In case you hadn’t heard, there is a contentious presidential election coming up in November. Each side will do everything in its power in hopes of claiming victory. For some Republicans, the playbook includes making it more difficult for nonwhite people to get to the polls.
The New York Times has a good look at all the places and ways in which voter registration laws have become more restrictive since the Supreme Court overturned Section Four of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Previously, states and districts with histories of voter discrimination were required to obtain federal approval before changing election rules in their areas, but the court declared that provision unconstitutional, arguing that voter discrimination had effectively ended sometime after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Now, these districts can do whatever they want again, and what they want, still, is to stop black people from voting.
Republicans are deeply invested in the idea of “voter fraud.” They argue that elections can be swayed by people who register falsely, impersonate someone else, or vote multiple times. In reality, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and has virtually no practical effect on elections. Republicans care about voter fraud not because of some commitment to integrity, but because it gives them a reason to make it more difficult to register to vote. The people who are easiest to freeze out of elections are people of color, because they tend to have less means than white people. Not coincidentally, they also tend to vote Democrat. If you don’t believe that voting restrictions are politically motivated, listen to Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin explain how he believes the state’s new voter ID laws will make it harder for Hillary Clinton to win there.
The most galling instance of post-Section Four voter suppression in the Times article comes in Hancock County, Georgia, a majority-black county where the white-controlled election board tried to close all but one of the local polling places, then sent cops after 180 black residents, demanding that they prove their place of residence or lose their right to vote. But voter suppression is happening in plenty of other places, too, and not all of them are those that were formerly sanctioned by the Voting Rights Act. There is Wisconsin, where voter ID laws were supplemented by the elimination of government officials whose job it was to drive registration in poor and minority neighborhoods. There is North Carolina, where a voter ID law was recently struck down in federal court for being racially discriminatory. There is Virginia, where Republicans are hoping to strip voting rights from convicted felons who have finished their sentences and parole. There is Alabama, where 31 DMVs that doubled as voter registration locations were shut down this year, including those in almost all of the state’s counties with the largest minority populations.
These closures and restrictions have nothing to do with fraud, and everything to do with helping Republicans win elections.