GOP doubles down on voter suppression (UPDATE)

The Republican playbook: Discourage Black voting by making people wait for hours, as these voters were forced to do in 2018.

When lots of people vote, Democrats win. Just ask President Joe Biden, with his nearly 8 million vote margin over Donald Trump. So naturally, Republicans are doing all they can to stop voters they fear will vote for Team Blue from taking part in the electoral process.

Since the November election, Republican officials in 33 states have introduced 165 bills for the 2021 legislative session to make it harder to vote, especially for Democrats and people of color. In 2020, there were only 35 bills in 15 states that limited voter access, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice. UPDATE: The latest information from the Brennan Center has a total of 253 voter suppression bills in 43 states.

The proposed restrictions include:

  • Cutting days and times for early voting, especially on Sundays. This especially affects Black voters, whose churches help with transport to get “souls to the polls.”
  • Increasing restrictions for mail-in ballots. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many voters to request absentee ballots instead of possibly exposing themselves to the novel coronavirus at the polls on Election Day or even at an early voting site. Next time around, GOP officials in some states want to limit absentee ballot requests only for voters older than 75. This gets rid of the “no-excuses” absentee voting, which worked so well in 2020.
  • Limiting the time to request and send out absentee ballots. Georgia officials propose limiting those requests to 78 days before an election instead of the current 180.
  • Eliminating automatic voter registration. States that have instituted automatic registration have seen increased turnout with no increase in voter fraud, but why make it easy for voters?
  • Limiting the use of voter drop boxes. Never mind the fact that drop boxes have been used by states successfully for years and have been shown to increase voter turnout. Oh, wait, that’s the point, isn’t it?
  • Making voter ID laws even more draconian. The Georgia GOP went all out: It wants voters to provide a driver’s license number or a copy of other identification to apply for a mail-in ballot, then make those same voters provide the same driver’s license information (or the last four digits of a Social Security number if they do not have an acceptable ID) on the mail-in ballot itself. There’s a time waster for all concerned.
  • Increasing voter “purges.” This would give states the right to remove voters from rolls if they haven’t voted in four years and don’t respond to a mail notice (because our mail delivery has been so good recently, hasn’t it?). Such purges have removed many legitimate voters from voting rolls, even though the voters are still alive and living at the same addresses.
  • Expanding poll watcher “access.” We don’t even need to explain that one, as we watched the Trump campaign challenge vote counting in multiple states across the country where he lost. The campaign, along with his crack legal team, filed lawsuit after lawsuit claiming that Republican “poll watchers” weren’t given proper access, even though they were. The Trump legal team ended up with a record of one minor win and 65 losses.

Some of the most restrictive ideas are in Georgia, which handed Biden a victory and also elected two Democratic senators, thus effectively giving Democrats control of the Senate. Given the Republican losses, GOP officials are going after voters with a heavy hand, especially Black voters, whose huge turnout meant victories for Democratic candidates.

“With exacting precision, the bill targets voters of color,” Nse Ufot, chief of the New Georgia Project, one of the groups that mobilized voters of color in Georgia, said in a story in the Guardian. “Georgia Republicans saw what happens when Black voters are empowered and show up at the polls, and now they’re launching a concerted effort to suppress the votes and voices of Black Georgians.”

Trump and his GOP cohorts did all they could to spread the Big Lie, that somehow Democrats had “stolen” the election. About three quarters of Republican voters still claim that Biden didn’t win in November. Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud (which barely exists) and his drumbeat for his supporters to “fight like hell” incited the Jan. 6 riot by Trump supporters at the Capitol, in which six people lost their lives.

The 2020 election saw a historic level of voter turnout, showing that people do care who wins and who loses. If there’s any good news in the face of such heavy voter suppression tactics, it’s that legislators in other states have introduced 406 bills expanding voter access.

No matter how many obstacles officials put in your way, make sure you vote in every election, from local municipal elections to state and local races to midterm elections to presidential contests. Do it for Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died from injuries inflicted by Trump’s goons on Jan. 6 as they tried to stop Congress from fulfilling the constitutional duty of certifying the results of the presidential election. Because in a sense, Sicknick gave his life protecting our right to vote.

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