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Voting Rights Heroes Coming To Save The Day!
The suppression is everywhere. But so is the pushback.
Yr Wonkette has good news! That gum you like is going to come back in style! (In this particular analogy, the gum is "democracy.") While lord knows there's an assload of voter suppression out there, those affected aren't about to just give up and let their votes be taken away -- in North Dakota, for instance, where state efforts to dampen voting by Native Americans has created outrage, tribal governments are working overtime to make sure people can vote. And in quite a few other states, ballot initiatives may well re-enfranchise even more people than the number being shut out of voting by Republican efforts to make voting harder.
As we've already noted, North Dakota Republicans took careful notice in 2012 when Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won election to the US Senate by a margin of just 3,000 votes. The state's Native American community went for Heitkamp in a very big way, so hey, if the state legislature could helpfully shave off a few thousand voters likely to vote Dem, wouldn't that be a wonderful thing? Make it harder for a decent chunk of the state's 30,000 Native voters, and a close race could swing the other way. So in the name of "preventing fraud" -- and without any evidence of any fraud at all -- the Republican dominated lege voted to "improve" the state's voter-ID law. For one thing, military ID cards would no longer be acceptable for voting, which is certainly a slap in the face to The Troops, and just might be related to the fact that Native people have greater per capita participation in military service than any other ethnicity. Is there some outbreak of voter fraud by military men and women?
The really clever move, though, was a requirement that government-issued ID's must display a full street address, not a post office box number. The supposed excuse was that this would prevent hypothetical frauders from pouring into North Dakota, getting a PO Box, and voting, OH NOES, though there's simply no evidence of that happening. But it sure would make voting hard for a lot of Native people whose homes don't have street addresses at all, a not-uncommon thing on several large reservations. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the law -- just a month before the election.
Needless to say, this has pissed off tribal leaders, who are now scrambling to make sure anyone who wants to vote damn well has an ID card with a street address on it:
Tribes have extended their office hours and worked around the clock to find efficient ways to assign addresses and issue identification. They are providing hundreds of free IDs when they would normally charge at least $5 to $10 apiece. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians printed so many IDs that the machine overheated and started melting the cards.
North Dakota's Republican secretary of state, Al Jaeger, claimed the new requirement wouldn't inconvenience anyone: If someone doesn't have a house address, they should just call their county 911 coordinator, and they ought to get one assigned within an hour. Except that's not actually so easy, depending on the county, as the New York Times reports:
In Rolette County, where the Turtle Mountain Reservation is, they have been able to get addresses from the county and IDs from the tribe without much red tape. But at Standing Rock, in Sioux County, the 911 coordinator is the sheriff, Frank Landeis. That's a deterrent to people who are afraid to interact with law enforcement, much less tell the sheriff where they live, and Sheriff Landeis is not easy to reach.
Worse, when people do call Landeis, he may or may not get back to them -- even the Times was unable to reach him. WORSE worse, Landeis seems to be up to some hinky games:
[A] tribal elder, Terry Yellow Fat, got through to Sheriff Landeis only to be assigned the address of a bar near his house. Mr. Semans worried that, in addition to playing into stereotypes about Native Americans and alcohol, this could expose Mr. Yellow Fat to fraud charges if he voted under an address he knew was incorrect.
But with the help of a bunch of graduate students from California, the Standing Rock tribe is doing computer science to the area, mapping precincts by satellite imagery and giving each house a number that can be put on a form letter from tribal leadership. Jaeger wouldn't quite endorse the plan because, he said, whether the tribe has authority to assign house numbers was beyond his office's jurisdiction, but sure, such letters should be legal as voting ID. Reassuring, huh? Tribal officials statewide promise to stay at all polling places to make sure people who want to vote will have the documents they need.
There's still plenty of heinous fuckery that could take place; see the Times piece for a truly outrageous runaround involving ink color a county official gave a Native woman who tried to submit an absentee ballot. But the whole thing has people mad. Not despondent, but action-taking mad:
"I'm past the point of being upset over it," said Lonna Jackson-Street, secretary and treasurer of the Spirit Lake Tribe. "I'm more excited about the outcome, because I think we're going to bring in numbers that we've never seen before."
From your lips to the GOTV vans, Ms. Jackson-Street!
Also too, there's some nicetimes news at the Atlantic, which reports on voter initiatives in multiple states aimed at expanding ballot access for everyone in the belief that democracy works better when more people can vote -- a scary prospect for Republicans. They're all fairly straightforward reforms!
In Michigan, Colorado, and Oklahoma, voters will be asked to approve having nonpartisan commissions redraw voting districts to prevent gerrymandering. It's desperately needed in states where after the 2010 census, Republicans rigged voting districts to maximize Republican power. In Missouri, a somewhat less-aggressive measure would
assign the initial drafting process to a nonpartisan demographer who must follow principles of partisan fairness and competitiveness.
Other voter-empowering measures are on the ballot in Maryland, Michigan, and Nevada, where initiatives would allow automatic voter registration (usually with any interaction with a state office, most commonly the DMV -- of course, people can opt out), or same-day registration on Election Day. This is a Big Fucking Deal:
As measured by the fraction of the voting age population that cast a ballot in 2016, nine out of the top 10 voter-turnout states used either automatic voter registration or same-day registration . This pattern suggests that simply removing the need to plan ahead can boost turnout considerably.
And in Florida, a constitutional amendment on the ballot would provide automatic restoration of voting rights for felons when their sentence (including probation or parole) is completed. Murderers and sex offenders wouldn't be included. Currently, felons who've done their time have to appeal to the state's Executive Clemency Board, and wouldn't you know it, Gov. Rick Voldemort actually made that even harder to achieve, adding a five-year waiting period and making the application process far more cumbersome.
Polls show about 70 percent of Florida voters support the amendment, and it's got support from both lefty types (who just love criminals, you know), but also from the Koch brothers, because libertarians have two good ideas (and legal weed is the other). More states are expected to hold referenda on similar measures in 2020.
And a quick update on that Georgia Nice-Time where a federal judge told Brian Kemp and county officials to stop rejecting absentee ballots because local officials decided the signatures weren't perfect matches to those on file: US District Court Leigh Martin May has told Brian Kemp to go stuff his request to delay her order, because what part of let the people vote doesn't he understand? It's not a final ruling, but it's a valuable step toward letting people, you know, vote.
So while the Republican war on voting continues, the resistance is resisting, on the streets, in the tribal offices, and in the courts. There's even resistance in people's individual ohms. Here's hoping the electorate stays electrified.
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