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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 10/20/18

Voter Registration Is Inherently Racist

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reprinted from Yes Magazine, by Chris Winters

And several other reasons that the midterm elections are testing how far some states can go in disenfranchising certain voters.

What if we had an election and everyone came?

That's not a hypothetical question, because we're right now in the middle of the midterm election season where one of the two political parties is trying to make sure fewer people are going to vote.

Midterms are said to be a referendum on the incumbent president, but probably nothing is more at stake than elections for state legislatures. Whoever controls the state houses in 2018 will be in charge of redistricting after the 2020 Census--and that happens before the 2020 presidential election, when President Trump actually will be on the ballot.

The fact that, according to Cook Political Report, as of Oct. 12, 327 out of 435 House of Representatives seats are considered locks by one of the two big parties points to how antidemocratic the whole system has become.

Turnout in midterms is historically low, but there are signs that this year might be different. Pew Research saw a surge of voting in the primaries by more than 50 percent over the 2014 midterms. Call it the Trump Effect, or call it something else, these midterms are shaping up to be one of those turning points that determine the direction of the nation for decades to come.

It may be because the right to vote is essentially on the ballot in this election. The conservative writer David Frum in January wrote in The Atlantic about the dilemma we're now facing in the United States: "If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy."

We're now seeing that situation play out in the midterms. In the five years since the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, gutted the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, many states in the South and the Midwest controlled by Republicans have enacted voter registration laws that disenfranchise minority voters.

Consider Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams is running to be the first Black female governor in the nation's history. Her opponent, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has been aggressively purging voters from the registration lists, aided by a draconian "100 percent match" law that allows tiny changes in spelling, such as a typo or a dropped hyphen in a last name, as grounds for disenfranchisement.

Last week it was revealed that, in addition to purging a half-million voters from the rolls in the past five years, Kemp was refusing to process 53,000 voter registrations, 70 percent of which are for Black or Latino residents, and requiring them to cast provisional ballots. As a candidate, Kemp has refused to recuse himself from his role as the overseer of Georgia's elections system .

Abrams meanwhile has called on Kemp to resign, and a number of civil rights groups have filed suit against him. Georgia's voter registration deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Georgia is not an outlier. Across the country, there are measures both subtle and obvious that target the voting rights of the most marginalized communities.

The Supreme Court last week allowed North Dakota to implement a voter ID law that requires an identification with a street address, something that many Native Americans living on reservations or in rural areas don't have. And while North Carolina's previous voter ID law was tossed out for being unconstitutional for its targeting of Black voters, the state is heavily gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. It has closed early voting polling places in almost half of its counties, eliminated early voting on the last Saturday before Election Day, and is requiring voters to carry photo ID to the polls.

It's easy to believe that, short of intervention by the Supreme Court (now with a solid far-right-wing majority in place, thanks to Brett Kavanaugh), the right to vote will remain a contested battleground.

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