OPINION: Voter suppression rampant, country needs to take action now

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A woman holds a sign that reads, “Voter Suppression Is UnAmerican” and marches amongst others in a peaceful demonstration. (Michael Fleshman | Flickr)
By Paul Quick

The Republican Party is mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore.

What is the “it,” you ask? The “it” is losing statewide and national elections due to minority voting in historically Republican states. It appears that the last straw was the highly publicized loss of two senate runoff elections in Georgia this past January. In that election, two Democrats, Georgia senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, bested their Republican counterparts in the historically red state.

To combat minority voter turnout in Georgia, Arizona and other states, the Republican Party has launched an all-out assault on voters’ rights. Rather than make any effort at broadening its voter base, Republicans have instead decided that voter suppression is the name of the game.

To this end, Republicans have carried over or introduced at least 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice. 

According to Kenneth Meyer, an expert on voting and elections at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the GOP is avoiding the route a losing party might usually take.

“The typical response by a losing party in a functioning democracy is that they alter their platform to make it more appealing,” Meyer told The New York Times. “Here, the response is to try to keep people from voting. It’s dangerously antidemocratic.”

Georgia Republicans passed a sweeping law to restrict voter access. Some of the new provisions include more rigid voter identification for absentee voting, further limitation of drop boxes, restrictions on who can vote with provisional ballots and, perhaps most disturbing, expansion of the legislature’s power over elections. They even made it a crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in line.

A similar law passed in Iowa, and Republicans are moving full speed ahead with similar efforts to restrict voting in Arizona, Florida and Texas.

On March 24, Michigan Republicans introduced bills that would establish numerous voting restrictions. Many of the bills presented in Michigan appear to be worded to address debunked election fraud theories.

These include allowing people from each party to oversee all precinct audits, making it a misdemeanor to impede a poll watcher from recording ballot counting with their phones or cameras. Other bills focus on increasing poll challenges and poll watcher training.

All of these efforts are squarely aimed at Black, Brown and young voters. The new barriers to casting votes via mail ballots, which Democrats widely used, are obvious. But if you think it stops there, let me enlighten you.

Republicans are seeking to revise the Electoral College process and judicial election rules solely for the benefit of Republicans. There are even initiatives to lessen citizen-led ballot drives’ effectiveness and outlaw private donations for funding the administration of elections in certain districts.

These measures have been under the premise of stopping voter fraud even though multiple studies and investigations have shown it barely exists.

An example of this is the state of Iowa. There was a record turnout of voters in this past November’s election. Republicans were by far the beneficiary of this record turnout. However, the state has taken steps to increase the strength of the Republican candidates even further by cutting early voting by nine days, closing polls an hour earlier and putting further restrictions on absentee voting.

Former Sen. Jim Carlin, R-IA, made the party’s position clear when he said, “most of us in my caucus believe the election was stolen.”  

Where is the proof? Republicans apparently don’t trouble themselves with proof. If the Donald said it happened, it happened.

Another glaring example is the state of Arizona, which Biden won by a razor-thin margin. A Republican lawmaker has proposed legislation that would allow state representatives to ignore the results of presidential elections and decide for themselves who would receive the state’s electoral votes.

The Republican Party is in full-blown panic mode. All of the efforts amount to a desperate attempt to hold onto power and mold the electorate to help them win elections without majority support.

Another aspect of the Republican efforts that should cause great concern is assistance from the army of conservative judges appointed during Trump’s stay in the White House.

Republican legislators propose more and more voter suppression measures. The Supreme Court ratifies them and clears a legal path for even more voter suppression. Soon, the Voting Rights Act will have little of its intended benefit. Already, the Justice Department has been stripped of its involvement in state elections that historically discriminate against Black and Brown voters.

So, what do we do to stem the tide of White Supremacy-driven legislation that seeks to dominate the electoral system?

The current administration and Democrats, in general, need to fight like hell to dismantle and undermine this effort. 

Like the country took to the streets to demand racial justice, we need a similar movement to protect equal access to vote by its citizens regardless of race or political affiliation. Let them know that we are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore!

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