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Friday, 26 January 2018 05:43

GOP Voter Suppression Is Toxic to Democracy

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

votingsuppressionVoter suppression is a dagger in the heart of democracy.      (Chuck Coker)

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GOP voter suppression is a singular threat to our democracy.

This week's Truthout Progressive Pick is The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election, an updated documentary by investigative reporter Greg Palast. It makes the case that Trump's victory in the presidential election of 2016 would not likely have happened if Republicans in control of state governments had not impeded voting through a variety of methods, including one they have long used to great effect -- the purging of voter lists.

In this context, it is important to remember two things: the GOP controls the majority of state houses (in many cases with an assist from gerrymandering) and they indefatigably try to reduce the voting of likely opposition voters. They also try to challenge ballots and leave many of them uncounted. The aim of these strategies is to counter the changing demographic nature of the United States into a more diverse nation: a country that is less white and younger, and a country where the poor might become more empowered. Palast cites a telling statistic in a January 25 op-ed for Truthout: "According to the US Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will be disqualified is 900 percent higher if you're Black than if you're white."

In his commentary, Palast uses Michigan in the 2016 as an example of how vote "spoilage" can potentially swing an election, in this case the presidential vote that year:

Take Michigan. Trump officially won the state by 10,700 voters. But dig this: 75,355 ballots were never counted.   

Like, huh? Not counted? Yes. Michiganders vote on these ridiculous paper ballots that old machines have a hard time reading. And critically, 87 machines simply broke down and didn't count the votes at all.

And where were these uncounted ballots and broken machines? I found them in Detroit and Flint, Michigan -- two majority-Black cities. Do you think those 75,355 ballots in Detroit and Flint were Trump ballots?

Palast explains that these two cities had old voting machines, and Detroit's "city manager" -- appointed by the Tea Party Republican governor -- was alerted to the problem but chose not to fix or replace the machines.

Nevertheless, the primary voter suppression technique that Palast has tracked since it was used in Florida in the stolen presidential election of 2000 is the use of what are called caging lists to purge a wide number of voters of color. In an interview with Palast by Truthout that will be published on January 28, he asserts:

Interstate Crosscheck is the GOP’s latest Jim Crow tactic to remove voters of color from the rolls. It’s absurdly simple. Kobach convinced 27 Republican voting chiefs (and two dumber-than-dirt Democrats) to share their voter rolls to hunt for suspected “potential duplicate” voters or duplicate registered voters. The voters get a postcard that looks like junk mail. If they don’t return it, they are either immediately scrubbed from voter rolls or put on the “inactive” voter list (where they are scrubbed if they miss a federal election).

Here’s why it’s evil: GOP officials only match first and last name. As one shocked expert says in my film, “If you’re name is José Garcia, you’re suspected of voting in 29 states!” The list is overwhelmingly biased against voters of color (because 85 of the 100 most common names in America are minority names like Rodriguez and Washington).

Interstate Crosscheck is the pernicious brainchild of one Kris Kobach, secretary of state of Kansas and erstwhile co-chair of the now disbanded Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. (The other co-chair was Vice President Mike Pence.) The goal of the commission appointed by Trump was to try and prove the president's ludicrous assertion that 3 million people -- which just happens to be the number of voters Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by -- voted fraudulently. One can speculate that the intention was to try and create a justification for expanding voter purging lists, primarily to reduce the number of people of color from voting. However, since the premise of the commission is the real fraud, Kobach, the other commissioners and the staff couldn't produce any evidence.

As BuzzFlash has pointed out before, the number of fraudulent voters in elections is almost nonexistent. The whole notion of massive voter fraud is bogus, used only to justify purge lists and other Republican means of voter suppression, including onerous voter ID laws.

Indeed the strict voter ID law that went into effect in Wisconsin in 2016 was credited by Ari Berman in The Nation last year with swinging the state to Trump by suppressing the vote:

According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin. A new study by Priorities USA, shared exclusively with The Nation, shows that strict voter-ID laws, in Wisconsin and other states, led to a significant reduction in voter turnout in 2016, with a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.

The mass corporate media's preoccupation with Trump's every tweet is a distraction from the real issues inhibiting our ability to build a robust, participatory democracy. The relative lack of news media attention to the Republican efforts to keep non-Republicans from voting shortchanges universal suffrage and keeps power in the hands of a declining older white population in a majority of states and the federal government.

The evidence uncovered by election sleuths such as Palast deserves to receive more attention and condemnation. After all, democracy is at stake.