Legalized, Racialized Voter Supression
In the week following the United States midterm elections, there is still great uncertainty regarding some key elections in typically Republican stronghold states. In both Florida and Georgia, results are still hanging in the balance. Additionally, there is a growing concern that there has been voter suppression.
We are often reminded that just because something is legal, it does not make it moral or just. The state of Georgia is currently legally disenfranchising its citizens through voter suppression. In the governor's race between Stacey Abrams, who is vying to be the first black woman elected to a governor's seat, and Brian Kemp, who is also the secretary of state and thus the state’s chief elections administrator, voters are still waiting for results, frustrated by obstacles they faced to vote.
To start, 'in June 2018, by a 5-to-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s right to purge voters' 'because the individual had failed to cast a ballot in the last three years and/or in the past two federal elections'. That means that voters were, en masse, unregistered. In one precint, a reporter watched 20 potential voters out of 1,000 were denied the right to vote because of these policies. To quote David Brotherton: 'The most startling reality is that every one of the voters who were turned away was black or brown. Each had gone out of his or her way to get to that polling place. And each of them was essentially told, "Sorry, but you have no voice here. You have no right to vote."' Obviously, this is a small case in one precinct, but it is not hard to see how across hundreds of precincts, across a state, how this can add up.
Moreover, the office of Brian Kemp, as Georgia’s secretary of state, has left more than 53,000 voter applications unapproved and in limbo. With the margins in the race, these votes could make a massive difference. According to the New York Times, 'Mr Kemp’s office uses a controversial method called "exact match" to verify voter applications, which in some cases means individuals can be purged from voting rolls if their submitted information has even trivial differences from their government identification, such as an entry error or a dropped hyphen.'
In Gwinnett County, Georgia, 'four precincts - out of 156 - suffered prolonged technical delays'. In other precincts, voters were turned away or endured long waits after printers that produce ballots tailored to their home precincts malfunctioned. According to a spokeswoman for Ms Abrams’s campaign, Mr Kemp’s office is to blame. A federal judge has ordered the delay of the certification of election results due to concerns about the state’s voter registration system and the handling of provisional ballots.
While there are distinct, legal issues within Georgia, it is a nationwide problem. 'At least two polling places on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota ran out of preprinted ballots'. In El Paso, the federal Border and Customs Protection agency shut down an exercise along the Mexican border 'after civil-rights groups and Democratic leaders complained of voter intimidation'. In Phoenix, voters showed up to a polling place that was locked and closed with a sign explaining that the building had failed to pay rent. Voting hotlines saw a jump the number of calls which 'quickly outpaced those received in the last midterm election of 2014'.
Called the Neo-Jim Crow, these tight races are revealing widespread policies of voter repression that particularly affect communities of color. 'We are dealing with a very different climate in 2018', said Karen Flynn, the president of Common Cause. 'We do not have a Department of Justice that is working hand in hand with our network to be solving these problems, we don’t have the protections of the Voting Rights Act, and we have a president that is putting out messages that can feel threatening to many voters.'
The most basics rights of the most vulnerable communities are being attacked and ignored. Their ability to change the system, to affect change, has been taken away and intimidated.