Georgia Kills Racist Plan to Eliminate Polling Places in Black County Amid Backlash Voters and civil rights advocates in Randolph County, Georgia stood up to a blatant voter suppression scheme, and won.

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Officials in Randolph County, Georgia have scrapped a plan to close 7 of the county’s 9 polling places, amid local anger, a massive petition drive, nationwide scrutiny, and threats from the Georgia ACLU to file suit. The local election board meeting to vote down the proposal lasted less than 60 seconds.

As an added bonus, county elections consultant Mike Malone, who first proposed the closures, has been fired.

Randolph County is 61 percent African-American, and one of the polling sites proposed for closure served an area that was 97 percent black. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of residents do not own a car. Had the closures been approved, thousands of minority voters might have had to walk for up to 3 hours to get to their polling place.

Election overseers had claimed the closures were because the polling places were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But a public records request revealed that the county did not have a single piece of data to back up its claim that the affected sites were causing any problems for disabled people.

Black voters and civil rights groups have a darker theory for the reason behind the proposal: that it was an underhanded ploy to undermine Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who is running in a competitive, high-profile race to be the first African-American woman governor in history.

Abrams’ Republican opponent is Brian Kemp, who also happens to be the chief elections official in Georgia — and according to the Washington Post, Kemp was the one who included Malone on a list of recommended consultants for local election boards. Malone has also financially supported Kemp’s campaign, and said at a meeting discussing the proposal that Kemp had urged him to find ways to consolidate polling places, although he later retracted this statement.

Kemp, for his part, denies any involvement in the proposed polling closures or in recommending Malone as a consultant for Randolph County, and claims that he opposed the closures from the start. But this was not an isolated or unique incident — Republicans have been aggressively curtailing hundreds of polling places for years, spurred along by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to throw out a key portion of the Voting Rights Act.

The defeat of the Randolph County closures plan is an important victory for voting rights, and a key case of how activist pressure is able to undo some of the GOP’s ugliest schemes to suppress black voters. It follows last month’s voting rights victories in Indiana, where a lawsuit by Common Cause and the NAACP resulted in a consent decree  ordering Republicans to allow multiple early voting sites in heavily urban Marion County for the first time in ten years; and in Florida, where a federal judge struck down a law prohibiting early voting sites on college campuses.

By Matthew Chapman / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Freedom Rider: Russiagate Covers Up Black Vote Theft

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“The Democrats want our votes, but if we aren’t allowed to vote at all they pretend not to know.”

“They want me on, as long as I talk about Russia. And I said, ‘What about black voters?’ ‘Well that’s race issues.’ The reason I’m allowed on MSNBC is because I’m with people like Joy Reid and Al Sharpton and others. Where’s the pale faced guys? Because they consider the vote theft issue a racial issue, and that ain’t their viewers.”
Greg Palast

The corporate media and their friends in the Democratic Party are whipping up so much hatred and disinformation that it is almost impossible to discuss Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin. Putin is a multi-purpose villain. He is blamed for the vote theft conducted by white Americans against black people that resulted in the Donald Trump presidency.

Because so much of the ginned up vitriol is conducted on orders from the Democratic Party, black people have joined in spreading the misinformation. The headline for a recent article in The Root proclaimed , “Evidence Shows Hackers Changed Votes in the 2016 Election but No One Will Admit It.” The alleged hackers in the story are said to be Russian. But apparently too much was alleged in this piece because The Rootlater removed the article with a disclaimer . “This story was an opinion piece asserting there was evidence that hackers changed votes in the 2016 election. However, a number of statements in the piece are disputed by experts. As a result, we have pulled it down for editorial review, and will update it once that review is completed.”

“Black people have joined in spreading the misinformation.”

What is clear is that the Republicans stole the 2016 election for Donald Trump with a combination of voter suppression and outright theft directed against black people. Trump supposedly won the state of Michigan) by a 10,000 vote margin, but more than 75,000 votes  cast in majority black cities Flint and Detroit went uncounted because of “malfunctioning” voting machines. An additional 449,000 voters in that state were purged from the rolls through the infamous Crosscheck  system.

The National Security Agency (NSA) planted a story of Russians breaching voting data. That claim was and is still denied by some of the states alleged to be victims. Like almost every other charge lodged against Russia there is no corroboration from a disinterested source. It is true that the state of Georgia mysteriously deleted voter data  from servers.That happened because the scope of vote theft carried out with a paperless and easily hackable voting machine was about to be revealed in a lawsuit.

