Vote Suppression, the Republican Game of Chess, but Democrats are Nearing Checkmate
Vote suppression is nothing new in America. Perhaps what is relatively new now, however, is just how blithely (and claiming they have the purest and most innocent intentions) Republicans have been embarking on vote suppression tactics while insisting that what they are actually doing is protecting the integrity of the election. Uh-huh.
In this tragically remarkable election year, in the midst of a pandemic which is picking up steam, in the midst of a slow-motion train wreck of an economic collapse as we slide into a second Great Depression, and in the midst of a convulsive reckoning on systemic racism, we also had the tragic loss of a giant among women with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. RBG wrote many memorable dissenting opinions in her time on the Supreme Court. And she once said of dissenting opinions “Dissents speak to a future age…That is the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.” In the Supreme Court case Shelby County v Holder, in 2013, RBG wrote the dissenting opinion. To refresh your memory, that case struck down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, in particular addressing Section 5 of the act, which granted the federal government oversight power on any change in voting law in “certain jurisdictions” in this country, i.e., those with a problematic history of racial discrimination. The majority opinion written by Justice Roberts in that case asserted “our country has changed” and so such supervision over the states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, among others, was no longer necessary. Let the celebration begin. Racial discrimination and nefarious attempts to suppress the vote are a thing of the past. Uh-huh. I think, considering the recent Black Lives Matter protests, the White Supremacist-rooted plot against Governor Whitmer, the babblings of the Proud Boys, etc., I will just let the ridiculousness of Justice Roberts’ statement “our country has changed” speak for itself. Yes, certain things are better than they were in 1965, true. But can we agree the majority opinion of the Supreme Court that in effect declared racism was a thing of the past was maybe just a wee bit premature, not to mention too optimistically naïve?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the dissenting opinion in that case. Here is a link to the text of her dissent, well worth reading. But I quote one prophetic statement from her dissent. She notes that during the time this provision of the Voting Rights Act was in effect that:
“Jurisdictions covered by the preclearance requirement continued to submit, in large numbers, proposed changes to voting laws that the Attorney General declined to approve, auguring that barriers to minority voting would quickly resurface were the preclearance remedy eliminated.”
Quickly resurface they did indeed.
To be absolutely precise, most of the current Republican efforts are not necessarily clearly blatantly directed against a racial minority per se. The efforts to make voting more difficult in various ways are targeted, of course, against Democrats. Coincidently, though, quite a large percentage of minority voters vote Democrat, so I feel like we are looking at a distinction without a difference.
I will catalogue here for the record just a few examples of the vote suppression efforts by Republicans in this election. Consider it sort of a one-stop-shopping collection of news, since the examples, and the court challenges, and the rulings, and the appeals…it has all been a lot to keep up with, even for someone like me, an avid news addict. My aim is first, by documenting these concrete examples to put to rest the thought perhaps lingering in some people’s minds that all this harping on “voter suppression” is some overblown figment of the liberal imagination, and the United States election system is right as rain. Voter suppression is real. It has happened. It is continuing to happen. Second, I wish to point out that in the chess game of Republican moves, lawyer countermoves, etc., the Democrats have in many instances successfully blocked GOP attempts to block voting, or at least the GOP efforts to make voting as painful and difficult as possible, even potentially deadly in the midst of a pandemic. So, thanks to lawyers and judges, Democrats are approaching Check in the game of chess, and what will become evident once all the votes have been counted is that Democrats achieved Checkmate by the one thing that could dominate all other efforts to sabotage this election: massive, astounding, record-shattering voter turn out.
High voter turn-out equals doom for Republicans. Don’t take my word for it, Trump said so himself. When speaking about measures and funding to make voting easier, which Democrats had initially included in a coronavirus stimulus package, Trump said: “The things they had in there were crazy…levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Uh-huh.
You will see a trend in the listed examples below. Republican keep targeting their suppression tactics upon absentee/mail-in voting. Why? They say it is because it is rife with fraud. Sorry to have facts get in the way, but there is no factual evidence of that being the case. Could it instead have something to do with the fact that disproportionate numbers of Democrats are voting this way this year, because Democrats are actually concerned about disease transmission in a pandemic?
1The infamous Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, conservative activists, attempted to discourage voting by mail with bogus racially targeted robo-calls in Detroit, as well as in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and New York. In the call, a female voice warns that mail-in ballots will be used to find people to serve old warrants upon, to track you down to collect credit card debt, and to create a database of people to receive forced vaccines. These guys had a history of such stunts, and I guess they assumed they could continue to get away with it. These were the guys who tried to recruit a man to make a false rape charge against Mayor Pete Buttigieg last year. For this robo call fun and games, Attorney General Dana Nessel has charged them with felony counts of intimidating voters and conspiracy to commit election law violation. Score one for voters.
