Republican Voter Suppression Tactics Need to End

Voting booths in polling place
Voting booths in polling place

"It's just, I think, sad when a political party--my political party--has so lost faith in its ideas that it's pouring all of its energy into election mechanics." -- former Republican State Senator Dale Schultz of Wisconsin

Voting rights are under assault by Republicans! Their party is going to extreme lengths to suppress the vote of traditional Democratic constituencies like the young and minorities. Their tactics, a throwback to an earlier, uglier era are working. Under the guise of ending voter fraud, which is virtually non-existent anyway, they are willing to deny voting rights to hundreds of thousands in some strange calculus only they comprehend. Their Southern Strategy has worked so effectively that minorities have deserted their party in droves and now, with the ascension of Trump, they are conceding the Hispanic, as well as the black vote. Instead of trying to change course and become a Big Tent party, they are retrenching and passing legislation that makes it so difficult to vote one has to weather hurdles similar to Odysseus trying to return home from the Trojan war.

For example, Kansas, the state rendered a fiscal and economic basket case by conservative supply side economic policies, has enacted some of the harshest voting regulations in the country. According to an Associated Press article:

"Kansas is one of four states, along with Georgia, Alabama and Arizona, to require documentary proof of citizenship -- such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers -- to register to vote. Under Kansas' challenged system, voters who registered using a federal form, which hadn't required proof of U.S. citizenship, could only vote in federal races and not in state or local races. Kansas says it will keep the dual voting system in place for upcoming elections if the courts allow its residents to register to vote either with a federal form or at motor vehicle offices without providing proof of citizenship."

The law is accomplishing exactly what Republicans want by suppressing the vote. In the 2014 election the sitting Republican governor won by 33,000 votes, but another 37,000 voters were put in a suspended registration status by the Republican Secretary of State. In the coming election this November, fully two-thirds of all new registrations are on a suspended voter list.

"Of the more than 22,000 submitted voter registration applications submitted between Feb. 1 and Feb. 21, only 7,444 were completed with proof of citizenship, State Elections Director Bryan Caskey said. That meant the majority of those registrants were put on the suspense list, and their voting registrations will be purged after 90 days unless proper documents are submitted."

In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Walker not content with derailing the state's economy, gutting the university system, and breaking the morale of public sector employees by busting the unions has "signed a bill that hinders Milwaukee's efforts to provide local photo IDs to the homeless, immigrants in the country illegally and others who have difficulty obtaining state IDs." No regressive measure is beneath him! According to an article in the Daily Kos written by Walter Einenkel: "The Republican-backed bill prohibits towns and counties from spending money on or issuing photo IDs. It also prohibits using city or village IDs to vote or obtain public benefits, like food stamps."

So the bill accomplishes two Republican goals, it suppresses the vote and keeps the poor and homeless from access to the necessities of life like food and aid. In fact, Republican-pushed voter ID laws will bar about 9 percent of the state's eligible voters from the polls this year, according to the Daily Kos.

Incumbents are already reelected 90 percent of the time without placing additional economic and physical barriers on voters who may be the first to be adversely affected by Republican cutbacks on aid, education, and infrastructure.

North Carolina, a battleground state just recently unencumbered from the legal restraints of the Voting Rights Act, has enacted one of the strictest voting eligibility laws in the country. According to the Washington Post:

"The North Carolina law goes further than requiring a photo ID to vote. It also reduces the number of days of early voting, prohibits people from registering and voting on the same day, stops ballots cast in the wrong precinct from being counted and ends the practice of preregistering teenagers before they turn 18. Although other states have enacted one of these restrictions, such as a voter ID requirement, the North Carolina law is the broadest law that encompasses all the changes."

"Several civil rights groups sued, and a dramatic legal fight followed with mass protests in Raleigh led by the NAACP's Barber."

"One of the plaintiffs is Rosanell Eaton, 94, who said she and her daughter had to make 10 trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles, drive more than 200 miles and spend more than 20 hours to obtain one of the required forms of voter identification because the name on her identifying document, her driver's license, did not exactly match that on her voter registration."

And we have not even discussed the most egregious offender Texas where residents can vote with a concealed carry handgun license, but not a state-issued student university ID. It seems critical thinking skills are anathema to Republican politics.

In another strange calculus so-called fiscally conservative governors would rather spend millions in taxpayer money defending lawsuits than simply allowing citizens the right to vote, a cherished right people have fought and died for in this country. Conservative governors and state legislatures are basically spitting on that right and on democracy itself when they create obstacles to voting. Of course, demographic trends are the Republican's biggest foe. The only way they can cling to power with policies that cater to the top ten percent or so is to deny the will of the people. One possible solution is online voting or changing presidential elections to Saturdays. Republicans would then probably outlaw Saturdays!