“I’ve been in the room when we played racist politics. ... We played the race card and I’m not proud of it.” - Carter Wrenn, N.C. Director of Ronald Reagan for President.
Here’s how Republicans have been cheating the U.S. Constitution—and black voters:
In 2017, a federal court declared that North Carolina Republicans “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The court added: “Even if done for partisan ends, that constituted racial discrimination.”
Mitt Romney’s political consultant referred to long voter lines as “part of his party’s toolkit.” Jim Greer, the former head of Florida’s Republican Party called the strategy a “marketing ploy.”
Of all the euphemisms for lying, cheating and stealing, perhaps “voter suppression” has been the most effective at downplaying an ugly truth.
When someone says they “misremembered,” “misspoke” or presented an “alternative fact,” you still know they are lying; the same with someone who “misappropriated” or “embezzled” funds— because you automatically (and rightly) consider them to be a thief.
Even though it is a Republican tactic often used against black voters, voter suppression almost sounds erudite and sophisticated. To be clear, it is definitely a political strategy. However, if you killed someone, calling it “life suppression” wouldn’t make you any less of a murderer.
Republicans aren’t doing this just because. They don’t want more black people voting because black people overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates. A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won the black vote in more than half a century, according to Roper’s polling data. It is the one demographic the GOP can’t seem to win—or hasn’t really tried to win since the mid-20th century and doubled down on that racial voting disparity when it chose Donald Trump in 2016. So instead, they lie. They steal black votes. And most of all, they cheat.
Even worse, it often works.
Here are some of the most notorious tactics employed by Republicans to steal black votes, including examples of when it worked.
Changing the rules
In 2008, county councilman Ernest Montgomery prepared to run for reelection in the tiny town of Calera, Alabama. But the city decided to redraw its voting districts and add thousands of white voters to the traditionally black part of town represented by Montgomery, the city’s only black councilman.
The county allowed Calera to add these white voters without having them reviewed by the Justice Department, even though the county was one of the places with such a long history of discrimination against black voters the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required federal approval before changing any voting rules.
Montgomery lost the election, but Barack Obama’s Justice Department demanded that Calera hold a new election. Calera didn’t want to do it, but a federal court upheld the Justice Department’s decision. Montgomery eventually won his seat, which he still holds. But the white people in Shelby County were so upset they decided to take Attorney General Eric Holder to the Supreme Court—and eventually won.
That’s how Shelby County v Eric Holder decimated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Immediately after the Supreme Court made this decision, a number of states enacted draconian voter registration rules, including strict voter ID laws. Though two federal courts and peer-reviewed studies in Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina found that voter ID requirements disproportionately affect non-white and poor voters, Republican legislatures are still employing the practice.
How to beat the cheating: Make sure your legislator is in favor of third-party redistricting—voting districts drawn by neutral parties. Look for ballot initiatives that change voting laws. For instance, in the upcoming midterm elections, voters in Arkansas and North Carolina will vote on amendments that would change their state constitutions to require voter ID.
Long Lines Are the New Poll Tax
For years, on the Sunday before each election, black churches in Cleveland, Ohio, would load their congregations onto buses and head to the polls to vote. Even though its population is 28 percent black, 56 percent of Cuyahoga County’s weekend voters in the 2008 election were black. Early voting was a big strategy in Obama’s 2008 election and helped elect the first black president.
Ohio made sure that would never happen again.
Early voting and extended voting hours are important to black voters because African Americans are twice as likely to work jobs that pay hourly wages. Waiting in line to vote literally costs black voters. Yet, states such as Ohio and Nebraska have reduced the days and hours citizens are allowed to vote.
According to research by Stephen Pettigrew, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, if there are two neighborhoods in the same city, one with mostly white voters and one with mostly black and Hispanic voters, those in the white neighborhoods will have a shorter wait time at the polls.
In the 2016 Elections, black people waited an average of 16 minutes to vote, while white voters waited less than 10 minutes, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology voter survey. Georgia is currently trying to force Atlanta to close its polls an hour early on election day because ... you know ... that’s where the blacks vote. And in North Carolina, a federal court found that cuts to the state’s early voting hours were part of a Republican effort to intentionally decreased black turnout
It worked. In the 2016 election, black early voting was down 8.7 percent in North Carolina.
How you can beat the cheating: Michigan will have an initiative on its November ballot to extend early voting hours. A study also showed that voting lines are shortest at noon, at 5 p.m. and at the end of the day. If your state has early voting and you live in a black neighborhood, vote early even if you don’t need to. It decreases the wait times for other black voters.
