The GOP Is a Greater Threat to Free Elections

Jesse Jackson Columnist


This is an excerpt from an article originally published in the May 6, 2019 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper. Read the rest here.


We all have heard about WikiLeaks and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The report of special counsel Robert Mueller has once more put that on the front pages.


Too often lost in the furor, however, is the far more damaging TrikiLeaks – the tricks and laws used to suppress the vote by partisans, largely Republicans here at home. After the Supreme Court’s right-wing gang of five gutted key sections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, Republican-controlled states immediately ramped up efforts to create obstacles for voting, particularly for people of color.


They mandated specific forms of state ID, made it harder for students to vote, eliminated same-day registration, reduced early voting days, closed polling booths in African-American neighborhoods leading to long delays, purged voters from the rolls, perfected partisan gerrymandering and more.



In some cases, as in North Carolina, their discriminatory intent was so public that the laws were overturned in federal court, but in most places, the new barriers were in place in 2016. Did it make a difference? Voting rights expert Ari Berman says, “Absolutely.”


Overall, 14 states had new restrictions in place, passed since the Shelby decision. Look at Wisconsin. Trump won by 22,000 votes. In Wisconsin, 300,000 African-American voters didn’t have the newly required strict photo ID. Black voter turnout in Milwaukee declined by 51,000 votes from 2012, while as Lawyers Committee President Kristen Clarke noted, voter turnout rates were depressed across the state. Now we’re headed into 2020.


Republican bastions like Texas, Tennessee and Arizona witnessed surges of Democratic support in 2018. Not surprisingly, they are launching new efforts to suppress the vote. In Texas, the secretary of state announced a plan to purge 95,000 people from the voter rolls because they weren’t citizens.



Independent research then demonstrated that in Harris County, which includes Houston, 60 percent of the 30,000 people on the list had received citizenship long ago. Some of the supposed research was 25 years old. Once more, citizens had to go to court to try to stop the suppression.


In Texas, state lawmakers are also moving to add criminal penalties for people who improperly fill out voter registration forms, an effort to intimidate nonprofit groups that work to register people to vote. In Arizona, Republicans are making it harder to cast an early ballot. In Tennessee, GOP lawmakers are pushing legislation to fine voter registration groups that submit incomplete forms, even by mistake, up to $10,000.


Tequila Johnson, co-founder of the Equity Alliance that focuses on registering people of color, called them out: “We have never seen a bill like this on the floor, until we dared to register 86,000 black and brown people to vote. This screams racism.” Much, much more attention should be paid to this battle.


This is an excerpt from an article originally published in the May 6, 2019 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper. Read the rest here.


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