But all talk of stolen elections is forbidden in this country, even though it happens on a regular basis. While Republicans are the vote thieves the Democrats say little or nothing about the resulting defeats and the loss of their most loyal constituents’ citizenship rights. That is just one of the reasons they need to flog the Russiagate horse incessantly. They have nothing else to offer and are no more eager than Republicans to be associated with black people. They want our votes, but if we aren’t allowed to vote at all they pretend not to know.

“More than 75,000 votes cast in majority black cities Flint and Detroit went uncounted because of “malfunctioning” voting machines.”

Rootcolumnist Michael Harriott writes eloquently about the Republican vote theft schemes that guarantee victory for them. He rightly points out that purges of black voters  are accelerating with millions of people at risk of losing their rights. But he lost objectivity when he claimed that Russian hackers breached voting systems and actually changed votes. Even Robert Mueller says that did not happen. But the trauma of the Trump presidency and the irresponsible behavior of those explaining away their role in the debacle creates bad journalism. In the retracted piece Harriott actually uses the obsolete word Soviet not once but four times. Apparently the correct word Russian isn’t scary enough.

The 2016 election is a story of miscalculation by many people. Trump didn’t think he would win, the media who gave him free air time did so because they didn’t think he would win, and Hillary Clinton was so certain of victory that she didn’t campaign in the states that flipped and gave him an electoral college win. A sustained get out the vote effort and protection of the franchise by the Democrats might have countered the electoral larceny that made Trump the 45th president.

Who are the real villains in the story of the 2016 presidential election? Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, the greedy “consultants” who made off with $1 billion in campaign funds and still didn’t get their person into office, and Republicans who have perfected vote thievery. They will strike again and they will do so without any help from Vladimir Putin.

By Margaret Kimberley/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Tennessee County Accused of Voter Suppression by Limiting Black Voters’ Access to Polling Locations

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Democrats in Tennessee’s largest county are accusing election officials of trying to suppress black votes in early voting preceding the August elections.

Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong on Wednesday criticized the decision by the county Election Commission to make Agricenter International the only open polling location on the first five days of the early voting process, which starts July 13.

Strong said the location in suburban east Memphis is too far away for people who live in urban black neighborhoods who rely on public transportation to get to voting locations. He argued the location, plus three new suburban sites being opened later as early voting spots, will make it easier for Republicans to vote compared with Democrats.

The majority party of the five-member election commission is determined by the majority party of the Tennessee General Assembly, according to the commission’s website. Republicans currently comprise the majority of the General Assembly.

The city of Memphis is majority black, but the Shelby County early voting locations questioned by Democrats are predominantly white, census data shows. Whites outnumber blacks by more than 20-to-1 in the Agricenter’s zip code, according to data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.

“This is a clear attempt at voter suppression,” Strong said, adding that the selection of the Agricenter “in no way represents an equitable place.”

A fifth new location opening during early voting is found in a heavily African-American zip code, census data shows.

Strong said he wants election officials to issue an apology and prepare to offer an “equitable” solution to the County Commission. The election commission will revisit the issue in a meeting on Friday, spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson said.

In the first few days of early voting in past elections, voters went to a county office building downtown, but it was changed because some candidates work in the building. Elections Administrator Linda Phillips said the Agricenter has shown balanced turnout in past elections.

Data shows that early voting is “very slow” early on during primary elections and opening the new polling places decried by the Democrats would help ease congestion at other voting locations, Phillips said.

“My thought was, ‘Well, let’s improve the voter experience,’” Phillips said. “Voters are going to wait until the last week to vote, let’s get some more sites so that we can spread them out a little bit so they don’t have to wait as long.”

People can vote anywhere in the county during early voting, so “the political leaning of the location doesn’t mean anything about the people that vote there,” Phillips said.

Early voting runs from July 13 through July 28. The Aug. 2 election includes primaries for Congress and General Assembly. It also includes general elections for several key local positions, including county mayor, County Commission and school board

By Associated Press

Posted by The NON-Conformist

THE LINK BETWEEN ROY MOORE, GEORGE W. BUSH AND VOTER SUPPRESSION

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Worried about Russian hackers or other outsiders meddling in US elections? Arguably, the greatest threat to our democratic system comes not from the outside but from forces within our own two-party system that are trying, and often succeeding, to prevent American citizens from voting.

