From Smirking Chimp
Trump and Republicans don't want mail-in voting this November because it blows up a couple of their most effective voter suppression schemes.
In presidential elections dating back to 2000, there's been noticeable media coverage of long lines in majority-black precincts; commentators sometimes wonder out loud why people would have to wait in line 8 hours to vote in, for example, inner city Ohio in 2004 or Milwaukee in the 2020 primaries.
Leading up to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's contest with Stacey Abrams in 2018, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal documented how 8 percent of the state's polling places had been recently closed, hitting rural black areas particularly hard. The Washington Post chronicled how broken voting machines -- and the long lines they create -- were largely confined to downtown Atlanta and black suburbs and rural areas.
The effect, of course, is to discourage voters from showing up or staying in line, particularly those people who are paid by the hour and have to take time off work to vote.
"The strongest tool Americans have to prevent Republican attempts at voter suppression is mail-in voting."In minority voting precincts with a long history of race-based voter suppression, Republicans totally closed 868 polling places between the 2013 Shelby County decision and the 2016 election. The result is that between the 2012 and 2016 elections, black voting participation fell nearly 7 percent.
With mail-in voting there is no long drive, bus ride, or wait in line, so Republicans can't rig things to make it harder for people to vote. That particular voting suppression trick -- which conservatives have been running for over a century, particularly in the South -- just doesn't work with mail-in voting.
Another trick the GOP likes is to merge the effects of voter registration purges with "provisional" ballots. First, Republican Secretaries of State throw hundreds of thousands of people off the voter rolls, disproportionately Hispanics and African Americans, by using "merge/purge" lists of felons or voters from other states with large black populations.
In 2018, investigative reporter Greg Palast sued a number of Republican secretaries of state and got his hands on purge lists that included more than 90,000 people in largely Democratic parts of Nevada, 769,436 voters purged in Colorado, 340,134 in Georgia, 550,000 in Illinois, a large but as-yet-uncounted list from Nebraska, and 469,000 purged in Indiana.
The Brennan Center for Justice found that just between 2014 and 2016, in the two years leading up to the presidential election, over 14 million people were purged from voter rolls, largely in Republican-controlled states. Kemp purged over a million in Georgia alone.
Calling the findings "disturbing," the Brennan Center noted, "Almost 4 million more names were purged from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008. This growth in the number of removed voters represented an increase of 33 percent -- far outstripping growth in both total registered voters (18 percent) and total population (6 percent)."
But people don't know they've been removed, so they show up to vote anyway. And vote they can -- the 2002 Help America Vote Act created an entirely new type ballot.
"I don't see you here on the voter roll," the person checking people in to vote will say. "But here's a provisional ballot that you can vote on. It looks identical to the normal ballots, it just goes in a different box when you're done."
Provisional ballots are only counted at the discretion of the Secretary of State, and in Red states are usually only counted when there's a lawsuit. That's why when John Kerry threw in the towel in 2004, John Edwards told me on my radio show that he was furious Kerry hadn't sued because there were more unopened and uncounted provisional ballots, mostly from black neighborhoods, than Bush's margin of victory.
But voters don't know their provisional ballots won't be counted, so they think they voted. And when they meet the exit pollster outside the voting station, they tell them who they voted for and that vote gets recorded in the exit poll, even though it'll never make its way into the official count.
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