Voting Access and Suppression Are Big Issues Everywhere

Ideas and Issues

voting access, voter suppression, voting rights

April 2, 2021

New Orleans               Georgia has managed to grab a lot of attention as the first state to successfully torpedo voting rights after the 2020 election, and goodness knows it deserves all the shame, derision, and boycotts that are coming its way. Reporters for the New York Times listed sixteen new restrictions on the right to vote in the 98-page bill that ranged from drastic curtailment of early voting to increased legislative control of state and county elections. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page had tried to whitewash the changes, but it’s hard to see them as anything but purposeful and pernicious in attacking the exercise of democracy itself. Here’s’ the thing though, Georgia isn’t alone. It seems almost all of the states a taking a crack at voting, one way or another.

I listened to a legislator from Arizona try her best to defend a bill moving through the legislature there that would undercut previous actions that allowed voters to permanently request a mail ballot. They already have a standard purging procedure for people who don’t vote, but this curious effort wanted to clawback providing an estimated 200,000 voters automatically with mail ballots under a new criterion that if the voter hadn’t used the mail ballot in a certain number of elections, and might be voting manually, they would stop mailing them ballots. When asked repeatedly if they were trying to invent a solution to a nonexistent problem, the best the bill’s sponsor could offer was that the state of Arizona would save on the cost of the mailing, dismissing the fact the voter’s permanent request was being jettisoned by the state. Anything to stop mail ballots seems to be the goal.

Thankfully, the news in voting isn’t all bad. Virginia may have to change its license plates and replace the old “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan, if they even still use that, to Virginia is for Voters. In a historic move, the legislature has passed the Voting Rights Act of Virginia which among other things includes language that creates a form of preclearance that used to be the national standard to prevent racially motivated voter suppression until the Roberts’ Supreme Court sanctioned such activity. Under this new law, county or election officials will have to have any election changes vetted by the state’s attorney general to make sure there is no discrimination. All of this is icing on the cake since Virginia has been aggressively reforming election access over the last fourteen months, since

…the state’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly and [Governor] Northam have together repealed the state’s voter ID law, enacted 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting, made Election Day a state holiday and enacted automatic voter registration for anyone who receives a Virginia driver’s license.

We can’t all live in Virginia of course, and mischief with democracy is not limited to Georgia and Arizona.

In Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, Republicans have introduced bills that would split their state’s presidential electoral votes, reducing the power of big cities. In Montana and Pennsylvania, the party is trying to end statewide judicial elections — a way to prevent liberal strongholds from dominating the vote. In Missouri, the GOP is opting not to implement Medicaid expansion, passed by most voters last year, because rural voters didn’t support it.

These kinds of measures are not simply voter suppression, but wholesale attacks on the concept of majority rule in a democracy.

Working with the Voter Purge Project, where we are now processing the voter lists of more than twenty-five states, we’re keeping the scorecard from state to state, but there’s no way we can pretend right now that we are winning.