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, Jeff Schechtman talks to journalist Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, about “caging” and “crosscheck” — two species of “dirty tricks” that are being used ever more frequently to suppress votes. While the primary practitioners have been Republicans, encouraged for years by Karl Rove, Palast explains that Democrats are using similar tricks to gain advantages in primary elections.

In “caging,” letters are sent out to voters who must spend time away from their primary addresses, such as minority soldiers stationed abroad or students during summer recess. When the letters come back as “undeliverable,” the senders can use this as a reason to get those voters taken off the rolls.

Over the years, caging has led to millions of eligible voters being purged from voting rolls, Palast says. He adds that this and other stratagems are very much in use today by operatives like Brett Doster, a onetime Rove operative who is now running Roy Moore’s senatorial campaign in Alabama.

The story that Palast tells is truly one of “birds of a feather” getting together to undermine what’s left of our electoral democracy.

Full Text Transcript:

As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to resource constraints, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like, and we hope that you will excuse any errors that slipped through.

Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to Radio WhoWhatWhy. I’m Jeff Schechtman. If you hang around politics long enough, if you look at the patterns of money, dirty tricks, and sleazy people that are in politics for all the wrong reasons, it’s amazing how often it all circles back to some of the very same people. The same billionaires and their political hacks appear over and over again, and yet it’s not just running sleazy campaigns or disseminating misinformation. Today the goal, if it can’t be achieved with the help of the Russians, is voter suppression. The techniques have been being perfected election after election, and my guest Greg Palast has been looking at this in his books and his films.
Greg Palast is a reporter whose stories have appeared on BBC Television, the Guardian, and in Rolling Stone Magazine. He’s just released the updated post-election edition of his movie The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. It is my pleasure to welcome Greg Palast to Radio WhoWhatWhy.
Greg Palast: Glad to be back with you, Jeff.
Jeff Schechtman: One of the things that you’ve looked at recently in a recent Rolling Stone article is this character of Brett Doster, who was involved in the Bush campaign in Florida back many years ago and surfaces again in the Roy Moore campaign. Talk about who this guy is.
Greg Palast: Yes, Judge Roy Moore … Well, you know, by the way, let’s … I know everyone’s been attacking Roy Moore, and when he was judge he put up the 10 Commandments and they’re saying he’s not living up to it, and that’s not really true. The 10 Commandments say “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” It didn’t say anything about your neighbor’s daughter.
Jeff Schechtman: Good point.
Greg Palast: But his … But the attack dog he has, a guy named Brett Doster, he’s his campaign chief and the guy’s who’s been attacking the women accusing … Not just accusing. Who were molested. Let’s cut this accusing stuff. Who were molested when they were teenagers. And so why do we care about Brett Doster? Because obviously this is a type of character that will be running our government. He’ll be in the United States … He’ll be running Moore’s operation in the United States Senate. Doster, I’ve been hunting this guy for years, for 10 years tracking his mischief operations for right-wing candidates, including one … He ran the political operation for George W. Bush in Florida.
One of the tricks he used to stop voters of color from voting — and when I say “voters of color,” I mean blue, like democrats — is a trick called “caging.” Now, what is caging? Caging is a trick … Which, by the way, it’s illegal. What you do is you send out letters. What Doster did was send out letters to people he knew were not home, would not be at their home address where they’re registered to vote. Now, who’s not at home at their voter registration address? Well, he would claim that they’re ghost voters, that they’re people who don’t exist and people are casting votes for these non-existent voters. Actually, people who are not at home at their home address includes soldiers who are overseas. It includes students, and in his case he sent letters to students at the black colleges throughout Florida, students at black colleges who were away from Florida — away from their home address, they’re somewhere else in Florida — during the summer vacation. Sent letters to elderly Jews in Miami. I can’t make this up. Sent letters to elderly Jews in Miami who are known as snowbirds. They’re in Miami for the winter, but then they go back home and visit their families in the summer up North. They’re legal voters of Florida, but they aren’t there when the letter arrives, and it says “Do not forward.”
So what’s the problem with that? When that letter comes back, Brett Doster and the Republican National Committee were challenging these voters’ votes as non-existent voters, as ghost voters. They sent … And I kid you not, I have the list that I got my hands on, sent by Karl Rove’s office to Brett Doster in Florida with the caging list, and these are lists of soldiers, one soldier after another at the naval air station in Jacksonville Florida. These are African-American and Hispanic soldiers who were overseas. We even found … We contacted one family. You know, said, “You’re on this list.” And here’s the evil thing: you don’t even know you’ve lost your vote. You send in an absentee ballot. Your ballot’s been challenged, and you don’t know it, and so your vote doesn’t get counted. And this is against the law.
The Republican Party was found to have done this many years ago. They entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department saying they will never do this racist trick again. It’s against the law. You can’t steal people’s votes, especially when you’re targeting voters of color or you’re targeting Jewish voters, which is targeting a religion. You cannot do that in the United States of America. But he did it anyway. And now this guy’s running Judge Moore’s campaign and attacking women who have stepped forward to talk about Judge Molester.
