Native American community!

Crosscheck Program:  More verbosely, Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, this insidious voter suppression method involves exchanging of voter registration information between “cooperating” states.  If any official thinks one of the names is multiply registered, that person’s name is taken off ALL the rolls.  Tens of thousands of people have lost their franchise in this manner.   [ Rolling Stone Piece ]

No Vote for Felons:  Republicans in many states have worked tirelessly to ensure that anyone who has a single felony can never vote ever again.  Some states are more liberal than others on this issue (e.g., denying those who are incarcerated the franchise, but not once you are released).  But, most red states take every opportunity to suppress this vote because they are disproportionately poor and people of color –yes, typically they lean Democratic. [ Rights of Felons ]

Federal Voting Rights Laws Gutted in 2013
In the 1960s, Voting Rights laws were passed to ensure that the different States conduct elections in a fair manner – without undue burdens to people of color and the poor. These laws had been renewed every time they came up for review because it was evident to anyone fair minded that the States would find ways to abuse their power to manage elections if it meant perpetuation of their hold on power in that state.  States in the old Confederacy and several others were designated to be monitored carefully in this regard.  And they were. Until:

  • The Roberts Court Sets Voting Rights Back:  Until June 2013, Federal Voting Rights Laws required that changes to state regulations had to be cleared by the US Justice Department, especially if the states involved had a history of racism in electoral practices.  These Voting Rights Laws were repealed in June 2013, when John Roberts, and the 4 other conservatives on the SCOTUS, decided that racism was no longer an issue in the US.  Now, each citizen who is discriminated against on election matters has to seek redress on his or her own.
  • Did I say “Justice Department?”  Well, even if the Roberts court had miraculously decided not to get rid of the Voting Rights Act, enforcement of election regulations and pursuing violators of voting rights laws must be carried out by the US Department of Justice.  Well!  There now sits atop the “Justice” department one Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Simpson – a son of the Confederacy and proud of it!  He would never have pursued the Voting Rights Act violations even if he had been unfortunate enough to witness one under his very nose.