From Georgia to Kansas to even New Hampshire, the GOP has settled on a path to victory: Prevent as many Democrats as they can from voting.
Thousands of would-be voters at risk of being disenfranchised by ultra-strict registration rules. A draconian ID law that could keep Native Americans from the polls en masse. New measures targeting voting by college students. A Hispanic-majority city that moved its lone polling place out of town.
As the 2018 campaign nears its end, experts who track voter suppression saythis is the worst it’s been in the modern era. In fact, making it harder to vote, especially for racial minorities, now appears to be—with the possible exception of stoking fear over a group of desperate migrants still about 700 miles from the Texas border—the single most important plank of the GOP’s strategy.
Aside from likely giving Republicans an undeserved boost in several key races, the drive to restrict voting has reached a scale that should raise serious questions about the democratic legitimacy of our elections. And alongside the extreme Republican gerrymander—currently the only reason why the party has even an outside shot at holding onto the House—it represents a massive structural obstacle to Democrats ever achieving the power their popular support deserves. In other words, Republicans can only win by rigging the game.
Georgia has grabbed many of the headlines. Secretary of State Brian Kemp reportedly put around 53,000 registrations—70 percent of them from African-Americans—on pending status because of minor discrepancies with the information on state records.
The difference could be as trivial as a misplaced hyphen or a missing middle initial. Those on pending status are supposed to still be able to vote by showing ID, and two late-breaking court rulings softening some of the rules may help. But given the likely level of confusion that’s been kicked up, how it all will play out is anyone’s guess.
Kemp also has aggressively purged Georgia’s voter rolls, raising serious concerns that eligible voters have been wrongly removed. Since 2016, he has scrapped over one in 10 names. And in the four years before that, he purged 1.5 million, twice as many as in the previous four years.