Jeff Schechtman: How did this practice of caging get started? Where does it come from?
Greg Palast: It started out many years ago. I don’t even … I think it was in the ’60s with the Republican Party sending out letters to voters. As I say, they pick out democrats, but particularly they can go by ethnicity. And they know when voters are not going to be home. And so they got caught doing this. You cannot systematically target voters because of their religion. You can’t target voters because of their race. And by the way, you can’t illegally block someone from voting no matter what their race or religion. But the Republicans were caught doing this, and under both the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other voting rights laws which apply to everyone, they agreed not to ever do this trick again where they would get these caging …
The reason, by the way, it’s called caging, it’s a term of art used in direct mail. When you send out letters to people and they return usually the letters with money in them, believe it or not, people who work in direct mail industry, when they’re taking checks out of an envelope they do so in a locked cage, and that’s why it’s called caging.
Jeff Schechtman: Talk a little bit the degree to which this has expanded beyond some of these small efforts of Doster’s in Florida. How big a problem is it?
Greg Palast: Massive. We just found out in states where … See, ’cause the thing is so many elections are actually quite close. We knew that in Florida in 2000. The Presidency of the United States was determined by 537 votes. That’s it, 537 votes. Now, I know Doster’s operation … I actually have the internal emails sent to Doster, which are supposed to be highly confidential. How I got them is kind of a funny story, but it has a tremendous effect. They were challenging hundreds of thousands of voters in Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and several other states, and this is enough to literally swing the presidency. We just had a vote in Virginia. Right now we are facing recounts in three races where Democrats seem to have come up short anywhere from 14 votes to 89 votes, so a few votes makes a big difference.
Jeff Schechtman: To what extent is Doster operating on his own, or is it part of a larger scheme?
Greg Palast: Very much a larger scheme. And if this were just about one bad apple, Brett Doster, you could say, “Okay, him and Moore are a creepy pair. Let them go off in the sunset.” But that’s not what’s happening. Doster was not minor. He was acting in Florida with this caging game. He was acting at the behest of Karl Rove’s office at the Republican National Committee. In fact, the guy that sent him the email is a guy named Tim Griffin, who was what they call Research Director. In other words, he does … He’s the hitman. Gets dirt on the opposition. It was sent by this guy Tim Griffin. I put the emails from Tim Griffin to Brett Doster on the air on BBC Television at the top of the nightly news. By the next morning, Tim Griffin, the guy who sent the emails who’s Karl Rove’s assistant, resigned as a US Prosecutor. So he lost his job. But Brett Doster was not on the US payroll. He was on the Bush campaign. He’s always a campaign operative, so his job was not in danger.
I should tell you, I tried to reach Doster. I flew to Tallahassee and literally physically chased him around the capital. He was dodging me. Finally, he sent out a PR person to say that the lists of people he was mailing letters to, it was not to find, to come up with a way to get them knocked off the voter rolls. Remember, he sends letters to people who aren’t home. He says do not forward. The letters come back and he says, “That’s evidence they don’t exist.” He said, “We were actually sending letters to our Republican donors, Republican Party donors.” I showed his spokeswoman a list of hundreds of names of voters registered out of a homeless shelter in Florida. A homeless shelter. I said, “These are your Republican donors? Really?” So that’s the type of gameplay.
And so it was done at the behest of Republican National Committee Tim Griffin, Head of Research for the RNC, and Griffin … And by the way, I’m going to… Griffin said he never sent the emails, even though it’s from his machine. It says, “From Tim Griffin.” There are 50 emails that I captured. He says he never did it. He never sent those emails. Now how does that happen? The answer that I have, and I’ve never gotten a “no” from Karl Rove, he was Karl Rove’s assistant. Karl Rove, a computer genius, does not and will never have a computer because it could always be grabbed by law enforcement. So Karl Rove has no computer. His assistant does. His assistant says he never sent out these letters, these caging letters. Karl Rove is a known expert at caging. By the way, which is … By the … When it’s not used in political purposes, if it’s just used to sell you toothbrushes through the mail, it’s perfect … caging is legal. He is a caging expert.
So was it Karl Rove who sent out the emails? Anyway, it came from the top of the Republican Party. Doster is a top operative of the Republican Party. And they were targeting black voters, black students, black soldiers, Jewish voters, not because they have a particular hatred of Jewish, black, or Hispanic voters, they just don’t like the color of their vote, which is blue.
Jeff Schechtman: Is there any reason to think that similar tactics are done by Democratic operatives anywhere?
Greg Palast: Absolutely. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has its hands in a lot of these Jim Crow operations. …[?] say, “Wait a minute, they’re knocking off black voters?” Yes they do, because when Democrats remove voters it’s usually the same targeted group, which is black voters, poor Hispanics, Native American voters, because Democrats usually do their purging and games, playing games with the voter rolls, in primaries when it’s battles between Democrats. So for example, the Secretary of State of New Mexico some years ago, Rebecca Vigil-Giron, Hispanic Democrat. I caught her removing and not counting the votes of Hispanic soldiers sending in their absentee ballots from overseas. Now, why would a Hispanic Democrat stop the count of Hispanic voters? The answer is because of war inside the Democratic Party in New Mexico.
