Manipulating The Vote

Conservative legislatures and Secretaries of State across the country have taken draconian steps to limit access to the vote.

How Republicans In Three States Are Trying To Change The Game

Conservative legislatures and Secretaries of State across the country have taken draconian steps to limit access to the vote, from voter ID laws, to limits on early voting, and now to manipulating the ballot and registration processes. Each of these actions were done in the name of protecting the integrity of the voting process, while having the actual impact of shutting out certain demographics: communities of color, low-income, young and elderly voters and veterans, among others. Right now the November elections in several states are poised to occur under a cloud of uncertainty and suspicion because of these actions.

Georgia: Blocking Eligible Voters from Registering

Last week, Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp sent a memo saying he had received “numerous complaints about voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project,” a voter registration effort aimed at increasing turnout by African American voters. This week, after the group challenged Kemp’s claims and said Kemp’s office had held up more than 50,000 voter registration forms for months, Kemp changed his tune.

In audio released by Better Georgia, Secretary Kemp says, “Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.”

Kemp delaying the processing of more than 50,000 voter registrations could change the outcome of the elections if people are unable to vote. His comments suggest he is fine with that.

Kansas: Manipulating the Ballot to Help the Republican Incumbent

On Thursday, September 18, the Kansas Supreme Court told Secretary of State Kris Kobach to remove the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Chad Taylor, from the November ballot, per the candidate’s request. Kobach had refused to do so since Sept. 3, when the candidate first made the request, after he learned that a ballot with incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts against Independent Greg Orman showed the independent winning.

Ballots were scheduled to begin being mailed this Saturday in Kansas, but Kobach announced he would tell the Kansas Democratic party to pick a replacement by noon September 26, according to the Kansas City Star. Kobach said his office would “review the legal options if Democrats fail to comply,” and cited a federal law in saying he could delay sending overseas ballots.

Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts is behind in a head-to-head matchup with Greg Orman, as much as six percent. A Roberts loss could threaten the Republicans’ chances of taking over the Senate in the next Congress. Instead of getting out the vote, Kobach tried to rewrite the ballot, reversing course this afternoon and announcing that Kansas will actually start sending out overseas ballots without a Democratic nominee listed.

Wisconsin: Changing the Law at the Last Minute

A week ago, a federal appeals court ruled to reinstate Wisconsin’s voter ID law, requiring voters to show photo identification when they vote. The 2011 law has been challenged in the courts for years, and this ruling was unprecedented in its timing: less than two months before the election. Like the others, the justification for this law was the always elusive voter fraud, when in reality it would serve to disenfranchise roughly nine percent of the state’s voters. In 2010, Governor Scott Walker won by just 124,638 votes, and he appears to be in an even closer race this year.

ACLU’s legal team estimates “the state would have to process and issue 6,000 photo IDs every day between now and November 4 in order to serve all” the impacted residents who don’t have one now. Additionally, several thousand absentee ballots have already been sent to voters and many have been returned, without an ID check.

The immediate concern in Wisconsin is the ability of the state to enforce a major change in election law less than two months before the election. The change impacts 300,000 voters, enough to easily change the outcome of an election that had only 2.1 million voters in 2010.

BOTTOM LINE: Georgia, Kansas and Wisconsin in no way represent the entire picture of voter suppression efforts in states across the country, but the recent events in these states highlight how Republican efforts to cutoff access to the vote have real impacts in elections. In cases like Georgia and Kansas these are clear efforts to change the outcome of elections in favor of their party. Americans deserve better when it comes to their most basic of rights.