Sabotaging Democracy

The GOP doesn’t have broad enough appeal to fairly produce an election majority, so it has resorted to sabotaging democracy.

Little-known fact: In more and more races, the GOP doesn’t have broad enough appeal to fairly produce an election majority, so it has resorted to sabotaging democracy — rigging the system so a minority prevails. As far-right tactician Paul Weyrich once bluntly put it: “I don’t want everybody to vote. … Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Thus, the right’s electioneering strategy is to shrink turnout by blocking its opponents’ core supporters — particularly African Americans, Latinx people, Native Americans, union members and young people — from even entering polling places. This scheme is more than voter suppression; it’s straight-out election sabotage.

Leave it to sour Republican leader Mitch McConnell to flat-out deny the existence of that elephant in America’s voting space: “There’s very little tangible evidence of this whole voter suppression nonsense that the Democrats are promoting,” he recently grumbled. Well, yeah — if, like Mitch, you squeeze your eyes shut real tight and plug your ears with corporate campaign cash, you’ll see, hear and speak no evil of the corrupt practices occurring right in front of us. Otherwise, it’s easy to see how hyperpartisan Republicans have intensified their efforts to steal targeted peoples’ right to vote: Over the past decade, half the states have erected hundreds of new barriers. In a crass perversion of language, they couch their theft as “protecting the integrity of the ballot,” but — to re-aim McConnell’s dismissive word — that’s nonsense … and morally abominable.

To get his way in business, with women, etc., President Donald Trump has always been fiercely litigious, and now he’s counting on his legal fixers to rig the system for his reelection. As of August, his campaign and the Republican Party had amassed a $20 million war chest for voting-related lawsuits, with many already filed in the battlegrounds of Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In Florida, for example, they’ve sued to stop postage-paid return envelopes. In Pennsylvania, they’ve sued all 67 counties to allow GOP-hired, out-of-county “poll watchers” who, it is feared, will castigate and challenge voters. And they’ve sued California and Nevada to keep them from mailing ballots to all eligible voters.

Trump himself sees these courtroom efforts to restrict access to the polls as crucial. He told Politico in June: “We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don’t win those lawsuits … I think it puts the election at risk.” Funding this Republican legal attack on voters is a who’s who of billionaires, bankers, coal moguls and corporate barons including Johnson & Johnson heir Woody Johnson, money manager Charles Schwab and the Ricketts family of TD Ameritrade, Rolling Stone reported in July. By suppressing our voting rights, these oligarchs hope to keep Trump & Co. lining their pockets.

Election officials need to periodically tidy up their voting rolls by removing the names of people who’ve died or moved out of jurisdiction. Recently, though, GOP governors, judges and election officials have turned this simple feather-dusting chore into a supersonic leaf-blower blasting masses of living, eligible voters out of the system. They’re targeting precincts with lots of young, poor, immigrant and other Democrat-inclined constituents. If these people, for whatever reason, miss several election cycles, they are no longer considered voters and can be purged from the rolls.

Another insidious tactic is to eliminate people whose voter registration cards do not exactly match the spelling, address, etc. on other state records. Under these “no match, no vote” laws, a missing comma, middle initial or hyphen can cancel your voting rights. In 2018, less than a month before the midterm election, Georgia’s GOP secretary of state, Brian Kemp, used this exact-match pretense to place a hold on 53,000 voters, 80% of whom were in minority groups. By the way, Kemp was at the same time running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, and his “winning” margin closely matched the number of would-be voters he nullified. Talk about sabotaging democracy!

Nationwide, states have removed 17 million Americans from voter rolls since the 2016 election, an unusually high number, with no accounting of how many were living, legitimate voters.

Jim Hightower