The Resistance has stopped Trumpcare, but that doesn't mean we can sit on our laurels, even for a day. Put the cork back in the bottle and get to work, because if Vanita Gupta's op-ed from today's New York Times doesn't leave you quivering in your boots, we're in big trouble. Our rights to vote are at risk, and we have to stand up and fight for them like we've never fought before.
The Republicans know their time to remain a major party is limited. As Steve Phillips writes in his book, Brown is the New White, the Democrats won in 2012 with 28% of white progressives and 23% progressive people of color. Add those together and you get the 51% needed to form a majority. Plus, with more and more people of color either being born or emigrating to the country, they are on track to becoming the majority of the working class by 2032. One would hope that they would be afforded the same rights and privileges as the white working class, but if Republicans succeed in this newest effort to purge them from the polls, they will cripple the Democratic base and take a wrecking ball to the concept of democracy in America.
This has been a longstanding goal of Kris Kobach, Kansas’s Secretary of State. Talk to him about it and he won’t use exactly those words: instead, he’ll talk about his goals of eliminating voter fraud, and to stop the rising Latino population from ethnically cleansing white Americans (a view his mentor at Harvard, Prof. Samuel Huntington, would have endorsed.) He has made Kansas one of the hardest states in which to register to vote, due to his Secure and Fair Elections Act (SAFE), which has purged one in seven Kansans from registering. He has been sued by the ACLU multiple times and lost each time, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find new ways to manipulate voting laws to his favor. And it’s no coincidence that he is one of the architects of the Commission on Electoral Integrity, along with Mike Pence and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who engaged in suspicious activity back in 2004 to tip the state to George W. Bush.
They might not succeed with this Commission – several states recognized it for the blatant attempt at suppression that it is, and refused to hand over their voting rolls. However, as Gupta points out in her editorial:
“Lost amid the uproar over the commissions request was a letter sent at the same time by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It forced 44 states to provide extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date. It cited the 1993 National Voter Registration Act…which mandates that states help voters through motor vehicle departments.
“The letter doesn’t ask whether states are complying with the parts of the law that expand opportunities to register. Instead it focuses on the sections related to maintaining the lists. That’s a prelude to voter purging.”
Compromising the National Voter Registration Act, also known as “Motor Voter,” would be a disaster for a country whose voting laws have already been severely compromised by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County vs. Holder, which gutted section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Since then, several states have passed laws that have made it harder to vote, requiring some form of photo ID, or limiting early voting windows. This map from the Brennan Center shows which states have enacted these new laws. Of the 14 states that put them in place between the last two presidential elections, the Democrats only won three – New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Had these laws not been in place, Hillary Clinton could have won Wisconsin and Ohio, and possibly even Arizona, giving her the majority in the electoral college. But such a thing can’t happen in Trump’s America.
Getting these voter rolls is a dream for Kris Kobach, fulfilling his ambitions to suppress the Democrats’ vote to keep the Republicans in power for good. As Gupta says, by comparing names across states, they will be unable to identify between two people with the same name and/or the same birthday, and these mistakes will cripple the voting rights of POC, who are overrepresented in 85 of the 100 most common last names.
We’re already seeing people react against this, but not with much foresight – 4,000 Coloradans canceled their voter registrations after their Secretary of State agreed to comply with the Commission, without thinking about how hard it might be for them to re-register if this goes through as intended. I’m lucky – I’m registered to vote in California, and we’re the greatest bulwark of sanity this nation has (in my humble opinion) against this fraudulent President and his puppet government. But everybody’s got to stand together to fight this.
If you aren’t registered, go to your DMV and stay there all day if you have to (or if you can), just to make sure you’re guaranteed automatic voter registration by the Motor Voter Act. Look up the voting laws in your state and demand your rights. Jam the phone lines of your Secretary of State and other state officials, and protest as much as you can. Republicans only know how to do two things: how to win, and how to play victim when they lose. They would rather stay in power forever than allow anyone else to have it, particularly the minorities they hate and fear so much, and this newest attempt at voter suppression is the latest manifestation of this deep-seated prejudice.