So that’s what happens. We saw that, and in fact David Iglesias, who was fired by George Bush and at Karl Rove’s request. This is a special prosecutor, or a US Prosecutor for New Mexico. He refused to go along with these vote suppression tactics. And we use the term “suppression.” We don’t mean vote theft. Vote suppression tactics. He refused to go along, so he got fired. But he did actually arrest Democratic officials who were deliberately blocking the vote of Native Americans, of … in the pueblos of New Mexico because they didn’t like the way that they were voting within the Democratic Party.
So unfortunately Democrats are not as sophisticated. They’re not as good at it. They don’t use the massive computer-driven techniques like caging. We have another system called crosscheck that removes hundreds of thousands of voters across the nation. But Democrats still do it, unfortunately.
Jeff Schechtman: To what degree can any of this be monitored by the other political party or by the public in general?
Greg Palast: Well, it can be monitored by any political party, and I would say … John Kerry believed that he lost the election because of this caging trick, and he put in legislation with the late Ted Kennedy to make it a crime. It already is a crime, but he wanted to tighten up the law. But, you know, Kerry didn’t raise hell during the election. He didn’t raise hell right after the election. The Democratic Party’s very, very reluctant to take on these issues. So the public has to do it, and you have great groups like the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. I can tell you that the Brennan Center for Justice and the ACLU are bringing legal actions against the State of Indiana. I just got off the phone with a lawyer bringing a case against the State of Virginia, where they just had this vote. Democrats say, “Oh, we won despite the … And there’s no vote suppression there.” Well, yes there is. In fact, you’d have a Democratic legislature if there weren’t more racial suppression tricks afoot in Virginia.
So, yeah, the parties can do it, but the parties don’t do it because they each have their … Both parties have dirty hands. The Republicans … The fact that the Republicans are better at it doesn’t … The Democrats don’t want to bring this up. And as you know, Hillary Clinton said, ridiculously, “No presidential candidate has ever challenged the electoral … the election vote for President,” forgetting that Al Gore went to the Supreme Court in 2000. I mean, many elections in America have been contested bitterly over the last two centuries. So the Democratic Party’s put itself in a corner saying, “Our election system is wonderful,” and it ain’t.
Jeff Schechtman: Are there new tricks coming along for voter suppression?
Greg Palast: Absolutely. The worst trick, no question, that’s pretty new that is, it’s now widespread … You have to understand that the Voting Rights Act in 2013 was gutted by the Supreme Court, and with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act a new trick called crosscheck was implemented, and that was created by a guy named Kris Kobach of Kansas. If that sounds familiar, this is the guy in charge of Trump’s so-called Vote Fraud Commission. Trump and his guy Kris Kobach claimed that there are three million voters, three million voters, who voted twice in America or are registered in two different states to vote twice. So the same guy voting in two states, same woman voting in two different states. Three million. And it would not …
It’s been derided by the press as a bad joke, but it’s not a joke because they actually have the list of three million, and it’s people with names like Maria Hernandez. This is a real example. They say Maria Hernandez of Georgia is the same voter as Maria Hernandez of Virginia. Now, I know, Jeff, you’re going to say, “Hey, isn’t that just a common Hispanic name, Maria Hernandez?” Well it’s not common for a Republican. They’re saying that if your name is Maria Hernandez and they see that on two different states’ voter rolls, it’s got to be the same person. In fact, in this case it’s Maria Inez Hernandez in one state and it’s Maria Cristina Hernandez in another state, and they’re saying that that’s the same voter. And I’ve got to tell you, I went … I had experts go through the actual list. We ran it through computers, the whole list. Two million names are mismatched on middle name alone. You’ve got junior and senior, in other words father and son, are listed as the same person. They are challenging the votes of these people, about one in eight is getting knocked off the vote rolls.
And so in the last election, 2016 election, we had about 1.1 million people who were removed from the voter rolls by this system called crosscheck, and I’ve got to tell you, they’re not just any people. Who has common names, okay? It’s like Martinez … So you see a lot of Maria Martinez. You see Jose Garcia. You see John Black. You see Joseph Washington. And you see a lot of people with the last name Kim, a lot of Asian-Americans. There’s like four main names for all of Korean-Americans, and they all vote … These are groups that vote heavily Democratic, and so when you remove a million names you’re removing a huge Democratic constituency, and it made the difference in states like Michigan.
Jeff Schechtman: What do you find in terms of the degree to which citizens, average people, care about this, are willing to really focus on this issue?
Greg Palast: When people are told about it, one thing … The reason why this stuff is secret, the reason why Brett Doster’s caging operation was secret, the reason why crosscheck operates in secrecy, is that Americans really believe the vote should be fair. Democrats, Republican, doesn’t matter. Most … Overwhelmingly, Americans believe everyone has a right to vote, every legitimate vote should be counted. And people get angry, and people do want to do something about it. The problem is that we don’t have much discussion about it in the US because we want to maintain this myth that we have the most wonderful democracy on the planet, and I wish that were true.
Jeff Schechtman: Greg Palast, thanks so much for spending time with us here on Radio WhoWhatWhy.
Greg Palast: You’re terrific. Thanks, Jeff.
Jeff Schechtman: Thank you.

