House Democrats went big with their first bill proposed in the 116th Congress. HR1 is a sweeping anti-corruption bill that addresses key deficiencies in our democratic system pertaining to voting laws, campaign finance concerns, and election ethics. One thing we know about the American voter: they hate corruption, which is probably a logical reaction to dealing with decades of corruption. Hell, by running an anti-corruption campaign, the guy who can’t spell and brags about sexually assaulting women actually won the presidency, despite it being painfully obvious that he was lying about his willingness to address said corruption.
Most of the language in HR1 pertaining to election law aims to get more people to the polls—by making it difficult to be purged from the voter rolls and easier to register, vote early, and actually go vote—by making election day a federal holiday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s head popped off of his weird neck and floated away as he called the bill a Democratic “power grab.” This bill was introduced on Jan 3, so McConnell had some time to prepare his remarks, and still decided to go with the ol’ “the other party is trying to gain power by allowing more people to vote.” One of the most powerful people in the world, ladies and gentlemen.
While it may be surprising to hear McConnell’s admission, we’ve known voter suppression to be part of the GOP’s playbook for some time now. During the Reagan deregulation years, the Republican party was likely wondering how they would stay in power after siphoning all the wealth from the middle class into the pockets of the rich. In 1980, Paul Weyrich, one of the most influential right-wing operatives of the 20th century, said this: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
He wasn’t wrong; data shows that when more people vote, Democrats win more elections overall. The data also shows that lower income voters are more likely to vote blue, but less likely to vote at all. Of course, there’s much more nuance to how people vote than income alone, but both correlation and causation are present. Our politicians are wise to this, and the 2018 midterms were a perfect test case as the GOP scrambled to protect seats jeopardized by their unprecedentedly deranged and unpopular political party and President.
In Georgia’s 2018 Governor’s race, the GOP candidate Brian Kemp was also the Secretary of State, and therefore charged with maintaining the integrity of his own election. He did a bad job, believe it or not. Under Kemp’s direction, his office purged approximately 1.4 million voters from the rolls leading up to his own election. More than 80 percent of those purged were black Americans who, resulting from decades of American oppression, were much more likely to be poor.
Another Secretary of State seeking Gubernatorial election in Kansas was Kris “voter fraud happens all the time” Kobach. That’s right, the same guy who led Trump’s investigation into the supposed millions of undocumented immigrants that gave Clinton the popular vote in 2016. I’d like to inform you that this foolish investigation ended in embarrassing failure. Holy sh*t, non-citizens can’t vote, but let’s pay Kris Kobach to investig… ANYWAY, Kobach had been suppressing votes in Kansas for years prior to running for Governor. In 2018, he endured a substantial peepee slap from the ACLU and the federal courts for a voter ID law that imposed serious burdens on “tens of thousands of eligible citizens [who] were blocked from registration.”
That didn’t stop him, though. In the 2018 midterms, the only polling place in the majority Latinx Dodge City, KS was moved two and a half miles from the city center.
“My father waited up to two hours to vote in the last election because the lines were so long. Now they’ve moved it out of town, it’s out of the way. If you don’t have a car you have to get a bus,” said Alejandro Rangel, a first generation American who was voting in his first election. Unlike Brian Kemp, Kobach lost his race for Governor.
If I was granted the word count, I could list examples of Republican voter suppression that would fill this entire paper. Gerrymandering, voter ID laws, purges, insufficient number of polling places, and more have run rampant since Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 decision that struck down certain parts of the Voting Rights Act. Not every state has mail-in ballots like Oregon, a system that our Republican Secretary of State, Dennis Richardson, has vehemently upheld to make us one of the highest voter turnout states in the country. A system like ours might help the rest of the country to enjoy such a vibrant democratic process, and Secretary Richardson shows us that Republicans are capable of facilitating that.
To Mitch McConnell, or any other politician that would oppose bringing more Americans to the polls to perform their sacred duty as citizens of this country: shame on you. Here we believe in the marketplace of ideas; we exchange those ideas, and then we have an election that all of us have the privilege of participating in, no matter how poor we are or what color we happen to be. To oppose that process, well, it’s just un-American. Either give us something to vote for, or get out of the way.
By Jay Sharpe