How Did We Get Here? Hint Voter Suppression didn’t help

As of the time of this writing, the Popular vote in the 2016 election was 61,035,065 for Hillary Clinton and 60,367,210 for Donald Trump. Or to put it otherwise, while there are still votes being counted, Hillary has at least 667,855 votes more. The Electoral vote was 232 for Hillary Clinton and 290 for Donald Trump.  How did this happen? A lot of it has to do with voter suppression. 

I’m not even going to speak in this article about Julian Assange and Wikileaks or the Russians admitting to contacting the Trump campaign or James Comey of the FBI and his disastrous leaks of non-information which he cleaned up too late.

Voter Suppression - Protect our right to voteFlorida, North Carolina, Wisconsin. Those are the states that lost this election for us.  Besides that what did they have in common? It was a perfectly legal thing, if totally immoral.  and it resulted in Voter Suppression.

In 2003 a group of 11 Texas Senate Democrats fled their state for Albuquerque New Mexico.  They stayed out of the state for 46 days in an attempt of preventing passage of a mid-decade legislation that would re-district legislative districts for the newly Republican led Texas House in the Republicans favor. It’s called Gerrymandering. 

Gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party when setting electoral districts. Gerrymandering can be used to help a particular group (such as a political party) or hinder a particular demographic (party, ethnic, racial, religious or class).  It’s aim is to garner more votes for a particular party in an electoral district. While there are cases of gerrymandering in states that are heavily democratic (Maryland for example), gerrymandering has been used to greatest effect to diminish democratic votes in red states.

This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see

The power that gerrymandering has brought to Republicans

The Supreme Court did us no favors either.  In fact this was the first Presidential election since the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ensured that state and local governments did not pass laws or policies that denied American citizens the equal right to vote based on race. Section 5, which is the portion that SCOTUS overturned stated that states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination must seek pre-approval in changes in voting rules that could affect minorities.

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 5-4 decision that divided along ideological lines, with the conservative part of the Court deciding that racial minorities no longer faced barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Our country has changed.” 

States covered were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Immediately after SCOTUS struck down the Voting Rights Act, five states previously covered started moving forward on Voter ID laws. These states were: Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and Mississippi.  Funny that.  States which had been covered under the law that got struck down, immediately went ahead and tried to suppress the vote.  I guess that our country hasn’t changed as much as John Roberts thinks it has.  I wonder what he thinks now?

Along with the above States a number of other states which weren’t covered by the Voting Rights Act, also implemented Voter ID Laws.  Note that all of the states that did so have Republican Legislatures. In all 34 states now have voting id laws in place, including Wisconsin and Michigan. (North Carolina did have one, but it was struck down in time for this election. With few exceptions (Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Michigan), the states that request or require a photo ID are in heavily Republican or swing states with a Republican legislature.

A Facebook user in Wisconsin explains how this worked.

Vote Suppression in WisconsinThis person writes:

“Wisconsin has done everything possible to suppress people from voting.  I worked for DMV & the restrictions were horrendous…certified birth certificate, can cost up to $100 for your birth certificate…Social Security Card (hard copy), not your medicare card, not the number on a pay stub, Must be the actual SS card.. which requires getting that from your local SS office, which can be over 100 miles away, .proof of residence,such as a bank account statement (there are LOTS of ppl without a bank account in this state), there are lots of ppl that do not drive, elderly females that have never driven, never had a driver’s license, are known around the local area, and some even born without a birthcertificate…the list goes on & on & on, and it is a real problem.  Wis. did not even have DMV offices in each county until voter ID came in.  Some offices are only open 2 days a week.  All of this is specifically designed to suppress voters, specifically, young, poor, elderly.  It did happen!!!!!!!!!!!”

Another way that states can work to suppress the vote in their state is by purging voter rolls.  States are required to maintain current and accurate voter registration databases.  This helps stop the “dead person voting” we hear so much about.  But it can also be used to disenfranchise eligible voters. This disenfranchisement can have a large and disproportionate impact on minority groups.

It’s again not surprising that voter rolls were purged in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Virginia, to name a few.  Counties can use what is called “voter caging” to purge the rolls.  This involves sending mail to a residence and compiling a list of mail that is returned undelivered. They don’t typically send it to all voters (that would be too expensive!) but target the communities they wish to purge.  Some states allow counties to purge voter rolls  if a voter doesn’t vote in a specific number of elections.

There is also the case of states and county’s not making voting precincts available in primarily democratic neighborhoods or limiting the number of voting machines as well.  This leads to long lines and people dropping out and deciding not to vote at all.

And all of this worked to suppress Voter Rights and helped throw the election to the Republicans, not only the Presidency, but the House and Senate as well.

So all of these working together this year worked to suppress Democratic votes in states that are primarily Republican. Democrats have worked through the years to open voter registration (allowing people to register when they get their driver’s license for example). Republicans have worked to suppress it. 

And that is how we got to the dark day on Tuesday night when Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina all flipped for Donald Trump despite the polls.  It was immoral, but unfortunately legal because of the laws we have on our books at this moment.  Which means that we have to start working to take those laws off the books, at both the States and Federal level.  It’s not going to be quick nor will it be easy since now Republicans control 68 out of 98 state legislative chambers and 24 states currently have the Republicans holding both the governorship and both houses of the legislature.  We need to take those governorships and legislatures back in order to correct this issue.