Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The GOP is bound and determined to take back the 2020 election. Just how bound and determined. GOP controlled state legislatures in more than two dozen states have introduced a tsunami of bills aimed at making sure there is no repeat of the 2020 election. The bills are mostly a rehash of the by now all too familiar voter suppression stuff. They include scrapping or severely limiting mail-in balloting, mandatory IDs, purging voter rolls of those who change addresses, eliminating ballot drop boxes, shortening days and hours for drop in voting, and same day balloting. There’s even some talk of circling back on the cockamamie ploy by Trump’s Postmaster General to eliminate neighborhood mailboxes.
To cover, their naked, blatant, and insulting attempt to hijack all future elections, GOP vote suppressors continue to spin the shop-worn lie that the bills are aimed at insuring elections are fair, equitable, and free of fraud. Trump, of course, virtually institutionalized the lie of voter fraud by Democrats. However, long before Trump emerged on the presidential scene, the GOP busily concocted every ploy it could come up with to permanently excise as many Blacks, Hispanics, youth, and gays from the polls as possible. The assault began virtually the instant, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed.
In the fifty plus years since the passage of the Act, a succession of GOP leaders, state legislators, girded by various federal court decisions, and the reflexive rightist US Supreme Court justices, waged relentless war on the Act. The deal in the initial passage of the Act was that it be renewed every 25 years. And each time over the years it has come up for renewal, like clockwork, a pack of GOP senators have loudly screamed that the Act is outdated and unnecessary. When the Act came up for renewal in 1981, hardline ultraconservatives in the administration of then President Reagan made loud threats to push Reagan to oppose its renewal. They were just that, idle threats. Reagan with no fanfare signed the renewal legislation. When the Act came up for renewal again in 2006, the threats to thwart the law, turned into a mini movement in Congress to delay or even block passage. A pack of House Republicans stalled the legislation for more than a week and demanded that hearings be held.
The Act ignited the explosion in the number of Black, Hispanic, Asian, women and Native American voters and the election of thousands of their number to local state and federal offices. The jewel in the crown in the Act was the election in 2008 of former President Obama.
The standard attack line has always been that it punishes the South for past voting-discrimination sins, and that the thousands of Black and Hispanic legislators in the South, Southwest and West are supreme proof that the crude, naked race-based voter suppression ploys was a thing of a long gone past. Though Bush and Reagan signed the renewal order, the GOP served notice that the early saber rattle against the Act was a just a warm-up for a full throttle frontal assault. The GOP pecked at eroding the Act with the rash of photo identifications laws that the GOP governors and GOP controlled state legislatures enacted in recent years. The aim was to discourage and damp down the number of minority and poor voters that overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Then enter the Supreme Court. In the Shelby County v. Holder case in 2013, the Alabama county claimed the Act is outdated, discriminatory, and a blatant federal intrusion into state’s rights. The lawsuit explicitly wanted the centerpiece of the Act, Section 5 dumped. This is the provision that mandates that states get “preclearance” from the Justice Department before making any changes in voting procedures. State attorneys general in several states have endorsed the Alabama County’s challenge. Chief Justice John Roberts bluntly said that things have changed in the South and that blacks supposedly vote everywhere in the South without any barriers or prohibitions. Clarence Thomas, to no surprise, went even further and flatly called Section 5 of the Act unconstitutional and left no doubt if and when he had the chance, he’d knock the Act out completely. The provision was scrapped.
This was only part of the story of the roadblocks the GOP has thrown up. A study by the Alliance for Justice, a Washington D.C. based, public interest group, documented legions of complaints and challenges filed by the Justice Department and voting rights groups to discriminatory changes that county registrars have made to eliminate or narrow down the number of voters in predominantly minority districts. The tales of supposed massive voter fraud egged on by civil rights, voter rights advocacy groups and orchestrated by the Democrats has been just that, self-serving tales.
Now we have 100 plus GOP bills and almost certainly more on the way to ensure no future repeat of the 2020 election. And as the GOP long and shameful vote suppression history shows, there’s nothing new in this.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Amazon) He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. His political affairs commentaries can be found weekly on thehutchinsonreport.net