Lies and white supremacy fuel Republican voter suppression campaign
In this Nov. 4, 2020, photo, an election worker holds a ballot as vote counting proceeded in Atlanta. President-elect Joe Biden won a number of battleground states in part because of Black voters, many of them concentrated in big cities. That's why Republican legislatures across the country are hatching schemes to suppress the vote. | Brynn Anderson / AP

It is now clearer than ever that the Republican Party is carrying out a strategy of stoking the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and that it is hanging its ability to make a comeback on supporting the white supremacy that was behind the right-wing insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

They are pushing that big lie and enlisting white supremacists to carry out a stepped-up voter suppression campaign in states around the country. The big lie and white supremacy, they have decided, are their ticket to winning power again and reversing their 2020 loss of the White House, Congress, and the Senate.

Republicans and other right wingers, including the people gathered now at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, accuse Democrats and progressives of supporting what they call “cancel culture.” It is Republicans, however, that are proving with their newly stepped-up vote suppression campaigns that they are leading an unprecedented push to cancel voting by anyone not likely to cast a GOP ballot.

The Brennan Center says in a report that 33 states have “introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access.” That is a 400% increase in the number of vote suppression bills Republicans had introduced by February of last year.

The Brennan report calls this newly accelerated vote suppression campaign “an unmistakable response to the unfounded and dangerous lies about fraud having characterized the 2020 election.”

The Brennan report then recognizes that the “Big Lie” that Trump really won the 2020 election is being weaponized by the GOP, especially in key battleground states, to whip up support for their vote suppression efforts now underway.

Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania—all states narrowly lost by Trump—are major targets, but they are not the only ones.

The vote suppression efforts involve a range of tactics, including making it difficult or impossible to register new voters and ending or limiting early voting and mail-in voting.

In Georgia, where Biden and Democrats had an historic win partially propelled by increased Black voter registration and turnout, the Republican-controlled state legislature has introduced 11 bills that restrict voting. The GOP lawmakers behind the bills call them “voter integrity” measures.

On Feb. 18, new legislation was introduced by a leading Republican Georgia legislator which voting rights activists say was designed to make it harder for people in “larger, minority-heavy Democratic strongholds of the state” to cast their ballots.

Another bill in Georgia would end early voting on Sundays. The proposed law is a blatant attack on the rights of African-American voters, who have historically participated in “souls to the polls” efforts organized by churches on Sundays.

“By seeking to eliminate Sunday voting, you are targeting people of faith whose jobs and economic circumstances make it hard for them to get to a polling place,” the NAACP’s Nancy Flake Johnson told The Atlanta Constitution.

In Arizona, there are 19 bills currently proposed to restrict voting. One requires that mail-in ballots be notarized in order to count.

A key way to blunt the effects of GOP state-level vote suppression efforts would be to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, now named for recently-deceased Congressman John Lewis, its original sponsor. In this Dec. 6, 2019, file photo, Lewis, D-Ga., flanked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., speaks at an event with House Democrats before passing the bill to eliminate potential state and local voter suppression laws in the U.S. House. The Republican-controlled Senate at the time refused to take up the bill. | J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Many poor people, particularly people of color in Arizona, don’t have access to a notary public. Notarization typically requires a fee, making it a new poll tax used against people who will tend to vote Democratic.

The most outrageous bill the Republicans have introduced in Arizona allows the Republican legislature to ignore entirely all the voters in the state. It empowers the GOP-controlled body to override the popular vote and appoint electors to support the presidential candidate of their choosing.

Why allow something as troublesome as democracy to get in the way of ensuring Republican control over all political power in a state?

In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, voters do not have to present an excuse in order to vote by mail. Public health concerns related to coronavirus pushed many to opt for a mail-in vote, although Trump urged his supporters to ignore the virus and show up in person. In the 2020 election, registered Democrats used mail-in ballots three times more frequently than Republicans, helping Biden win the state.

Pennsylvania Republicans, therefore, now want to cancel no-excuse mail-in voting and have introduced a bill that would do that.

In Iowa, a state Biden lost in 2020 but which will remain a battleground state in the future, the GOP is working to end measures they believe increase access to the ballot for non-Republicans. On Feb. 18, GOP-controlled committees in the Iowa Senate and House agreed to reduce the number of days for early voting and mail-in voting.

Alice O’Lenick, the GOP chair of the Board of Elections in Gwinnett County, Georgia, admitted to the press in January what was behind all the Republican-backed vote suppression bills across the country. “They don’t have to change all of them,” she said, “but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so that we at least have a shot at winning.”

GOP-backed vote suppression bills are becoming so stringent that it is hard to imagine how the laws can be made any worse. The only thing worse would be legislation that literally allows only Republicans to cast ballots in any elections.

Voting rights groups are mounting fightbacks across the country. One of the most effective ways to defeat the GOP vote suppression campaign, they note, will be passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, which will restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court.

Even more immediately, they see the importance of winning passage of the American Rescue Plan, the economic and coronavirus relief package being pushed by the Biden administration. Successful ending of the pandemic and lifting the nation out of the economic depression will, they note, do a lot to weaken the increasingly desperate GOP in the eyes of voters.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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