So, this week was a bummer, right? Exhausting, even. The outrages continue to hit us from all directions, stacking one crime against humanity on top of another, creating a tower of moral atrocities that threatens to block out whatever rays of light and hope remain. Innocent families being torn apart. Children — even babies! — being tossed into cages inside old Walmarts and desert huts. Proposals to cut billions from Medicare and strip health care from millions of kids. The obvious corruption. The racist tweets. The insensitive-to-insidious jackets. The lies denying that any of this is happening, followed by the lies that any of it is being fixed.
How is this parade of noxious absurdity happening? How are policies and moronic proclamations that feel like on-the-nose satire continue to flow like Trump vodka? How do these blunt bigots and monsters feel free to spout their bullshit? Why do they keep getting elected?
It all comes down to one thing: When you don’t let the people who disagree with you even vote, you feel pretty free to be your worst self. And the people who want to stop other people from voting tend to have pretty awful worst selves.
When the Republican Party began its (sadly, brilliant) effort to take over state governments across the country after 2008, they were playing for keeps. Conservatives (especially racists) have always been hostile to the idea that anyone but rich white people should be able to vote, and once they started seizing state houses, they promptly began working to disenfranchise working people and especially minorities in a number of ways.
There have been mass voter purges, which have taken people less likely to vote Republican off the voter rolls. Onerous Voter ID laws have made it harder for people still registered to vote. Gerrymandering has made the votes that do get through irrelevant by chopping up states into increasingly ridiculous districts, thus diluting the power of traditionally Democratic votes and guaranteeing more Republicans get elected. It’s dirty, undemocratic stuff, and it’ll only get worse if we don’t take care of it now.
Courts have rolled back some of the most flagrant violations, but the GOP can be very resilient when it’s trying to disenfranchise people. Just this past month, there have been a series of huge decisions and political maneuvers that could strip voting rights away from millions of people and allow the GOP to keep power this November. There are more than a handful of states dealing with these issues, but we’ll focus on the most recent struggles.
Ohio’s Republican leadership has thrown over two million people off the voting rolls since 2011 through their “use it or use it law.” Basically, the state can deregister people if they don’t respond to a mailer sent to their home and don’t vote for another four years. And wouldn’t you know it, the law has purged residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods at twice the clip that it has residents of white neighborhoods.
The law is meant to combat “voter fraud,” which is basically an imaginary crime that conservatives have concocted to justify kicking minorities off the voter rolls. And unfortunately, because the Supreme Court was also stolen by conservatives, it issued a ridiculous decision earlier this month that strained and ultimately broke with all logic in order to side with the Ohio GOP and codify the racist voter purge.
Now, not only is the Ohio GOP free to stop Democratic voters from voting, lots of other GOP-controlled states are likely to adopt the same approach. That makes electing Democratic secretaries of state, the office that controls elections, absolutely essential. And as such, we’re supporting Kathleen Clyde, the Democratic nominee for Ohio secretary of state. She’s pledged to stop the voter purges, which would help restore fundamental freedoms in the state — a swing state that just so happens to be absolutely crucial to presidential elections.
In Pennsylvania, the issue has largely been gerrymandering. The state legislature has been unbalanced for years due to the GOP’s shenanigans, and up until a few months ago, the state’s congressional districts were equally preposterous. Activists took the issue to the State Supreme Court, which agreed that yes, the map was a terrible abuse of power, and ordered a fairer redistricting that will likely help Democrats this fall.
The PA legislature was supposed to submit a bill that drew new district lines, but at the last moment, Republicans slipped in a poison pill that attacked the very judiciary that ruled against their gerrymander. The gist is that it would create a voter initiative that’d entirely redesign the way judges are elected in Pennsylvania. Instead of statewide elections, appellate judges would be voted on by district, which, surprise surprise, would give the GOP an advantage in a state that has large rural swaths in between two metropolitan areas.
They have to pass this bill twice, which means that Democrats have to take back the PA state senate. As such, we are supporting several PA state senate candidates who have a great chance of unseating Republicans this fall, which would stop this major anti-democratic measure in its tracks. As of now, that includes Mark Pinsley and Maria Collett, who are running in PA-SD-16 and PA-SD-12, respectively.
Over in North Carolina, the GOP has been especially aggressive in its disenfranchising of likely Democratic voters. They’ve limited early voting and spent nearly a decade trying to establish permanent control of the legislature.
After the Supreme Court struck down their racist gerrymander, the GOP passed another version that was expressly meant to benefit Republicans. They didn’t even try to hide it. In 2016, state Rep. David Lewis said this on the floor of the legislature: “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
The Supreme Court struck down some elements of the gerrymander, but other districts were kept in place. And now the GOP is pushing new a state constitutional amendment to enshrine terrible Voter ID laws, which would help make its supermajority nearly impossible to topple.
That makes this fall’s election beyond important. North Carolina could become permanently Republican, making what was becoming a swing state into a GOP stronghold. And with that in mind, we’re supporting several Democratic candidates in the state, including Richard Chapman, who is taking on the aforementioned David Lewis.