Published 6:44 PM EDT Oct 17, 2018
One of the most self-destructive features of the Republican Party is a reliance on repressive election laws to obtain and maintain power. It is one reason the GOP controls the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.
This can be seen graphically in the grotesquely gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts they have drawn in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas. In the Austin area, for example, urban and suburban Democratic voters are split among five mostly rural Republican districts.
The GOP’s cheap tricks don’t stop with gerrymandering. They are also evident in state laws that restrict some people from registering to vote or kick them off the rolls if they area already registered.
While these techniques might be effective in the short run, they will help cement the Republicans' reputation as a party with a serious problem with democracy, a hard reputation to live down.
OPPOSING VIEW: Election integrity should not be seen as a partisan issue
Exhibit A for Republican bad acts would have to be Georgia, a state with a Republican legislature and Republican governor, but which is increasingly competitive and has a surprisingly tight gubernatorial race this year. Georgia passed a law last year that says information on registration forms must exactly match what is on file in public agencies, down to details as irrelevant as the presence or absence of a hyphen.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who also happens to be the GOP candidate in that very tight governor's race, has used that law to block a reported 53,000 voter registration forms, largely from African-Americans. These people can still vote if they bring in an ID that matches government databases, though many might not be aware of this. What's more, their registrations will be canceled if they do not correct the clerical error.
In North Dakota, meanwhile, thousands of Native Americans are unable to register because they do not have street addresses. They don’t have addresses because the Postal Service won’t deliver to their remote homes on reservations and insists that they create a post office box as their mailing address. The irony here is palpable. The people who lived in North America long before anyone else are told they can’t vote because they are not sufficiently rooted.
To add to the misery, Republican office holders are also purging voters from the ranks of the already registered. Cleaning up voter registration rolls, to account for people who die or move away, is a legitimate part of managing elections. But it can be done in too aggressive and too selective a manner.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most aggressive purging has been done in at least eight mostly Southern states controlled by Republicans and with a history of racial discrimination, according to the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice.
Other tactics include throwing up unneeded barriers to registering voters. In Texas, for instance, a state that prides itself on its deregulatory atmosphere, requires that anyone who assists in registering voters attend a training course and be licensed by the state. As most of this work is done by armies of volunteers dedicating a few hours at a time, this law needlessly hinders registration of valid voters.
The rationale for these laws and measures is need to clamp down on voter fraud, which is at such minuscule levels as to be practically nonexistent.
The real fraud here is the efforts to keep those with every right to vote from exercising one of their most fundamental liberties.
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