Maybe You Didn't Want To Vote This Year. The GOP Is Here To Make Sure Of It.
Much of America may be shut down right now, but when it comes to voter suppression, Republicans never rest, and they're not about to let some silly "pandemic" slow down their efforts to make sure there aren't too many Democrats allowed to vote. That's true all over the country, not just in Wisconsin, where voters showed up in huge numbers last week to elect a Democrat to the state Supreme Court, despite Republicans doing all they could to make voting difficult, and even life-threatening. Just to remind you that Wisconsin's Risk Coronavirus To Vote election is only one insane example of GOP voter suppression efforts this year, Mother Jones has a hell of a good article on how Republicans are trying to purge voter rolls nationwide. It's just yet another reminder that Republicans don't trust democracy, because it might mean they'd lose power. As we like to say, go read the whole infuriating thing — some readers may want to be sure they've taken their blood pressure meds first.
The piece starts in Wisconsin with the story of Michelle Mackey, an African-American teacher in Milwaukee, who voted in 2016 and should have been safe from the state's voter purge machinery, but who nonetheless showed up to vote in a February election only to be told there wasn't any record of her being registered. Fortunately, she was well aware of the state's recent voter purge, so Mackey anticipated fuckery. She brought along both her photo ID and an an electric bill as proof of residency. Wisconsin still has same-day voter registration, at least, so she was able to reregister and have her vote counted. But if she hadn't planned ahead, she'd have had to go home and bring back proof she was a real resident of her precinct. A lot of people might just give up in that case. Mackey called the whole thing a "slap in the face to minorities and people of color," because, we guess, she's the real racist.
But she's certainly not alone, not in Milwaukee, or in other states where Republicans control state governments. In the name of "ballot integrity," Wisconsin, like several other states, uses the "purge-by-postcard" system, where people who haven't voted in recent elections — or in Mackey's case, some who have, because why not? — are sent postcards from the state asking them to confirm they still live at the address on their registration. The mailings often look like junk mail, but if they're not returned, the voter is assumed to have moved, so they're purged from the voter rolls. Funny thing about who ends up getting purged that way!
In Milwaukee, which is home to nearly two-thirds of the state's Black population, one in eight registered voters was at risk of being purged. African American turnout in the city had already plummeted in 2016 after Republicans passed a voter ID law that, according to a Republican Senate aide's sworn testimony, was aimed squarely at Milwaukee and other Democratic-leaning cities.
Fifty-five percent of the registration notices were sent to municipalities where Hillary Clinton had defeated Donald Trump, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and nine of the 10 areas with the highest concentration of voters on the purge list were big cities and college towns that had voted for Clinton. Milwaukee and Madison, the state's two Democratic strongholds, accounted for 14 percent of the state's registered voters but 23 percent of the names on the removal list. Voters in predominantly Black neighborhoods or areas with large student populations were nearly twice as likely to be flagged for removal, The Guardian found.
Happily for Republicans, the US Supreme Court is just fine with such purges, because unless there's a written note saying "HEY, WE ARE DOING THIS TO STOP BLACKS FROM VOTING," the current Court doesn't think it's really discriminatory. Actually, the Court's 2018 approval of Ohio's purge-by-postcard system came before Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, so maybe even such a note might be legal now.
Wisconsin's state elections commission had planned to give the 234,000 voters on the purge list until 2021 to confirm their eligibility, but last fall a rightwing group sued to make the state do the purge right now, and in November, a sympathetic Republican-appointed judge, Paul Malloy, agreed the list needed to be pruned before anyone voted in 2020. As MoJo points out, that could have big consequences:
That meant 7 percent of the state's electorate could be removed from the voter rolls ahead of what's expected to be a close presidential race in a state Trump won by only 22,000 votes in 2016. Nearly three-quarters of the people on the purge list voted in 2016, suggesting they're likely to want to vote in 2020. In late February, a state appeals court blocked the purge, ruling that local election clerks, not the elections commission, are responsible for maintaining the state's voter rolls. But the state Supreme Court could still revive the purge before the November election.
Gee, wonder if Wisconsin Republicans will insist the purge has to be completed in time to reelect Trump, while there's still a Republican majority on the state Supreme Court?
Again, we urge you to read the whole piece, which also looks at plans to do still more purges in Ohio and in Georgia, even though the purge lists keep turning out to include lots of eligible voters. Tens of thousands of people in battleground states may show up at the polls and find they're not on the rolls, which is of course precisely what Trump wants.
In addition to the horrifying details on this year's planned ratfuck of voter rolls, the piece also has a handy history of voter suppression, which goes all the way back to the 1840s, when Whigs in New York took advantage of the first widespread use of voter registration to prevent voting by new citizens who'd come from Ireland, since they tended to vote for Democrats. Of course, voter suppression really became a science in the post-Reconstruction South. During Jim Crow, segregationists openly published their plans to use voter purges to keep the electorate as white as possible.
And even after the Voting Rights Act and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act — aka the "Motor Voter" law — the GOP has tinkered with voter rolls to give itself an advantage. In Florida in 2000, 12,000 eligible voters were wrongly listed as "felons," and purged from the rolls, because the purge included voters "if 70 percent of the letters in their names matched an entry in the state's felony database." That, children, is 22 times the 537-vote margin by which George W. Bush "won" the state, and the electoral college.
Even the Motor Voter law has been weaponized by Republican administrations to make voting harder, the exact opposite of the 1993 law's intention. It contains a line — added to get Republicans' support in Congress — saying states must make "a reasonable effort to remove" voters who have died or moved, which both the Bush and Trump Justice Departments have used as a cudgel to force aggressive purges by state officials. No matter how frequently those purges also toss out eligible voters. And now, rightwing nonprofits like Judicial Watch and the "Public Interest Legal Foundation" have joined in the game, sending threats of legal action to states and counties to force purges. Voting rights groups have their hands full suing to get some voters restored, because perfectly eligible voters always seem to be among those purged. Funny how that works.
It's infuriating, and we should expect even more fuckery beyond the purges, as Republicans oppose every attempt to make voting by mail a safe alternative to in-person voting during a pandemic. Hell, while writing this story, I decided to hop on Idaho's portal to request a mail-in ballot for next month's statewide primary election. I put in all my information correctly, noted the warning that I could face a $50,000 fine and prison time for submitting false information, and got this:
Fortunately, it worked when I made a fresh try later, but for fuckssake could we please just have universal, automatic registration and vote by mail?
Silly me. Making it easy for all eligible voters to cast a ballot would be the end of the Republic.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.