In 2014, a rat chewed through wires at the Hancock County, Ga., courthouse, sparking a fire that destroyed the voter rolls, including the rolls for Sparta, Ga., which is 86 percent black. Hancock County officials began rebuilding its list of eligible voters—but only the white ones.
The all-white county board of elections challenged and purged 187 of the 1,100 registered voters. Most of the 187 voters purged were black. Some of them were purged because their voter registration didn’t match the state databases. Others were thrown off voter rolls because of “third-party challenges,” the practice of private citizens saying that a person no longer lives in the voting district.
The purge was not unusual to Georgia. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate and current secretary of state, has enacted one of the most aggressive voter purges in America since taking office in 2010. His office is holding up 53,000 voter registrations in Georgia, 70 percent of which reportedly belong to black voters.
After Hancock County’s voter purge, white candidates flooded the mostly black county to run for office, including R. Allen Haywood, a white candidate who defeated Sparta’s black mayor, William Evans Jr.
Evans eventually got his seat back in a special election after Sparta’s black voters sued and had most of the voters who were declared ineligible added back to the polls.
But Brian Kemp is still secretary of state.
How you can beat the cheating: Even if you are purged, you can challenge being purged and, in most states, you can cast a provisional ballot in an election.
In Florida, one in five African Americans and 10 percent of all voters are disenfranchised because of the state’s strict felony voting rights law. Unlike most states, convicted persons don’t automatically have their rights restored. Those rights are permanently revoked unless the governor restores them personally.
Nine of the 10 states where felons can permanently lose their voting rights are under trifecta Republican control (state house, state senate, and governor). Many of those states have slim Republican majorities. In Florida, Real Clear Politics has Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum leading Republican Ron DeSantis by 3.7 points. Trump won the state in 2016 by less than two points.
Imagine if those 21 percent of black voters were added to the voter rolls.
How you can beat the cheating: Florida has a ballot initiative in the upcoming midterms that would amend the state constitution to restore felon voting rights. Even in states where felons can vote after completing their prison sentences and parole, many aren’t aware of this fact.
Closing Polling Places
Voter purges aren’t Brian Kemp’s only strategy to suppress the black vote. Since taking office, Georgia officials have closed 214 polling places in 53 counties, according to the Journal-Constitution. Most of the counties where those closures occurred - 39 of the 53 counties - have significant black populations (more than 25 percent).
But it’s not just Georgia. Since Shelby v Holder, Republican-controlled states in the South have closed 868 polling places, according to a report by the Leadership Conference Education Fund. After poll closures in North Carolina, black voters casting ballots in the 2016 elections had to travel an extra 350,000 miles to cast a ballot, compared with 21,000 miles for white voters.
Earlier this year, Randolph County, Ga., passed a plan to close two-thirds of its polling locations. Not only is Randolph County mostly black, but the elections were run by Michael Malone, who was a Kemp donor and was curiously on the list of people who Kemp was considering using as a consultant for his campaign, the Washington Post reports.
How you can beat the cheating: Volunteer with organizations who offer rides to the polls. Fight poll closures. Offer rides to voters.
In 1990 during a bitter Senate race with black Democrat Harvey Gantt, Sen. Jesse Helms found out that North Carolina’s black voters were registering at twice the rate of white voters. So Jesse Helms began a “ballot security program” that intimidated black voters, including mailing a flyer to at least 81,000 black registered voters suggesting they would be jailed for up to five years if something was found to be incorrect on their registration or if they moved within 30 days of election day.
This is an old Republican tactic.
Trump asked his voters to watch “certain communities” at the polls on election day in 2016, resulting in numerous lawsuits and accounts of black and Hispanic voters being intimidated.
Jesse Helms eventually won his race by little more than five percent of the vote. And Thomas Farr, the man who led Helms’ “ballot security team” and reportedly came up with the idea for those postcards, was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Trump.
How you can beat the cheating: Check all information with your secretary of state’s site, regardless of how reliable the information seems. Don’t let those who wish to stop you from voting scare you.
These aren’t the only tactics employed by Republicans. Some states have effectively outlawed voter registration drives by making the organization legally responsible for mistakes on registration forms. Arizona made it a felony to turn in a mail-in ballot for another voter, even with that voter’s permission. Four states don’t allow citizens to register online. Aside from felon disenfranchisement, almost every time a higher court looks at these strategies, they have found them to be discriminatory and sometimes downright illegal.
Republicans know that when more people vote, they lose. So instead, they suppress the black vote or to put it more plainly...