Optimism in the Face of Voter Suppression

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans     It is impossible to deny that there is a huge, concerted effort to suppress voters in the ostensibly democratic process of elections in the United States.  Voter identification laws have proliferated more widely than fetal heartbeat bills.

The blatantly racist and partisan effort to embed a citizenship question into the 2020 Census, now pending before the Supreme Court, has now been complicated by from-the-grave revelations.  Making a lie of the Commerce Department’s claim that they needed a question on citizenship status for voters rights enforcement, documents, from the files of the late architect of the plan, show that their gerrymandering expert (Thomas Hofeller, whose role the Trump administration did not disclose to the courts) wrote a 2015 study saying his scheme (to use voting-age citizens for redistricting rather than total population) would require a “radical redrawing” of legislative districts that would “be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.” This “would clearly be a disadvantage for the Democrats,” he wrote, packing Democratic voters into fewer districts and “strengthening the adjoining GOP districts.”

Nonetheless, talking to Joshua Douglas, Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law on Wade’s World, gave current events a different twist.  In these darkening storm clouds for democracy, he found reasons for optimism by looking away from the national scene and examining some inspirational examples of local efforts at reform that have gained some hard-won traction.  Among the points of light cited by Douglas:

  • He likes the experiments in Maryland suburbs with lowering the voting age to 16 years.
  • He is bullish on the ability of felons to finally have the vote in Florida thanks to the overwhelming approval of the electorate and worries less about the legislature’s efforts to continue to disenfranchise them by adding a “poll tax” of fine repayment before balloting.
  • He likes registration from taco trucks in Houston, and of course, what’s not to like when you combine tacos and voting!
  • He’s big on the State of Oregon using the “nudge” philosophy and allowing voters to automatically register to vote unless they expressly opt-out as voters, rather than asking them to opt-in.
  • He’s encouraged by the Larimar County, Colorado initiative in creating “voting centers” central location in order to make voting as “easy as food shopping.”

Douglas is the half-full guy you hope to meet in a mostly empty glass world.  Who can argue with these big, thumping heartbeats of hope in communities around America that Douglas explicates in his book, Vote for Us:  How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting?   

Not me!

Inherent in his message:  go and do likewise!

Good luck with that!