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Conservatives see voting rights as a power grab.
They may be on to something.
Republicans in Kansas have had a problem in some local areas, those areas with rising Hispanic populations. Conservatives, at least some strains of conservatives, simply do not like some folks because of ethnicity. It is sad, but it is truth. And voters tend to vote against those who are hostile to them.
So Republican officials in Kansas have responded. According to several lawsuits, they have tried to make it much harder for Hispanics and African American voters to actually cast their ballots. Sometimes this has been done by making it harder for non-drivers to get identification. Sometimes it has been by making polling places less accessible. Sometimes it has been by demanding multiple trips in order to register to vote.
Most voters in Dodge City are Hispanic.
So the county election commissioner who had jurisdiction over Dodge City closed the only voting place in town, located at the town Civic Center. She opened a new polling location several miles out of town, across a railroad line that is often blocked for 20 minutes at a time. There is no public transportation to the new site. And voters had already been notified by official mail that voting would take place at the old site, the site where voting had always taken place.
The commissioner explained. The old site posed a possible hazard because of new construction. Reporters visiting the site discovered that the Civic Center was still open for all public events. Almost all. Just not for voting.
When the ACLU sent an email asking her to publicize an information line to help voters get to the new site, she forwarded the email to Republican Kris Kobach with her own laugh appended to it: LOL.
It was one of several cases that made the news. Similar stories came from a host of locations.
In Texas, Waller county had sent out wrong information on what college address students should use to register to vote, then suggested some students might not be allowed to vote because they had listed the wrong address.
A field director working for a Democratic candidate personally delivered a letter to the local county courthouse. He took a photo with his cell phone to prove the letter had been delivered. The letter reminded the Waller County Election Commissioner that local college students had the right to vote.
He got his response right away. As he walked outside the courthouse, he was arrested by local police. He was later asked for his reaction.
The experience was harrowing, and, well, it made me reflect on what people in that county deal with on a day-to-day year-to-year basis.
It was a good point. Anecdotal stories dominate a few news cycles. The day-to-day voting obstruction is mostly under the radar. It is not as easy to vote in Texas if you are part of a minority.
A lawsuit was filed by civic groups a while back when Texas began making it harder for Hispanic citizens to get photo identification. Offices were closed in areas where Hispanic voters lived. Other nearby offices limited their hours of operation and the days they were open. Since many Hispanic people in those areas commute by bus and do not drive, substitute photo IDs were needed to vote. The Federal government joined in the lawsuit. It was not fair to put more obstacles between Hispanic citizens and their right to vote.
Texas opposed the lawsuit, of course. One of the arguments may seem curious to non-lawyers. Texas argued that the restrictions did not come from racial or ethnic motivations. Texas lawmakers wanted to make it harder to vote in certain areas only because voters were Democrats. It was political, not ethnic. So it should be okay.
But then litigants demanded copies of official emails legislators had been sending to each other. Sure enough, state representatives had made it clear in those secret documents that they just wanted to keep Hispanic voters from voting. It was ethnic.
After the Trump administration was put into power by the electoral college, the federal government pulled out of the lawsuit. The suit was dismissed. Since the US Supreme Court had ruled that provisions of Voting Rights laws were unconstitutional, the judge said Texas had the legal right to do what the state was doing.
Had the effect not been so serious, some of the logic behind that Supreme Court decision might have been seen as a misguided attempt at judicial humor. Since Voting Rights laws had been renewed with overwhelming majorities in the US House and Senate, that meant racial prejudice in the South was no longer a barrier to voting rights. Since racism was not a problem, the legislation was not necessary. Since it was not needed, it was unconstitutional.
So the legislation was unconstitutional because it had passed the House and Senate and become law.
It is true that voting restrictions are not limited to the old Confederacy. In Wisconsin, Native Americans were kept from voting in 2018 by a new requirement. They had to be able to show IDs with numerical street addresses. Since many lived on rural roads with RFD post boxes, they were told they no longer could vote.
No house number? Sorry, you can’t vote.
Part of the logic of the Supreme Court was that, since racism was no longer a problem in the South, applying Voting Rights to one section of the country violated equal protection. Apply it to all states, or apply it to no state. Prior to that, equal protection under the law had been generally understood to apply to individuals. Now it applied mostly to states. Repairing the law has been held up by Republicans. But not for racial reasons, we are told.
For the last couple of decades, Conservatives have accused minorities of voter fraud. Eliminating that fraud has been the stated objective to Texas and Wisconsin type requirements. Efforts to document those individual abuses have fallen apart. The most recent Bush administration combed through voting records in every state, city, and village that had held elections for the previous 5 years. The number of ballots went to the billions. They did find a few dozen cases of voter fraud. Out of billions.
Those cases were typically those of accidents or ignorance. But not always. In a couple of cases, voters wanted to be counted in another jurisdiction in order to qualify to run for office. Those were Republicans. One Democrat was trying to hide her location from a dangerous ex-husband. There was no attempt to subvert any election with a claim of false identity.
There seem to be cases of vote manipulation from behind the scenes. That happens when votes are being counted. It never involves any claim of false identity.
And there were cases of voters not being allowed to vote.
The Texas situation did make local conservatives happy. One individual is anti-immigrant activist J. Christian Adams. Mr. Adams has a history of false accusations and follow-up harassment. He has accused voters of being non-citizens. When those accusations were disproven, he published private information, including Social Security numbers. He was interviewed by Tucker Carlson, a while back, about Texas efforts in voting restriction. It was, he said, all about eliminating widespread voter fraud.
Where’s the Attorney General of Texas in this?
The Attorney General in Texas, Ken Paxton, is doing a great job on this. Because, let me tell you, the problem is worse than you just intro-ed. It’s much worse than that.
They’re finding in Texas non-citizens on the rolls across the state. And they’re doing it in a way that very few states are doing.
The part about doing it in a different way turned out to be true. Conservatives in Texas have been pitching in. They hit a treasure trove of voter corruption. Almost 100,000 names of voters in Texas were put on a list of non-citizens. 100,000 in Texas alone. That nationwide effort during the Bush administration had found just a few.
The Attorney General had the list of 100,000 violators sent to county offices around the state.
Almost immediately the backlash began. Almost half were recognized right away by local registrars as citizens. That was before any additional investigation. The Attorney General sent urgent messages to all state offices. Please do not, DO NOT, follow our previous instructions.
Most observers expect the number of actual violators to approach zero when conservative wishful thinking has been completely eliminated.
For all the horrible things that hit the news when I was a youngster; lynchings, routine discrimination, casual bigotry; one bright spot, in my conservative area, was the unanimous pleading of public officials. Please, please vote.
That no longer is always the case.
H.R.1 is the first bill introduced in each new session of the House of Representatives. It is symbolic of what each majority sees as its signature legislation. H.R.1 for Republicans was a tax cut for the fabulously wealthy, which they promised would just naturally trickle down to ordinary working people.
As the new Democratic majority took the House of Representatives, they introduced their own H.R.1. It is a voting reform proposal that will restore the Voting Rights Act, make same day voting registration possible at polling places, and make election day a legal holiday so working people can easily use that day to vote.
Mitch McConnell is opposed to all of it.
Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work for, I assume, our folks—our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns.
When it comes to turning our democratic republic back to the voters, Mitch told us just how conservatives see it.
A power grab, that’s smelling more and more like exactly what it is.
Well, yeah, I suppose that would be one way to describe the restoration of democracy back to the nation’s people.
A power grab…
The best sort of power grab.
Courtesy of our partners at FairandUnbalanced.com.