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“More than a Vote” and the long road ahead to the next election

I serve as accountant or treasurer to several nonprofit organizations focused on education and registration of voters. We are more concerned about voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement now than in any earlier time in our lives. That’s why this excerpt published yesterday by writer Heather Cox Wilkinson jumped out at me.

“Basketball superstar LeBron James has started a group to protect black voting, along with a number of other African American athletes and entertainers. James has said the organization, “More Than A Vote,” will not just work with other voting rights organizations to register voters, but will explain to new voters how the process works and what sorts of obstacles they will face. James says he will use his strong social media platform to combat voter suppression, a major issue in the upcoming election. As far back as 1986, the modern Republican Party has tried to win elections by keeping Democratic voters—usually people of color—from the polls. After 1993, when a Democratic Congress passed the Motor-Voter Law permitting voter registration when people got driver’s licenses or signed up for social welfare programs, Republicans accused Democrats of enrolling illegal voters. By the late 1990s, losing Republican candidates often charged they had lost because of “voter fraud,” although there is virtually no evidence of anything of the sort. Calls to stop this alleged illegal voting led to increasingly complicated voter ID laws, especially after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Immediately after the Shelby County v. Holder decision was handed down, states instituted a series of voting regulations designed to make it harder for populations perceived to be Democratic to vote. The switch to electronic voting machines in the 2000s further weakened voting rights. Not only are machines notoriously hackable—and they do not require a paper trail, so there is no way to verify vote tallies-- but also the simple act of not placing machines in an area can drastically suppress voting as people get stuck in long lines and eventually give up and go home. This is what we saw in Georgia’s primary this week as new machines either went missing or malfunctioned in the system put in place by Republican Brad Raffensperger, leaving voters standing in line for hours at polling places that served people of color. This is always a problem, but it is a particular problem in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when people’s lives are in danger in crowds. “It’s a hot mess,” state senator and the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party Nikema Williams told the New York Times. “Our secretary of state has not adequately prepared us for today. We knew today was coming. If you show up and there’s not a machine, that’s a problem.” But voters in 2020 are determined enough that they are not, in fact, giving up and going home. Despite the voting problems in Georgia on Tuesday, which even Raffensperger said were “unacceptable,” voting surged in the state, especially among Democrats. Almost three times as many Democrats voted in this Senate primary than did in the Democratic Senate primary held just four years ago.”

That’s why this excerpt from writer jumped out at me today.

“Basketball superstar LeBron James has started a group to protect black voting, along with a number of other African American athletes and entertainers. James has said the organization, “More Than A Vote,” will not just work with other voting rights organizations to register voters, but will explain to new voters how the process works and what sorts of obstacles they will face. James says he will use his strong social media platform to combat voter suppression, a major issue in the upcoming election.

As far back as 1986, the modern Republican Party has tried to win elections by keeping Democratic voters—usually people of color—from the polls. After 1993, when a Democratic Congress passed the Motor-Voter Law permitting voter registration when people got driver’s licenses or signed up for social welfare programs, Republicans accused Democrats of enrolling illegal voters. By the late 1990s, losing Republican candidates often charged they had lost because of “voter fraud,” although there is virtually no evidence of anything of the sort.

Calls to stop this alleged illegal voting led to increasingly complicated voter ID laws, especially after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Immediately after the Shelby County v. Holder decision was handed down, states instituted a series of voting regulations designed to make it harder for populations perceived to be Democratic to vote.

The switch to electronic voting machines in the 2000s further weakened voting rights. Not only are machines notoriously hackable—and they do not require a paper trail, so there is no way to verify vote tallies-- but also the simple act of not placing machines in an area can drastically suppress voting as people get stuck in long lines and eventually give up and go home.

This is what we saw in Georgia’s primary this week as new machines either went missing or malfunctioned in the system put in place by Republican Brad Raffensperger, leaving voters standing in line for hours at polling places that served people of color. This is always a problem, but it is a particular problem in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when people’s lives are in danger in crowds. “It’s a hot mess,” state senator and the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party Nikema Williams told the New York Times. “Our secretary of state has not adequately prepared us for today. We knew today was coming. If you show up and there’s not a machine, that’s a problem.”

But voters in 2020 are determined enough that they are not, in fact, giving up and going home. Despite the voting problems in Georgia on Tuesday, which even Raffensperger said were “unacceptable,” voting surged in the state, especially among Democrats. Almost three times as many Democrats voted in this Senate primary than did in the Democratic Senate primary held just four years ago.”

Mail in voting is a particular risk to Republicans who hold a double standard for the practice. President Trump recently said “I think mail-in voting is horrible, it’s corrupt.” A reporter asked: “You voted by mail in Florida’s election last month, didn’t you?” Trump said: “Sure. I can vote by mail”. Reporter followed with: “How do you reconcile with that?” Trump said: “Because I’m allowed to.”

Let’s be clear that Republicans cannot continue to win elections without suppressing Democratic voters. The demographic makeup of this country is changing. That groundswell of change hurts Republican candidates and helps Democratic candidates. Even president Trump admitted this recently, saying that if we switch to mail in balloting no Republican would be elected again. As a direct result of what’s at stake, we should expect that the battle to vote will be fierce and ugly in 2020.

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