Don’t be suppressed

Someone rings the doorbell right around Jeopardy time, not the best moment to interrupt, and I go downstairs to answer. There are two young men at the door. One carries a clipboard. The other a stack of papers. It is election season and I expect to get a pitch or two but instead am simply asked if I intend to vote. “Yes” I reply and the questioner proceeds to ask if I want to vote by mail. “No” is my answer and he launches into a fervent speech about how much easier it is and how they can help not only by supplying me with a “Vote by Mail” form but also with a ballot I can fill out to cast my vote right then and there. At that all my alarm bells go off and I ask them who they are and who they represent. They quickly cover by saying, “Well, if you’re not interested…” and heading off down the block.

I go back upstairs and rejoin Amy, knowing not to interrupt the sacrosanct Jeopardy-Wheel of Fortune hour until a commercial break, when I give my report. She agrees the encounter was strange but says it was not a big deal. The more I think about it, the more I think it is and hop in the car to see if I can find the young men.

vectorstock_331471They are just a few block down, and I watch them return to a parked car. In the backseat  I notice lawn posters promoting the candidacy of one Jay Webber. A light bulb appears over my head. Jay Webber, a state representative, is the Republican running for election in my congressional district, New Jersey’s 11th. Retiring Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen has represented the district since 1995.

Webber is being challenged by Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a Naval Academy graduate, Navy helicopter pilot, and an assistant US attorney. The race is close and this is clearly a “flippable” seat as the Democrats try to win control of the House of Representatives.

Most of the 11th district is Morris County, with a rather solid Republican voting history. But I live in Upper Montclair, a part of Essex County’s Montclair Township broken off and attached to the 11th in the 2010 dedistricting. Montclair is reliably Democratic. So what were Webber’s people up to? Well, if they could convince me that I had voted by handing a ballot to them, which they tossed, and I stayed home, my presumably Democratic vote for Sherrill would be suppressed.

Fat chance.

Voter suppression appears to be a major part of the playbook this year. At least, based on my observation, the playbook the Republicans are using.

In Georgia, at least 53,000 registrations were delayed due to the state’s unique “exact-match” law, requiring personal information on voter applications match what is on state databases, right down to the hyphens and middle names. Federal Courts blocked election officials from implementing that law.

The top election official in Georgia is, as it is in most states, the Georgia Secretary of State. For this election that is Republican Brian Kemp. Kemp also happens to be running for governor. The conflict of interest is undeniable. And just to drive home the point, Kemp’s Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, recently alerted experts to vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voting database.  Kemp immediately announced an investigation. Of Abrams and the Democrats! How do you spell conflict of interest again?

Up in North Dakota, first term Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp faces a tough reelection challenge from Republican congressman Kevin Cramer. Heitkamp won six years ago by fewer than 3,000 votes. She won handily in areas with large Native American populations. N.D.’s Republican controlled legislature passed a law requiring voters to have actual street addresses on their identification. Many Native Americans do not have U.S. mail service and use post office box numbers on their I.D.s. This voter suppression gambit could keep 70,000 Native Americans away from the polls. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to get involved.

In South Carolina, strict voter ID laws requiring department of motor vehicle (DMV) photo IDs will make it harder for people who don’t live near a DMV to get the document they need to vote.   And, one thinks not so coincidentally, S.D. cut the number of DMV offices, and polling places, by 20 percent. The cuts are mostly in minority neighborhoods where people tend to vote for Democrats.

In Dodge City, Kansas, a single polling location serves the city’s 27,000 (mostly Hispanic) residents, and a local official moved that location out of the center of town to a remote location a mile away from the nearest bus stop. Figures.

Thousands of online registrations have been rejected in Texas, which some people see as the leader in voter suppression nationwide. In Texas the trick has been to exploit the solid control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion to effect one of the most contorted gerrymanders I have ever seen.

Texas 35CD

This baby is my favorite. Texas’ 35th Congressional District. This is a gerrymander that actually looks like the salamander on which the pun is based. The Supreme Court, in one of its memorable 5-4 decisions, Abbott v. Perez, right along party lines, thinks this slithering little thing is just fine.

And last on my list, which was in no particular order, Nevada. In Nevada, 90,000 voters were “purged“, placed into “inactive status”, by Republicans following the Supreme Court decision Husted v. Randolph. Also 5-4. The same 5-4.

Bottom line, the Republicans are doing everything they can to stop people from voting. The more people vote, the more Republicans lose.

 

 

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