In our country, the opportunity to vote is among the most basic principles. The Constitution begins with the words “We the people…” The people choosing how and by whom we will be governed has made our country an inspiration to others around the world. And several million new voters have registered to vote since 2018. This election promises to engage more people than ever. We can celebrate that fact. However, something else is going on that is seeking to reverse the tide of citizens choosing their leaders. Some examples:
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that about 600,000 more people have signed up to vote in Georgia since 2018. But the number of polling places has been reduced by 10 percent. Last minute combining and moving polling places causes confusion. For last June’s primary election, 16,000 voters from five precincts were assigned to vote at Park Tavern, a restaurant and event space. This caused long lines in non-white neighborhoods where voter registration has surged. In states across the American South, authorities have closed nearly 1,200 polling places since the Supreme Court weakened the federal voting-discrimination law in 2013. Seven counties in Georgia now have only one polling place.
Last December, the Georgia Secretary of State said it removed more than 300,000 registered voters it classified as “inactive” from its voting rolls, or having moved. But when outside experts scrutinized the list, name by name, they found 198,351 Georgia voters who were said to have supposedly moved but, in fact, had not moved at all. (They) were wrongly purged, a 63.3% error rate.
In Texas, the election administrator in Fort Bend County decided to add four locations where voters can hand-deliver their absentee ballots, one outdoors to minimize voters’ being exposed to COVID-19 virus. But then Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, ordered counties to close any extra drop-off sites and limit it to only one per county. That means the absentee voters of the 4.7 million residents of Harris County (Houston) who wish to deliver their absentee ballot in person may need to travel through miles of city traffic to that one box to deposit their ballots.
Early voting in Texas began Tuesday, Oct. 13, with crowds of excited voters waiting in line for several hours in some places to cast their ballots. As they have in other states, many brought folding chairs, lunches and umbrellas to wait their turn. Again in Harris County, Lina Hidalgo, the top local official, opened a few drive-through sites for voters to help people avoid standing in lines. The Republican Party filed lawsuits to restrict officials from offering “too many” places for voting. Hidalgo condemned the lawsuit as a “shameless” effort to reduce voting.
In Wisconsin, the secretary of state purged 14 percent of its voters between 2016 and 2018, about double the national average. Voters in Black neighborhoods were nearly twice as likely to be removed from registration lists. When challenged, it was shown that 300,000 eligible voters’ names were removed erroneously. Lawsuits to correct this are still pending.
In North Carolina, Republicans passed a bill to eliminate the most popular day for early voting, the final Saturday before the election. In 2016, 200,000 people voted on that Saturday, a day used disproportionately by African-Americans, many of whose jobs make it more difficult to find time to vote on a weekday.
There are many more examples, but in perhaps the most bizarre escapade, the California Republican Party has admitted responsibility for placing more than 50 deceptively labeled “official” drop boxes for mail-in ballots in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange counties, an action state officials said was illegal.
Should we not celebrate that so many people want to vote? Doesn’t this demonstrate the vitality of the American system? But while more people are registering to vote, in every case it is Republicans who are seeking to prevent them from voting, rather than seeking to win their votes legally. It appears they do not trust these folks to vote for the “right” party, so why not make it harder for them to vote and hope they will go home?
All this is a sign of a dying power structure, flailing about trying every measure to keep its power. There are many good and upright Republicans (on the local level), but it’s clear that the Republican Party has become bankrupt of moral values. It no longer deserve our votes because it has chosen to preserve its power instead of American values. You could say they have become un-American.