For 48 years, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 required certain jurisdictions with a history of vote suppression, mostly in the old Confederacy, to get “preclearance” from the Department of Justice on proposed legislation.
Then, in 2013, the five Republican-appointed justices of the Supreme Court approved Shelby County vs. Holder, which eliminated the enforcement mechanism for preclearance.
Within 24 hours, Texas implemented new voting requirements, followed closely by Mississippi and Alabama, and then other states, which implemented a range of measures designed to suppress the Black vote.
The Republican Party continues its program to suppress the vote. Their game plan is to claim vote fraud and then attempt to pass voter suppression measures to “restore” the integrity that they had undermined.
Georgia’s recent law is one of over 360 laws introduced by Republicans in 47 states to make voting more difficult, even though there was no vote fraud in Georgia; the ballots were counted three times, all by Republicans.
The New York Times analyzed Georgia’s new voting law and identified “16 key provisions that will limit ballot access, potentially confuse voters, and give more power to Republican lawmakers, or strip power from state and local elections officials,” the ones who resisted Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election.
In particular, the Times noted, the new law will curtail ballot access for voters in urban and suburban counties that are home to many Democrats. Another provision makes it a crime to offer water to voters waiting in lines, which tend to be longer in densely populated communities.
Texas legislators alone have introduced 49 bills to restrict voting access, according to the Guardian. Pending legislation would criminalize a mistake on a voter registration application as a second degree felony, the equivalent of arson or aggravated kidnapping.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU has written that “voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.” A recent study found that, since 2000, there were only 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation — the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent — during a time in which over 1 billion ballots were cast.
According to the ALCU, 11% of U.S. citizens — or more than 21 million Americans — do not have government-issued photo identification. Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack a government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.
Obtaining an ID costs time and money, even if the ID is free of charge. The underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, and travel expenses are estimated to cost between $75 and $175 according to the ACLU; and the travel time can be a major burden on people with disabilities, the elderly or those in rural areas without cars or access to public transportation.
“In Texas, some people in rural areas must travel approximately 170 miles to reach the nearest ID office.”
Several studies, including a 2014 GAO study, found that voter ID laws reduce turnout among minority voters, which is the Republicans’ goal, of course.
The face of voter suppression under Donald Trump was Kris Kobach, the former secretary of state of Kansas who Trump appointed to head the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.
Kobach originated the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which claimed to identify people registered to vote in more than one state. In practice, fewer than one in a million of the 7.2 million voters the program identified for possibly voting twice had actually done so, usually because of confusion, such as owning property in two states.
The ACLU concluded that Kobach’s Crosscheck matching algorithm “produced false positives more than 99 percent of the time,” since it is merely a compendium of common names: Johnson, Jones, Rodriguez, Garcia and Kim.
According to the government census, 85 of the 100 most common names are those most frequently held by people of color. Database expert Mark Swedlund reported that there are 858,000 Garcia’s in the U.S.: if your name is José Garcia, you could be accused of voting in 27 states.
Rolling Stone and investigative reporter Greg Palast reported that Crosscheck ultimately purged an estimated 1.1 million registered voters before the 2020 election. Virginia reported the removal of 41,637 voters in a single year, based on Kobach’s list. Beyond that, the commission was a spectacular failure, and folded after six months without finding a single example of vote fraud.
Polls nonetheless show that 78 percent of Republicans don’t believe Biden legitimately won and 51 percent say Congress “did not go far enough” to support “Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.”
Tom Maertens worked on the National Security Council for both presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.