By JEFF SCHECHTMAN/WhoWhatWhy

Posted by The NON-Conformist

With Few Watching, Republicans Have Put in Place New Poll Tax to Disenfranchise Voters

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Preventing people from voting because they owe legal fees or court fines muzzle low-income Americans at a time in our nation’s history when the rich have more political power than ever.

More from Robert Reich at Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

Voter suppression helped make Donald Trump president — now he’ll make it worse

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President Trump will get at least one Supreme Court pick, and maybe more. That’s devastating for voter rights

Donald Trump is going to be president. That not only means he will be able to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court, but he will also quite likely get to replace one of the liberal members of the court, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 83) or Stephen Breyer (age 78). As I previously reported, same-sex marriage and to a lesser extent abortion rights are both shielded from immediate legal threats, thanks to protections offered by previous Supreme Court decisions.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of voting rights, which are in serious and pressing danger from a Trump presidency.

“It’s not the apocalypse yet,” Dale Ho, the director of the voting rights project at the ACLU, explained over the phone. “It could be the apocalypse. I’m not going to say it’s not going to be the apocalypse. But on voting, we’re obviously not in as good a position as we expected to be in, and we’re going to have to wait and see.”

Ho cautioned supporters of voting rights not to give up and not to feel hopeless. For instance, he noted, the Fifth Circuit Court, which is the  most conservative in of the circuit courts, struck down a restrictive Texas voter ID law in July. Nine out of the court’s 15 judges — five Democratic appointees and four Republican appointees — backed the decision to strike down the law.

This suggests, Ho said, “that we have penetrated the consciousness of moderate conservatives on this issue.” For instance, he suggested, we cannot prejudge how Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s most prominent middle-road conservative, is likely to rule on voting-rights cases.

