Republican voter suppression is driven by more than partisanship

Of all the incredibly disappointing rulings of the modern Supreme Court, its destruction of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ranks near the top, surpassed only by its catastrophic decision to rip a half-century of reproductive rights away from American women.

Until the court's shocking 2013 decision between Shelby County and Holder, states and counties with a history of racial discrimination were required to obtain approval from the Department of Justice (known as “preclearance”) for redistricting or changes in districts. electoral laws. Conservative members of the Supreme Court changed all that with a 5-4 decision.

“It cannot be denied,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., “that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the jurisdictions covered.”

That's because these measures were working, sir.

As the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Voting Rights Program, Sean Morales-Doyle, reminded me last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg scathingly noted in her dissent that “dismissing preclearance when it has worked and continues to work to stop discriminatory changes It's like throwing away your umbrella during a storm because you won't get wet.”

These days, thanks to our misguided court, voter suppression laws are raining down.

The Brennan Center has found that at least 29 states have passed 94 restrictive voting laws, only a few of which have been blocked by courts or struck down. Freed from federal oversight, states like Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi and South Carolina have gone to town, enacting dozens of new restrictions in a cynical effort to make it harder for Black, Brown and Indigenous voters and college students. all of them who lean towards Democrats, to cast their vote.

A useful introduction to the topic is the 30-minute documentary “Suppressed and Sabotaged,” from Brave New Films. Released in 2022 and re-released this year, the documentary examines the different ways red states have attempted to disenfranchise voters they don't like. I recommend taking your blood pressure medications before seeing him.

Techniques include reducing the number of polling places in black precincts, erecting barriers to voter registration, senselessly purging voter rolls, changing the rules for absentee voting, drastically reducing the number of drop boxes, and passing voting laws. voter identification under the pretext of preventing electoral fraud. a rare occurrence that MAGA Republicans have gone into hysterics about.

The documentary focuses on the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, which some voting rights activists see as the testing ground for many of the voter suppression techniques that other states would later adopt.

In that race, then-Georgia legislator Stacey Abrams came very close to defeating Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and becoming the country's first black female governor. Kemp, who was running for governor while overseeing the election, carried out what many saw as a reckless purge of voter rolls. More than half a million people, about 8% of registered voters, were removed by Kemp in 2017. More than 100,000 of them were removed not because they died, moved or went to prison, but because they had chosen not to vote in two elections previous. .

Black voters encountered unique barriers in the 2018 elections in Georgia. As Politico reported, “they waited for hours in lines surrounding their polling places. Some were arbitrarily removed from voter rolls, forcing them to fill out confusing provisional ballots on Election Day. Others stayed home completely.”

Kemp won by fewer than 55,000 votes, or 1.4% of the total votes cast.

Peggy Xu, an Abrams supporter and now a 28-year-old lawyer in Washington, D.C., was among the tens of thousands of Georgia voters who never received the absentee ballots they requested that year. As a student, she had voted absentee in Georgia for years without any problems.

“I applied for absentee voting very early, as soon as I knew I was moving,” she told me. “I checked my mailbox every day. “It became this horrible ritual.” She was hopeful, then anxious, then demoralized. The vote never came and she never found out why.

“It instilled distrust in me,” he said. “These upcoming elections in 2024 are astronomically important. Maybe I should bear the cost and fly back and vote in person?

The Brennan Center made a fascinating discovery when it analyzed exactly where these restrictive voting laws were concentrated. It is too simple to say that voter suppression laws arise solely from naked Republican partisanship. They also arise from racial animosity.

“White racial resentment, and not just partisanship and competitiveness, goes a long way toward explaining the phenomenon,” Kevin Morris, a voting policy expert at the Brennan Center, wrote in his 2022 report.

As Morales-Doyle put it: “Legislators representing the whitest districts in the most diverse states are the most likely to introduce restrictive legislation. “This is consistent with the idea of ​​'racial threat,' of people responding to the growing political power of communities of color in these places.”

It is worth noting that “white racial resentment” is a metric developed in the 1980s by political scientists Donald Kinder and Lynn M. Sanders for the American National Election Studies. Regular national surveys ask respondents whether and to what extent they attribute socioeconomic disparities between black and white Americans to slavery and racial discrimination or to a lack of hard work and perseverance. “The more an individual agrees with the general sentiment that black people's lack of effort is the primary reason for racial disparities, the higher that individual's racial resentment score will be,” wrote Theodore Johnson of the Brennan Center. “And study after study has shown that people who voted for Donald Trump had higher levels of racial resentment than those who didn't.”

Until about 2008, white Republicans and Democrats demonstrated similar rates of racial resentment. But after the election of the first black president, those rates diverged dramatically. Levels of racial resentment among white Democrats plummeted and rose among white Republicans.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck again, ruling that South Carolina could continue using a congressional map that a lower court said unconstitutionally moves tens of thousands of black voters to a different district to favor Republicans.

However, not all the news is bad, as Morales-Doyle pointed out. In 2022, many election deniers ran for public office, including to serve as election officials, but none of those candidates prevailed in battleground states.

“We still live in a democracy,” he said. “It has its flaws, but voters want people to have access to the vote. That is my reason for hope.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top