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.


Real vs. Fake Voting Issues May Mean Paper Ballots and Hand Counts Again

Casablanca   Hillary Clinton on a book tour and Donald Trump on his maiden voyage at the United Nations where he could take advantage of the opportunity to plug one of his branded properties across the street and threaten to annihilate a small country, reminds all of us that the American election was nearly one year ago last November. It’s officially fall again on the calendar no matter how warm it seems in country after country.

Amazingly, we are still talking about the election. For many it seems just like yesterday. Special Prosecutor and former FBI chief Robert Mueller is starting to let subpoenas fall like so many leaves all over Washington, D.C. as he tries to determine the impact the Russians had on the election and how deeply connected they were to the Trump campaign apparatus. In fact just yesterday, a year too late, the Department of Homeland Security alerted twenty-two states that they had reason to believe that their voting systems were being hacked before the last election. The twenty-two states that were confirmed by the Associated Press through calls to all 50 state election commissions were the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Meanwhile the President quickly tweets that none of this had any effect on the election. Who knows, maybe he’s right, but rather than spending his time tweeting about it, maybe his energy would be better spent at this point making sure election systems are protected and secure. Instead, he has an Election Commission ostensibly chaired by Vice-President Pence but really nothing more than another platform for Krazy Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and putative gubernatorial candidate there to claim there was voting fraud in order to prevent more people from having their constitutional right to vote in the future. Something is just plain backasswards about all of that.

Kobach and his fake election integrity commission just got caught in one of his standard partisan stunts when they held a hearing in New Hampshire where he then unilaterally preempted the outfit before they could meet by claiming that there were over 5000 fraudulent voters that were sufficient enough to have theoretically made the difference in both the last Senate and Presidential outcomes in that state. When pulled short by the Election Commissioner in the state and the outrage in his own fake committee because he was discounting the fact that students are allowed to register and vote in New Hampshire since they spent the majority of their year there and almost all of votes he was claiming to be illegal were in college towns, like a schoolboy he essentially just said, “my bad.” What a farce!

We need a real election commission to look at real problems like how to secure and protect the ballot, not the Trump-Kobach program of how to prevent people from voting. Let the Russians play with that, while Americans figure out how we get the maximum votes and make sure they are counted fair and square. Some states have canceled contracts for new computer voting systems. Are we going to end up going back to paper ballots and hand counting, while Trump tweets and Kobach acts out for the headlines, and no one pays attention to the real problems in protecting our elections and voting systems?