Tom Maertens (copy)

Tom Maertens

A top Trump 2020 campaign lawyer, Justin Clark, was caught on tape recently telling Republicans in Wisconsin that the party has traditionally relied on voter suppression to compete in battleground states. “It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program (in 2020).”

Voter suppression (and gerrymandering) are Republicans’ go-to tactics: Republicans passed restrictive voter ID laws in 22 states after their big win(s) in 2010. The Brennan Center for Justice found that at least 17 million voters were purged from voter rolls nationwide between 2016 and 2018.

Under Republican Scott Walker, Wisconsin passed 33 laws that had the effect of restricting the minority vote. There was no evidence of widespread voter impersonation in Wisconsin — or in any other state.

A 2017 study by Arizona State University identified only 10 cases of alleged voter impersonation in the United States since 2000. The same study found that for every case of voter impersonation, there were 207 cases of other types of election fraud, for which a voter ID would have no impact.

The Wisconsin laws “worked”: Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law suppressed 200,000 votes in 2016 according to The Nation. A recent study by the University of Wisconsin found that 28 percent of African Americans were deterred from voting, compared with 8.3 percent of white registrants. Republicans in Wisconsin got only 45% of the popular vote for the State Assembly in 2016, but because of gerrymandering, won 64% of the seats. Overall, Trump won Wisconsin by 22,748 votes.

A Government Accountability Office study found that voter-ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee reduced turnout by 2 percent, enough to swing a close election, with the largest drop-off among newly registered voters, young voters and voters of color.

Trump’s voting integrity commission, led by Mike Pence and Kris Kobach, failed to find any evidence of widespread vote fraud and was disbanded.

Kobach led a nationwide effort to purge voter rolls through his notorious “Operation Crosscheck,” which relied on deception, like failing to compare middle names or birth dates in purging minority sounding names he accused of “double voting.”

Kobach was challenged in a Kansas court last year to prove his claims about vote fraud, and they went up in smoke, reported ProPublica. The trial judge, a Bush appointee, found “no credible evidence that a substantial number of noncitizens registered to vote.” She stated in court that the voter ID law kept thousands of qualified citizens from voting in the name of allegedly preventing vote fraud.

The judge also found Kobach in contempt for his “willful failure” to obey her 2016 ruling that ordered him to restore voting privileges of 17,000 suspended Kansas voters. In her contempt ruling, the judge cited Kobach’s “history of noncompliance” with the order and characterized his explanations for not abiding by it as “nonsensical” and “disingenuous.”

Before the trial even began, a federal magistrate judge fined Kobach $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” about a vote fraud document Kobach had prepared for Trump.

This is Trump’s “policeman” on vote fraud, a guy who perpetrates vote fraud himself.

But then, Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, was accused in 2016 of using Indiana state police to seize 45,000 voter registration applications from the Indiana Voter Registration Project offices on Oct. 4, a week before the state’s voter registration deadline.

The U.S. Supreme Court couldn’t find a single instance in which voter impersonation has occurred in Indiana, according to the IndyStar. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, found in 2014 only 31 credible instances of voter impersonation out of 1 billion votes cast in the U.S. since 2000.

Georgia and North Carolina both have long histories of suppressing minority votes. In 2017 then-secretary of state Brian Kemp removed more than 500,000 Georgians from voter rolls, and then blocked another 53,000 registrations just a month before the election, in which he was successfully “elected” governor. Georgia is currently trying to purge 300,000 voters, disproportionately minority voters.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs just blocked North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, scheduled to begin in 2020; courts had rejected an earlier version on grounds that it intentionally discriminated against racial minorities.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote in How Democracies Die that “The greatest threat to our democracy today is a Republican Party that plays dirty to win.”

Republicans regularly claim to be defenders of constitutional values like “originalism” and “judicial restraint;” in reality, their attempts to steal elections show they are the threat to democracy.

Tom Maertens has worked in national security for both political parties in the White House and in the U.S. Senate. He lives in Mankato.

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