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Defeat Voter Suppression: Battling a “Hydra”

by December 13, 2013

Voter suppression is easily defined: "" Wikipedia defines it as a strategy to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing people from exercising their right to vote.  Throughout American history this ugly practice has endured and been employed generation after generation.  Some of the historical schemes of voter suppression include the “grandfather clause”, literacy tests, poll taxes and constitutional quizzes.  It’s worth mentioning that most of these schemes were targeted at black voters but impacted whites also, as some whites were unable to meet some of the requirements.  

Today the most notable voter suppression strategy is the requirement of voter identification.  In reality, the voter ID suppression is really just the tip of the iceberg.  You’ll soon see that there are countless other strategies to suppress voting and there are many schemes yet to be revealed.   

Today, 36 Republican controlled state legislatures around the country are promoting these plots, mostly guided by model legislation created and promoted by the right wing think tank "" ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).  The right to vote is the cornerstone of American Democracy, which can’t exist without the unimpeded right of citizens to vote and elect their representatives.   In earlier articles in this series we’ve addressed voter suppression schemes that targeted blacks, women and students.  This week we’ll address some, but by no means all, of the strategies these ALEC controlled, Republican legislatures are promoting.  In her dissent to the 2013 Supreme Court Ruling gutting the Voter Right Act, the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice, addressed the long history of persistent tactics that have been used to prevent minority voting.  In June of this year, Emily Badger, writing for The Atlantic Cities, addressed the fears of Justice Ginsburg.  Ginsburg wrote that “Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the  "" Hydra.”  “Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.”  As noted in an earlier article, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, is a recognized authority on voting rights issues.  Myrna Perez, its Deputy Director explained that the 2013 Supreme Court Decision gutted the “pre-clearance” requirement of the Voter Rights Act.  Essentially, that means that you can’t prevent suppression schemes until after they’re enacted.  She noted that over the last 15 years, the Justice Department blocked 86 proposed changes to voting laws and that between 1999 and 2005, 153 proposals were submitted to the Justice Department but withdrawn after the Justice Department began to raise questions.  

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I continue to iterate that historically United States suppression laws targeted black people as women were historically prevented from voting until 1920.   However, in their effort to destroy the “Obama Coalition” the Republicans have added students, women, immigrants and others to their suppression schemes.  Perez stressed the threat posed by actions taken by boards of elections that don’t require legislation.  As in North Carolina, many Boards of Elections are controlled by the party of the state governor.  Tactics that were noted included:  changing polling locations; changing polling hours or eliminating early voting days; reducing the number of polling places; At-large elections; packing majority-minority districts; dividing minority districts, voter ID laws; onerous candidate qualifications; changing multi-lingual voter assistance; changing election dates; changing election dates; canceling elections.  Some of these tactics require legislation and the way that they suppress voting might not be readily apparent.  However, we’ll address and clarify these and other suppressive strategies in future articles. 

Wikipedia further illuminates voter suppression tactics and provide additional examples of the creativity of the “Hydra.”  "" Wikipedia noted that other popular tactics include: purging voter rolls; felon disenfranchisement; disinformation about voting procedures; caging lists; inequality in Election Day resources and partisan election administration.  An example provided is the 2002 New Hampshire Senate phone jamming scandal where the Republicans hired telemarketers in Idaho to make repeated hang-up calls to the Democratic Party’s ride-to-the-polls phone line.  In Virginia in 2006 democratic voters received calls incorrectly informing them that voting will lead to arrest, calls fraudulently claiming their voting location had changed and flyers paid for by Republicans telling them to “SKIP THIS ELECTION.”  In the 2008 presidential election, the Republican Party attempted to have all 60,000 voters in the heavily Democratic city of Milwaukee deleted from the voter rolls.   


In the 2010 Maryland gubernatorial election the Republicans placed thousands of Election Day robocalls to Democratic voters telling them the Democratic candidate had already won. 

Over the past few weeks we’ve dealt with general reach of current voter suppression activities, defined voter suppression and given many examples that show what it looks like.  Next week we will go “beyond describing the problem” and making suggestions about what a response should look like.  We will focus on educating, organizing and mobilizing.

Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on voter suppression.  To join the campaign to defeat voter suppression please “Like” us on Facebook, “Share” our articles, and/or share your ideas and comments at our website:  Please register to receive a free subscription of our weekly eNews of Greater Diversity News or a paid subscription (800.462.0738) to our print copy.  Lastly, to promote our campaign to defeat voter suppression, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow the above-referenced recommendations. •