They Don’t Like to See You Voting
By Alex Brandolino
Going into Election Day 2018, the consensus among forecasters and pundits is that a blue wave is coming. They predict Democrats will take back the House, governorships, and state legislative seats. But what isn’t widely recognized is that, if these predictions do pan out, it will be despite the deck being stacked against Democrats. It will be despite Republicans’ best efforts to threaten our free and fair elections. I think one NY Times headline from this past weekend is particularly fitting: “We’ve reached a situation in which the fight over the rules and who gets to vote is seen as a legitimate part of electoral competition”
Here are a few of the hurdles Democrats will need to overcome Tuesday to make the blue wave a reality and not just a “Democratic wet dream,” as one Republican consultant put it:
Voter ID: In North Dakota, a state which Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won by only 2,000 votes in 2012, Republicans have attempted to disenfranchise thousands of Native American voters (who made up a key part of Heitkamp’s 2012 coalition) by requiring a street address on voters’ IDs. The problem: many streets on Native reservations do not have street names.
Voter Purges and Registration: The story this cycle that has gotten the most attention is the story we have been hearing out of Georgia. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, charged with overseeing the election, is also conveniently the Republican candidate for an extremely close governor’s race. He has purged millions of voters from the rolls and prevented thousands of voters (the majority of whom are people of color) from registering to vote in an election in which Stacey Abrams is vying to be the nation’s first black, female governor. Secretary Kemp believes he has the right to pick and choose the electorate in his own race, which is blatantly contrary to democratic ideals. Another headline, this time from the Onion, sums it up pretty well: “Brian Kemp Campaign Energized After Seeing Early Voter Suppression Numbers.”
Voter Suppression: In 2014, a provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required states to get pre-clearance from the DOJ to change their election laws, was struck down by a conservative-majority Supreme Court. Since then, Republicans have gone to town on closing polling stations in Democratic-leaning areas. When it comes to Dodge City, Kansas, the only majority Latinx county in Kansas, they haven’t really gone to town so much as moved the only polling station outside of town. The single polling station for thousands of Latinx voters is now over a mile from the nearest bus station because Kansas, like Georgia, is engaged in a tight governor’s race. And like Georgia, the Secretary of State Kris Kobach is (you guessed it) also the Republican candidate.
Despite how grim and frustrating these barriers to democracy can be, it’s not doomsday yet. Democrats still have a chance to win convincing victories on Tuesday and turn back the tide on voting rights for 2020 and beyond.