But while it’s not yet time to give up hope entirely and move to New Zealand, there is real reason to be worried about the fate of voting rights in this country. The possibility of Trump getting not just one but two right-wing justices on the high court creates two major sources of headaches for voting rights advocates.

The first is the current right-wing incursions into voting rights.

“For the last five years, we were largely in a defensive posture on voting rights,” Ho explained, noting that Scalia joined the 5-4 majority in voting to weaken the Voting Rights Act in 2013. There has also been an onslaught of attacks on voting rights on the state level, from voter ID restrictions to restrictions on voter registration to attacks on efforts to make the voting process itself easier. In response, there has been a rash of lawsuits attacking these restrictions.

“The hope was that, in the course of litigating these cases, a new set of legal rules, whether under the Voting Rights Act or under the Constitution, would emerge that would stop or at least put a dent into some of these voter suppression tactics,” Ho continued.

Now the concern, he added, is that “many of these voter suppression tactics that we’re seeing are either going to be left in place or spread.”

But with another conservative certain to replace Scalia, the chance of that happening just dimmed dramatically. If Trump gets to replace a liberal judge with a second conservative, that will make it particularly hard to cobble together five votes to shoot down these kinds of voting restrictions.

The second problem for voting rights under a Trump presidency is that it’s going to be much harder to expand voting rights. As Ho explained, there’s a fledgling wave of efforts to challenge both partisan gerrymandering and felon disenfranchisement in the lower courts. This election can only diminish the likelihood that the Supreme Court will agree, for instance, that it’s wrong to ban someone for voting for life because they committed one felony in their youth.

Existing attacks on voting rights already did a lot to help elect Trump. As my colleague Matthew Rozsa reported, “swing states were able to restrict the franchise in ways that may have been consequential in Trump’s winning the Electoral College (he lost to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote).”

“In Wisconsin, for example, voter ID laws disproportionately targeted nonwhite voters and, according to the executive director of Milwaukee’s Election Commission, resulted in the city’s turnout dropping by roughly 41,000 voters,” Rozsa writes. “Trump won the state by fewer than 18,000 votes.”

Trump campaigned on a platform that, at the very least, channeled and evoked white-nationalist sentiment. That dovetailed perfectly with attacks on voting rights, which are often explicitly aimed at reducing the number of people of color who show up at the polls. In case there was any real hope that Trump didn’t mean all that racist stuff he said to get elected, his initial staffing decisions suggest he’s dead serious about pursuing an agenda rooted in white-supremacist ideology — which has always been centered on voter suppression, from the days of Jim Crow to the modern era of voter ID laws.

Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman for Breitbart News, which has frequently been described as a white nationalist website, was not only the Trump campaign’s CEO, but has now been appointed as Trump’s chief White House strategist. This move cements Bannon’s role as the Joseph Goebbels of the Trump operation, and suggests that white nationalist ideology will be central to the Trump administration. In addition, Trump has hired Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who has a long career working against immigrant rights and voting rights, as part of his transition team.

Voter suppression is about winning elections, but it’s also about racism. In North Carolina, a voter suppression law was struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court in August. In its decision, the court said that the law targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Four Supreme Court justices were ready to side with the state and against the circuit court. But with Scalia’s seat vacant, there was no fifth vote in favor of this overtly racist law.

With Trump at the helm, and his well-documented enthusiasm for racism in play, getting that fifth vote to further restrict voting rights in the future is much less likely to be a problem.

Written by Amanda Marcotte

Posted by The NON-Conformist

US Justice Department shows interest in NAACP lawsuit challenging NC voter roll purges

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The U.S. Justice Department has filed a statement of interest in the NAACP lawsuit challenging elections boards in three North Carolina counties where voters complain they were inaccurately purged from voter rolls.

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The NAACP went to federal court in Winston-Salem on Wednesday seeking intervention from U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs.

In their lawsuit filed Monday, the NAACP and voters from Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties contend that local elections boards were violating federal law that prohibits voter roll purges within 95 days before an election.

In North Carolina, which has been a pivotal battleground state in the national elections, state law allows any registered voter to challenge another voter’s registration.

Challenges in Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties were done with the help of the Voter Integrity Project, a conservative-leaning organization that contends voter fraud is a problem, though very few cases have been prosecuted or proven either nationally or locally. Some of the challenges were based on the fact that campaign mailings sent to voters at a particular address were returned unopened.

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Posted by The NON-Conformist

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