By State Representative, Leon D. Young
It’s no secret that Republicans will go to great lengths to hold onto their majority to advance their Conservative political agenda. The recent skirmish for the Supreme Court, involving Brett Kavanaugh, provides a vivid example. For years Republicans have perpetuated this false and totally inaccurate narrative of rampant voter fraud, which serves as a convenient pretext for disenfranchising millions of eligible voters—who they deem to be supporters of their political opposition.
With the 2018 midterm elections less than two weeks away, Republicans are busy trying to sandbag yet another election, to ensure the outcome that they prefer. Voting rights experts warn that hundreds of thousands of eligible voters could face hurdles as they try to get to polling stations in November. African American, Latino or other minority communities, as well as young voters, are especially vulnerable to purges as they more frequently experience the kind of bureaucratic hiccups that can lead them to be intentionally ruled ineligible.
A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that since 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court drastically reduced federal controls against discriminatory behavior by largely southern states, there has been a dramatic uptick in voter purges. The numbers affected are breathtaking: between 2014 and 2016 alone, 16 million people nationwide were removed from register rolls.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which has the task of protecting the voting rights of Americans, has increasingly switched its focus under Donald Trump from policing purges to encouraging them. The president has personally championed conspiracy theories that “alien” voters claiming that three million legal voters were cast in 2016 presidential election–conveniently, precisely the number by which his rival Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
Let’s not be naïve. Republicans have repeatedly shown that they are willing to resort to every trick in the book to prevent people from voting. And for decades, Republicans have used the dubious “voter fraud” excuse as a fig leaf to cover up their true intent: to deny people of color their constitutional rights at the ballot box.
Truth be told, there are at least five voter-suppression practices currently in use by the GOP today. They include:
Closing polling places in communities of color
• Purging eligible voters from the rolls without their knowledge
• Barring felons from voting
• Voter ID laws
• Eliminating early voting
Each one of these alone is troubling. In aggregate, though, they paint an unmistakable picture of Republican efforts to hold on to power in an increasingly non-white nation by making it harder for non-white people to vote.
With that being said, the simplest way to stop people from voting is to make it harder for them to vote, and the easiest way to do that is to close polling places. And since 2013, more than 1,000 polling places have been closed in nine Republican-dominated states alone.