America was once regarded as the exemplar of representative democracy where every citizen is given an equal voice in choosing their representatives in government. After the 2012 election, decent Americans were ashamed and embarrassed at the images of long lines at polling places, the inability of citizens to cast a vote, or problems related to voter suppression laws. President Obama recognized that, in a representative democracy, every person who wanted to participate in the voting process should be able to vote and he wisely took steps to remedy the problem by appointing a commission to study the issue and offer recommendations to guarantee this so-called democratic nation would not be embarrassed again.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration finally released its report, and made reasonable recommendations to ensure that every American who wants to can easily participate in the democratic process.
Any American that loves democracy should celebrate that the commission came up with easy solutions to ensure that America’s fragile democracy would be preserved. However, there are Americans who are not the least bit interested in free and fair elections and as the editors of Bloomberg View acknowledged, even though the commission’s suggestions are “so resolutely practical that it’s hard to imagine its recommendations stirring much debate, much less controversy, not all politicians want to make it easier for Americans to vote.” The truth is that part and parcel of the Republican Party’s platform is making it difficult for all Americans to participate in the electoral process; particularly if they are minorities inclined to support Democratic candidates.
What the bipartisan commission, and Americans with a memory, noted was that the greatest Election Day problems occurred in large urban areas with concentrations of African American and Latino neighborhoods plagued with confusing ballots, hours-long voting lines, broken voting machines, and inaccurate voter rolls. The commission suggested expanding online voter registration and early voting, improving and modernizing voting machines, and improve efficiency to reduce wait times at polling places.
Sadly, it is a fact of life that Republicans have no interest in implementing any of the commission’s recommendations because it is not in their best interest, or survival, to have free and fair elections. Republicans used voter ID laws supplied by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to shut down voter registration drives and restricting early voting to ensure Republican’s ideology that voting should be so incredibly complicated and difficult that only people voting for Republicans have the right to vote.
Their basic belief was best articulated by Willard Romney speaking to the NAACP when he intimated that Black people only vote for the candidate who will give them “free stuff,” so it was no surprise the voter suppression tactics primarily affected minority voters.
It is also true that greater voter turnout means more votes for Democrats and it is precisely why state-level Republicans are desperate to restrict minority voting. To further their voter suppression success in Republican-controlled states, a new conservative super PAC is taking immediate steps to guarantee candidates dedicated to make voting more difficult win state positions where they can easily impact the electoral process to benefit Republicans. The conservative super PAC, SOS, is targeting nine states to spend $10 million to support secretary of state’s who will champion voter suppression tactics, or “smart voting,” such as Draconian restrictive voter ID laws, purging voter rolls, and demanding proof of citizenship in order to cast a ballot.
It is each state’s secretary of state that sets election procedures and influences critical aspects like voting hours, provisional ballot rules, and recounts. Interestingly, the super PAC’s announcement came shortly after a Pennsylvania judge overturned the state’s harsh voter ID law because it has the potential to disenfranchise 750,000 voters primarily in areas with heavy minority populations that typically cast ballots for Democratic candidates. It is fairly well-acknowledged that higher voter turnout favors Democrats, and if there is only one thing Republicans will not allow, it is fair elections.
In the 2012 general election, secretaries of state in Ohio, Florida, Kansas, and Colorado went to extraordinary lengths to restrict voter participation. For example, Ohio’s secretary of state Jon Husted attempted to tilt the state’s electoral process to help Willard Romney carry the state by repeatedly cutting early voting with the express intent of disenfranchising voters with jobs that made it difficult to vote on Election Day. Husted defied a court order requiring him early voting hours to be restored, and it finally took a federal court to order him to attend a court hearing regarding this refusal to comply with the law. His response was retaliating against opponents by firing them and issued an eleventh-hour directive that conflicted with Ohio law to throw out thousands of provisional ballots.
In Florida, teabagger Rick Scott’s hand-picked election official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, played an integral role in Scott’s plan to purge thousands of Florida voters from the state’s voter rolls. The purge targeted Hispanic, independent, and Democratic voters, 58% of whom overwhelmingly supported President Obama according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Florida’s local election officials defied Detzner and eventually shut down the purges because the so-called “non-citizens” list was grossly in error. In fact, although Detzner claimed it was his moral duty to purge what he claimed were ineligible voters likely to vote for Democrats, the great Florida voter purge found there was only one voter who was a non-citizen. Despite the President’s best efforts to give every American the opportunity to exercise their right to have a voice in choosing their representatives, his commission’s recommendations will fall on deaf ears in Republican-controlled states. After the shameful 2012 general election, most Americans were aware there were long lines, restrictive voting requirements, and confusing ballots because Republicans hate democracy when it is not in their favor. For example, after the 2000 presidential election where the conservative Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush as president, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission was created to make voting easier with two commissioners from each political party.
Republicans killed the commission simply and effectively by refusing to appoint or approve any commissioners at all. Now they have a conservative super PAC to support Republican secretaries of state that will pursue restrictive voter laws, purge voter rolls, and generally kill the democratic process. Several southern states already implemented voter suppression laws after the conservative Supreme Court ruled racism is non-existent and gave Republican legislatures the green light to restrict minority voting to guarantee that, as Lindsey Graham said, only “angry white guys” are allowed to vote.
Despite President Obama’s commission’s recommendations to ensure every American is allowed to cast a vote, Republicans will ramp up their voter suppression efforts because a recent study shows that Republican states with higher minority turnouts will attempt to pass voter suppression laws; especially now that demographics have turned against Republicans and they know there are not enough angry white racists to keep them in office.