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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Voter Suppression in the USA, by "Paddington"

In the good old days, the primary paths to power were generally simple. Things like birthright, marriage, assassination and conquest.

Now that most countries are democratic, at least in theory, one must claw to the top of some power structure, and then be elected.

One way to do the latter is to convince enough voters that they need you. This carries a high risk of failure.

To increase the odds, one could take the route favoured by Saddam Hussein, and famously described by Stalin, “It doesn't matter how the people vote, only who counts the votes”. While effective, this method requires a large conspiracy, which is hard to maintain.

In some places of the US, such as Chicago and Miami, Florida, a popular method used to be what is called the 'graveyard vote', having people impersonate dead voters. In New York, they just got enough street dwellers drunk and marched them to the polls.

With better modern record keeping, these methods are much less effective. In fact, despite claims by Republicans of millions of illegal aliens voting, and massive voter fraud, repeated investigation has only uncovered a handful of cases nationwide in the past two decades. Most of those were Republicans, claiming to 'test the system'.

It is the South, now primarily Republican, which has outdone itself, with the simple tactic of voter suppression.

We can begin with the founding of the Republic. The slave-holding states realized that their population was mostly slaves, and so apportionment of Congressional seats by population would leave them with little power. Hence, the allocation of two Senate seats per state, and the famous '3/5 compromise', where slaves counted as 3/5 of a regular person.

After the Civil War, the 14th and 15th amendments now allowed all former slaves to vote, so a new tactic was needed. The answer was to arrest the now-homeless freemen under vagrancy laws. Not only could they not vote while in prison, but also were generally prevented from doing so if they ever got out. An added bonus was that slavery was still allowed for people in prison, so they were a tremendous source of free labour, a system which lasts through today. This method was supplemented with poll taxes, which the African-Americans couldn't afford to pay, and literacy tests, which were strangely harder for people of colour.

Under the cover of claiming massive voter fraud, there have been major moves to require 'valid' identification to vote. This sounds reasonable enough, doesn't it? Now consider:

1. Texas accepts a state-issued Concealed-Carry Weapons permit as valid, but not a state-issued university ID card (those 'liberal' students)
2. Many older African-Americans in the South cannot get their birth certificates, as most were not born in official hospitals, and so cannot get ID.
3. In Arkansas, the single office to get a state ID (for those without a driver's license) is only open for a few hours on the fifth Wednesday of a month (not a joke).

And then there are the other clever techniques used most recently in 2018:

1. A bus in Georgia was taking a group of African-American retirees from a nursing home to the polls. The white workers at the home stopped the bus, and dragged them off.
2. In Georgia, there is automatic voter registration when a driver's license is renewed. But, it only registers the person for the national elections, not the local and state ones, keeping things like the Sheriff's position away from 'those people'.
3. A law in Arizona required voters to have a street address. Most Native Americans use rural post boxes, without one.
4. Dodge City, Kansas, closed its single polling station, and moved it a mile out of the city, miles away from any bus route.
5. The state party in charge after each census gets to decide the Congressional map for the state. In the last elections, Republicans have so gerrymandered the districts that they were awarded 12 of 16 seats in Congress for Ohio while only getting 52% of the vote.

While our leadership lectures the rest of the world on democracy, we behave more like a banana republic.

Further reading (Ed.):

... and a recent example from Texas:

1 comment:

Paddington said...

In Alabama:

1. The government-issued ID to live in public housing doesn't count as official ID for voting.
2. All of the places to get a driver's license were closed in black counties, leaving people with a 50 mile trip to do this, and no access by public transportation.