• Nathan Max

Republicans Ramp Up Voter Suppression

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Photo credit: Brynn Anderson/AP. Scenes like this from Georgia's primary will likely be replicated tomorrow in Kentucky.

The GOP can’t win when the electorate turns out in large numbers.

Their policies and agenda don’t have the will of the people, so the only way Republicans can continue their minority rule over an increasingly perturbed populace is to suppress as many votes as possible. This year, we are seeing a more sophisticated attack on voting rights clearly targeting Democrats in general and minorities in particular.

As voters prepare to take to the polls Tuesday in a Kentucky primary that features a hotly contested Senate race, reports have surfaced that only 200 polling places out of about 3,700 will be open. In Jefferson County, the state’s largest, just one polling place will be available for an area with more than 616,000 registered voters, according to Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.”

Louisville, where half the state’s black voters live, is in Jefferson County.

The disaster that is about to unfold in the Bluegrass State could make what we saw in Georgia two weeks ago -- when voters in Atlanta waited in line for hours -- pale in comparison. Kentucky and Georgia are now using the COVID-19 pandemic as a convenient excuse to turbo-charge their efforts to disenfranchise people who live in areas that tend to vote for Democrats.

Against this backdrop, President Donald Trump is now pushing for states to limit or eliminate mail-in voting at a time when it is needed most. After Saturday night’s Tulsa debacle, Trump can clearly see the handwriting on the wall, so his best and only option now is voter suppression.

Monday morning, he tweeted a vintage Trump prevarication that mail-in voting would be fraudulent and lead to a rigged election. Nevermind that Trump himself has used the mail-in voting process as recently as March in the Florida primary. As we all know, rigged elections are only acceptable if they break in Trump’s favor.

Get ready for more of this nonsense from a desperate president who is getting clobbered in all the polls.

Republicans have aggressively pursued a voter-suppression agenda since the moment the John Roberts-led Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act seven years ago. Long lines in urban neighborhoods are widespread and no accident, and now the pandemic creates an easy excuse to make matters worse. Closing polling stations, purging voter rolls, limiting early voting and blocking mail-in voting are all designed to be a modern form of the old Jim Crow laws.

Since the Shelby County vs. Holder ruling in 2013, southern states have closed nearly 1,200 polling stations, according to a 2019 report by the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights. It’s a classic example of the very type of systemic racism that has brought people into the streets across the nation for the last month.

Of course, there is a simple solution. Allow everyone to vote by mail or vote absentee. But that would increase voter turnout, and increased turnout always spells defeat for Republicans. The GOP doesn’t want to make it easier for you to vote, because they know you will kick them to the curb.

Republican lawmakers, who largely are dismissing the viral pandemic, want science-believing mask-wearing Democrats to be too scared, too uncomfortable and too impatient to wait in long lines for hours. Long gone are the days when get-out-the-vote efforts were a bipartisan objective.

When your entire message is based on division, denying science, racism, arming people, curtailing women’s rights and cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy, there are few voters left to support you.