By Gaurav Sett ‘19
Across the nation, states have been passing laws to increase regulations of voting, such as requiring photo ID and purging voter rolls, in an effort to supposedly reduce voter fraud. However, a study by Justin Levitt at Loyola Law School reviewed allegations of fraud from 2000 to 2014 and found only 31 credible instances out of more than one billion ballots cast over that period—less than 0.00001 percent of votes. Overall, the consensus from researchers is that the rate of illegal voting is extremely rare.
So, what is the point of all these new voter restrictions? Looking past talk of voter fraud makes it clear: voter suppression is a Republican election strategy. Republicans’ voter base is not diverse. It is 83 percent white, largely rural, and older. With nationalistic fervor from the Cold War fading, younger generations turning away from fundamentalist Christian ideals, and America’s demographic trends quickly moving away from a white majority, the right has been forced to subvert democracy to retain its political power. As with Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016 winning the presidency without the popular vote, Republicans realized that they must suppress votes in elections across the nation to survive the blue wave, especially from minority groups.
The most prominent example this midterm cycle is the Georgia gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacy Abrams. Kemp, Georgia’s current secretary of state and overseer of election processes has worked hard to make voting a difficult process. Indeed, Kemp has been caught on leaked audio concerned for his prospects with voter turnout surging. One method Kemp has used is the exact match system where voter registration information must exactly match with other state records, holding back registrations for misspellings, missing hyphens, and changed names, mostly affecting women who changed their names for marriage and people in non-white communities with different naming norms, both groups much more likely to vote for Democrats.
Indeed, an Associated Press report found that 70% of the 53,000 registrations withheld were from black citizens. Kemp has also purged over two million voters from registrations, mostly for not voting in previous elections. While not much information is public, there is growing evidence that this has primarily targeted people of color. Similarly, Republicans have shut down several voter registration sites in predominantly black neighborhoods. Moreover, voter-ID laws have shown insignificant evidence of preventing noncitizen voting but prevent a significant amount of primarily low-income people and minorities without photo-IDs like driver’s licenses from voting.
Georgia is not the only instance of voter suppression. In every state where Republicans have been able to influence voting regulations—including Florida, North Dakota, North Carolina, and Kansas—similar methods have been enacted to prevent voters from deciding elections. Indeed, without absent voter protection reforms, our democratic process is in danger.