2 The Governor of Texas ordered that there be one and only one drop-off site for mail-in ballots per county. On October 9, a federal judge blocked this stating, “By limiting ballot return centers to one per county, older and disabled voters living in Texas’s largest and most populous counties must travel further distances to more crowded ballot return centers where they would be at an increased risk of being infected by the coronavirus in order to exercise their right to vote and have it counted.” Always nice to have a judge who makes simple, obvious, common sense observations, isn’t it? And since Trump and the Republicans are the ones who aren’t too concerned about coronavirus nor too concerned about wearing masks, avoiding crowds, social distancing, etc., the target of the Governor’s ploy was obvious. Democrats. But remember this is a game of chess, move, counter move. The decision was appealed, and Fifth Circuit Court Judge Duncan reinstated the Governor’s order of one drop box per county, that Judge stating, “One strains to see how it burdens voting at all.” Uh-huh. Score one for voter suppression.
3 Ohio borrowed the Texas playbook, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose barred county boards of election from having more than one ballot drop box site. On October 8, US District Judge Dan Polster struck this down. He also seems to be a judge who takes into account common sense, noting that with the coronavirus pandemic, and the greater strain on the postal system, there would be a greater need for other remote voting options. Uh-huh. Score one for voters.
4 In Wisconsin, there arose the issue of when would be the deadline for counting absentee ballots. US District Judge Conley had ruled that as long as a ballot is postmarked on Election Day, November 3, and arrives by November 9, it shall be counted. In the midst of a pandemic with a Postal Service which had not too long ago been knee-capped by its own Postmaster General, such a ruling sounds perfectly reasonable, sensible and fair, right? Apparently not, according to Republicans. Honestly, I cannot even pretend to explain why Republicans might legitimately object to something so common sense, so I am not even going to try. Republicans won their appeal of this in the Seventh Circuit Court, and as a result, to be counted, absentee ballots will have to be delivered by 8 p.m. on Election day, and if not delivered on time (and who has any worries about mail being delivered on time?) then too bad, your vote doesn’t get counted. And according to Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald (Republican) this is “a huge win for preserving the integrity of our election process in Wisconsin.” Uh-huh. Score one for voter suppression/throwing out votes.
5 This one is so startling it would almost be funny, except that it isn’t funny at all. The Republican Party in California set up bogus “official” ballot collection boxes (which is illegal, by the way) and when caught, they innocently explained they were just trying to make it more convenient for people to drop off their ballots and have somebody else do the work of hauling the ballots in for them. Uh-huh. Gee, what could go wrong with that, eh? Secretary of State Alex Padilla told them to knock it off. And they did, or at least they removed the boxes that had the word “official” printed on them. However, this is not over as the state GOP indicated they may still put out more collection boxes, but just not with the word “official” on them. Score one for “you gotta be kidding me!”
6 I save the best (that is the worst, really) for last, our own DOJ under AG Barr. Normally, federal investigations of possible voting fraud commence after the election is over, and for good reason, since publicity about in-progress investigations while voting is still occurring would risk having an actual effect on voting. Back in May, Attorney General Barr himself sent out a memo to DOJ employees regarding this election and he said that “We must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and non-partisanship.” Uh-huh. Well, okay, good so far. But that was May. And this is now. It looks like the Trump DOJ has since decided upon a new tack, that indeed amounts to meddling in this election as it is happening, violating a longstanding previous policy. Publicizing investigations into alleged voter fraud while voting is still taking place is meddling in the election, and in the present environment of the bogus narrative the Trump campaign wishes to construct about rampant mail-in voting fraud, it threatens to become an emphatically partisan effort on the part of the DOJ. We already had an example of how such investigations are twisted to partisan effect in the “thrown out Trump ballots in Pennsylvania” case. This was touted as a case of Trump ballots being tossed in the trash, but when the actual facts of the case came out, it turned out it was simply an error and most importantly and to the point, an error caught and corrected by the County Elections Director. In other words, nothing to see here. In the olden days, the DOJ would have quietly investigated, instead of letting it be trumpeted in its preliminary stages as evidence of fraud, when you and I know, the sensational initial accusation in the news is what lives on in social media, and the followup actual facts don’t make it through all the noise. Score one for nobody on this one. We all lose with a DOJ that is a branch of the Trump campaign, and AG Barr functioning as Trump’s personal attorney.
For those keeping score here, it looks like a tie, but it is not, actually. It has been move, counter move across the chessboard. But then I saw the lines beginning to form for early voting. I saw people willing to stand in line for many hours to vote. I saw record numbers being set for early voting in several states.
Voter turnout will be checkmate, and Democrats win this chess game.
Republicans, you are spitting into the wind, and a majority of citizens in this country are about to show you the way to the door. Republican President, and several Republican Senators, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.