Republicans Sure Hate It When People Can Vote. Wonder Why?
Republicans really, REALLY hate House Resolution 1, the Democrats' first big bill of the new House session. The great big restoring-democracy proposal includes all sorts of measures aimed at letting people vote more freely, like automatic voter registration, stopping voter suppression, restoring the parts of the Voting Rights Act that the Supremes tossed in 2013 because there's no discrimination anymore, and ending gerrymandering by requiring that congressional districts be drawn by nonpartisan commissions. It would also require transparency for donations to super PACs, so of course lobbyists and rightwing dark money groups HATE it. The bill, called the "For the People Act," got its first hearing Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee, and golly, you'd be astonished at the wails from Republicans about how making elections fair for all voters is a dirty Democrat plot to destroy America with leftism and negroes. (We're joking of course. You're sophisticated Wonkette readers, so of course you wouldn't be surprised at all.)
The hearing went about like you'd expect: Democratic lawmakers and witnesses pointed to all the efforts Republicans have taken to suppress the vote, and Republicans insisted there's no such thing, just absolutely necessary measures to protect the "integrity" of elections (by making sure only the right people can vote). And while the debate was taking place in the House, the Republican arguments all sounded a heck of a lot like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's op-ed in the Washington Post a couple weeks back, in which he fretted the mean old Democrats are actually aiming for a "naked power grab" that would give them an unfair advantage. You know, by undoing some of the unfair advantages Republicans have so carefully constructed for themselves over the past few decades.
McConnell even weighed in on HR 1's threat to freedom yesterday himself, claiming one provision in the bill -- making Election Day a federal holiday so more people can vote -- was just a terrible idea, because if voting is easy, Democrats would get elected, and that is NOT FAIR:
In remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats "want taxpayers on the hook for generous new benefits for federal bureaucrats and government employees," including making Election Day a "new paid holiday for government workers."
"So this is the Democrats' plan to 'restore democracy,'" McConnell said, describing the legislation as "a political power grab that's smelling more and more like what it is."
Yup, that's exactly what letting more Americans vote more easily would be: an unconscionable bid to not let Republicans rig the rules. Or as Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii explained,
As Daniel Jacobson, a former attorney in the Obama White House, pointed out on the Twitters, there's a real problem with Republican arguments over gerrymandering:
4/ Finally, the GOP simultaneously takes the following positions: i. Both parties gerrymander equally badly so it… https://t.co/Lllxn5JFcm— Daniel Jacobson (@Daniel Jacobson)1548881333.0
Pretty much all the Republicans insisted there's nothing at all wrong with voting, so we should leave things exactly as they are. There's nothing wrong with three-hour waits at the polls, said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking R on the Judiciary Committee, because after all, Georgia already has early voting, and those long lines "actually should be applauded. We have long lines because a lot of people wanted to vote." Funny how the longest lines always seem to be in areas with large minority populations. Really inspiring how those people just crowd into the precincts to use the few voting machines allotted to them.
Tellingly, the only two witnesses for the Republicans were the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky and the Public Interest Legal Foundation's J. Christian Adams. Both were appointed to Donald Trump's abandoned and discredited Fraudulent Voting Commission, and both are BIG proponents of the myth that there's rampant voter fraud out there -- and as evidence, they said there's rampant voter fraud out there. Adams claimed federal laws mandating uniform access to the ballot would be a horrible overreach, because States' Rights!!!!
[Adams] insisted it's never been easier to vote, that it is actually "harder to avoid opportunities to vote" when you have the ability to register from your front porch, drug treatment facilities and even at popular music festivals like Lollapalooza.
"Decentralized elections are more democratic," he said, because they are run closer to the voters and are at less risk for manipulation.
Heck, if states aren't allowed to rig their own elections, there's no telling what mischief the wrong people might get up to, like having everyone's vote count equally. Then you might not be able to gerrrymander a Republican majority in states like Michigan, where last fall Democrats got more votes, but the GOP held on to both houses of the state lege.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, testified about case after case of GOP-led efforts to restrict ballot access, and about the need to restore and update the 1965 Voting Rights Act's requirement that jurisdictions with a history of discrimination get pre-clearance by a federal judge before changing voting procedures. Once the Supreme Court struck down that part of the VRA in 2013, a whole bunch of nasty fuckery started showing up:
Ifill pointed out that the pre-clearance section of the VRA was "expressly designed" to end not only the vote-suppression fuckery of 1965, but also to "address the 'ingenious methods that might be devised and used in the future' to suppress the full voting strength of African Americans." She noted that voter suppression efforts in Georgia's gubernatorial election got underway well before the election itself, and highlighted other suppression efforts around the country -- all of them in states of the former Confederacy, if you can believe that!
Ifill also laid into the deceptive testimony of Hans Von Spakovsky, the Heritage Foundation's "expert" on "voter fraud." Von Spakovsky has a long track record of exaggerating the threat of elections being stolen, and was rebuked by the federal judge in last year's case overturning Kansas voter registration restrictions (she said his work relied on "misleading evidence and largely based on his preconceived beliefs about this issue"). Von Spakovsky testified voter ID laws have all sorts of wonderful protections against discrimination, so what's the big deal?
Ifill noted those protections only came in settlements after the states were sued to challenge them, and that Republicans just can't seem to stop lying about access to the ballot:
WATCH: @Sifill_LDF calls out misleading testimony and how "shading the reality of what it takes for lawyers and com… https://t.co/ThBG7J8e6K— Legal Defense Fund (@Legal Defense Fund)1548783466.0
This is the kind of testimony that I find the most disturbing because it is so misleading [...] To the extent that these voter ID laws now include this reasonable exception, it is because we had to litigate it over years. And the settlement of those cases came after years and years of elections in which voters were disenfranchised and unable to participate in the political process.
It's this kind of shading of the truth, shading of the reality of what it takes for lawyers and communities to challenge discriminatory voting practices, is the reason why we need HR 1. If we have a long history of voter fraud in this country we have a longer history of racism and voter disenfranchisement.
Republicans also went after the provision in the bill that would restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences. It would essentially be a national version of the Florida voter initiative that restored voting rights to former felons.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) claimed that Democrats want ex-felons to regain the right to vote merely to build power for their party [...]
Collins argued that the bill could be called the "For The Violent Criminals Act" because it provided ex-felons with a right to vote. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) attacked the legislation for seeking to restore voting rights to all former felons. He read from a list of criminals who violated election laws or raped children and asked why they should be allowed to vote.
Maybe because such laws are a legacy of Jim Crow, and they just happen to mostly disenfranchise black voters. But hey, you know how Democrats are soft on crime and stuff.
Honestly, you'd think Republicans would be more thoughtful to protect the rights of felons. Donald Trump probably won't get around to pardoning everyone in his administration.
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