Ever get the feeling that Republicans don’t believe they could win a fair fight? From hyper-political gerrymandering to unlimited dark money, from reductions in the number of polling places to the “purging” of voter rolls for non-participation, Republicans have been working hard to make it harder for citizens to vote.
It’s part of a broader strategy to tip the scales in their favor: In 2018, Wisconsin Republicans won 52% of the vote for their state assembly, yet received 65% of the seats. In three states that year, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Republicans received fewer votes than Democrats but still held a legislative majority in the state’s House of Representatives.
Republican obstruction goes right to voting itself. In Milwaukee, during this spring’s primary, the number of polling places was reduced from 180 to five, with most reductions in Black and brown communities. After the Supreme Court rolled back voting rights protections in 2013, nearly 1,200 polling locations were closed across the South. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, voters in half the states have more obstacles to casting their ballot than they did a decade ago.
In some states, it’s easier to maintain a driver’s license than your right to vote.
There is nothing coincidental about any of these moves. Such barriers do not affect Americans neutrally. In 2018, The Atlantic and the Public Religion Research Institute published the results of a survey that found “Black and Hispanic citizens are more likely than whites to face barriers to the polls — and to fear the future erosion of their basic political rights.”
These laws and practices have to change. To make those changes, we are going to have to elect Democrats up and down the ballot this fall and in the next few cycles, and then hold them accountable to deliver changes to open up our democracy to citizens who want to participate. That may feel like a chicken-and-egg dilemma. It’s not. That’s where voting by mail comes in.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia already permit voting by mail for the convenience of any voter. The remaining 16 allow voting by mail under certain conditions. Today the pandemic compounds the difficulty of voting. Because of concerns about exposure to COVID-19, for many Americans, the safe and convenient way to cast their ballots is to vote by mail. Republicans continue to resist — while also making plans to intimidate voters at the polls.
As the pandemic has made voting by mail a more popular option, Trump has predictably tweeted misinformation about it. In the absence of evidence of fraud, Trump keeps trying to create confusion about voting by mail with claims that the 2020 election will be “rigged” and that millions of mail-in ballots “will be printed by foreign countries.”
Of course, Trump’s hypocrisy is boundless. He voted by mail this March in the Florida Republican primary. In fact, voting by mail is a popular option for much of Trump’s inner circle, including Vice President Mike Pence, cabinet secretaries, senior governmental and campaign aides, and Trump’s own family. As AP pointed out, Trump and his team’s behavior “undercuts the president’s argument that the practice will lead to widespread fraud this November.”