Alabama Surge Does Not Change the Story on Voter Suppression

Gulfport   Voter suppression is a mark of shame in a democracy. In fact, it beggars the question of whether a democracy exists at all. The principle of any democracy has to be a maximum effort to provide access to all eligible voters to the polls in order to exercise their franchise and give voice to their opinions on the direction of the country and its leadership.

There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Any part of the political establishment’s attempts to suppress the free expression of voters at the ballot box is anti-democratic. Period. There are no two ways about it. It’s not just politics, it’s an attempt to erode the fundamental values of the country.

A headline in the New York Times read, “Black Turnout in Alabama Complicates Debate Over Voting Laws.” Baloney! The fact that African-American voters were able to overwhelm the obstacles imposed by voter suppression and voter ID requirements does not complicate the debate whatsoever. What was wrong is still wrong. That doesn’t change just because people were able in this one instance to climb over the barriers successfully. The exception simply proves the rule in the Alabama race. Furthermore, as everyone from Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell on down in the anti-voter Republican Party has said, this is a one-time thing in Alabama. How many times can voters find themselves confronted with political choices that are so utterly Manichean with good and evil presented in such stark contrasts? With voter suppression in place, and even more comprehensive in a host of other states, like Texas, a merely bad and terrible Republican would have had a good chance of winning, where the face of evil only lost by less than 2%.

The founder of Alabama’s Black Votes Matter was quoted saying, “Historically and traditionally, there has been a strong voice of resistance to those that are undemocratic,” she said. “I don’t think that this is new; I think that has always been the role that black voters, particularly in the Deep South, have played.” She’s right up to a point. Southern and, frankly, non-Southern states have been suppressing black votes for hundreds of years. I just finished reading a book called, The 1868 St. Bernard Parish Massacre: Blood in the Cane Fields, by Cris Dier, who presented it at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse recently. It was the horrific story of more than 100 African-Americans killed in a parish abutting New Orleans in the effort to suppress the post-Civil War Reconstruction voting base of the Republicans.

My point: suppression is suppression. Violence is of course worse, but so is trickery and legal shenanigans when the purpose is the same.

I worry about the Times on this beat and not just because of the headline. Hardly a week before the election they ran a story that essentially argued that African-American voters were not engaged and were ho-humming the whole affair, didn’t know Doug Jones, didn’t care about Roy Moore, and we’re sleep walking the election. Then a week later they are arguing that voter suppression didn’t work therefore the discussion about state by state efforts to suppress voters is now “complicated.”

We’re living in different realities in the United States for sure, but at the point we can’t even consistently agree of bedrock democratic values, the debate is over, and the country has lost.

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Voter Fraud Tactic is Just Another Voter Suppression Tactic

mapofshame2015New Orleans  Score setting is boring. It’s almost Trumpian. Who cares about all of this inside baseball back and forth? No one but the players in all likelihood. But, vindication, now that’s different. Recognition of a reality where someone has being crying to be heard in the wilderness, oh, yes, that’s worth taking note, I think.

And, so we will!

Finally, there’s starting to be a drumbeat of deeper understanding starting to rise among the cognoscenti in the media and political class that might eventually be heard over the din of the spin machines down to the grassroots that recognizes that these claims of voter fraud are nothing more than election tactics designed to confuse voters, rile up the hater-base, inspire racists, and suppress minority votes. Trump’s total lack of any credibility whatsoever has finally forced some mainstream reporters out of their deep slumber because the antipathy to Trump is so great by so many that they see his claims of a “rigged” election as a threat to democracy, rather than the standard operating procedure for election cycles at least throughout the 21st century in the United States.

I don’t want to suffer from “premature certainty,” but first the Washington Post pointed out that this rigged election malarkey was also a feature of the 2008 election thanks to John McCain’s fallacious accusations that ACORN was about to carry out the biggest voter fraud in history. The story was run nationally on the Tribune wire. Now the Huffington Post has jumped in and, more weightily, the New York Times finally got off the duff and realized that this “crying wolf” about so-called “voter fraud” has been going on cycle to cycle since at least 2000. Hello, welcome aboard the reality train! They of course cite the fact that ACORN was targeted, wrongly, in 2008, though they could as easily with a little more work and research have also made the same case back several cycles before 2008 as well.

The facts rarely disrupt tactics that are working even if they are essentially little more than media-manipulation and campaign dirty tricks. They do throw some fuel into the fire of truth though, and we can hope the sparks spread. Here are some:

…a study by Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles…uncovered only 31 credible claims of voter impersonation between 2000 and 2014, out of one billion ballots that were cast. An Arizona State University journalism project reviewed 2068 allegations of election fraud between 2000 and 2012 and concluded that only 10 had involved misrepresentation.

Many of the allegations have been directed at efforts to register minority voters, so it’s hard to avoid the race mongering inherent in these claims and the intentional voter suppression, tragically backed up by targeted legislation largely in red-Republican states. Efforts to charge immigrants with illegal registration and voting, especially in 2012, but certainly in 2008, as well have all been pretty clearly unsubstantiated and at worse attributed to errors and confusion.

The Times concluded with an assessment from Lorraine Minnite from Rutgers, a voting expert, that,

“The frame is being controlled by those who are promoting the idea that fraud is a problem. If we shifted the framework to people who are trying to vote but don’t get their vote counted, we’d be having a different discussion.”

Been there, done that, said it often, so big whoop and amen to that!

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