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Early voting has already started in a handful of state primary elections, but lawsuits are still unresolved in at least four states that could potentially effect outcomes in critically important races up to and including the presidential election this coming November. Republican state officials around the country are maneuvering to enact policies that would likely depress the vote of poor people, students, and people of color, all in the effort to extend their own minority control of state and federal government.

GOP State Legislators Purge Voters

Republican state officials around the country are maneuvering to enact policies that would likely depress the vote of poor people, students, and people of color.

Florida voters enacted a ballot measure in 2018 that restored voting rights to people convicted of felonies who had completed their sentence and were not convicted of either murder or a sex crime. In May of last year, the Florida legislature then passed a law which says completion of one’s sentence would not only mean completing any prison term and parole (as per the text of the ballot measure), but also having paid off all restitution, fines and fees. This in a state that assesses numerous court fees and charges prisoners a “fair portion” of their subsistence costs while in prison. In October, part of the Republican law was blocked in federal court but is still on appeal. A modern bellwether of sorts, no president since Bill Clinton in 1992 has gained his office without being awarded Florida’s electoral votes.

In two other battleground states, North Carolina and Wisconsin, state Republicans took advantage of 2010 electoral gains to heavily gerrymander both their Congressional districts and their state legislative districts, and the new maps kept Republicans in power through the decade. Last June, after years of litigation, the maps were finally brought to the Supreme Court for a second time, only to get a 5-4 decision saying the Court could not rule on partisan gerrymandering—only state courts. While there are Democratic-controlled states which gerrymander, the balance tips Republican. Most western states including California have already given redistricting authority to independent commissions. That leaves Republican-controlled Texas as the biggest player in a shady game of manipulating elections to the U.S. House of Representatives.

North Carolina voters in 2018 approved a state constitutional amendment to require photo identification (not just any ID) for voting. Although the language of the amendment allows for exceptions, the eventual law enacted by the legislature made none for plausible situations such as losing your IDs when moving or being evicted, having your wallet/purse stolen, or having your driver’s license seized by a police officer. This law is also blocked in federal court and currently in the appeals process.

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A Wisconsin state judge ordered on January 13 that the elections board must delete 209,000 people from the voting rolls immediately or face daily fines. This despite the fact that his ruling is on appeal by the state’s Justice Department. The voters to be removed did not respond to a postcard sent to their address on file within 30 days. Ohio, which followed a similar procedure in September, has already purged 235,000 voter registrations. John Kennedy was the last president to be elected without carrying Ohio.

In Georgia—where the sitting governor is a former Georgia secretary of state who closed 214 voting stations and cancelled 1.4 million registrations ahead of his own election to the governorship and failed to deliver sufficient numbers of voting machines to heavily-Black precincts—voters are still being purged by the hundreds of thousands. After purging 308,000 names last December, the state admitted an error and restored 22,000. Georgia is one of only two states that now require an exact match between the names on the voter registry and the DMV registry, a provision that unfairly targets people whose names may be unfamiliar to state employees. A study by data firm L2, quoted in the Washington Post, found that if the exact match policy were to be applied nationwide, one third of legitimate U.S. voters would be flagged for removal. Georgia is also among several states that use a so-called “use-it-or-lose-it” approach, which requires voters who don’t vote over x number of elections to constantly re-register. A December 20 ruling in a court challenge to the exact match and use-it-or-lose-it purges in Georgia came down in favor of the state. It is unclear yet whether the plaintiff organization Fair Fight will decide to appeal.

The list of states and court battles presented in this article is far from exhaustive, however it exhibits some of the most consequential efforts being waged by the Trump campaign and state Republicans to squeeze their way into continued power with support from a minority of the populace. These efforts are all in addition to other longstanding problems in the integrity of the vote, which include: voting machines without a verifiable paper trail and the operating code secret, the national database ERIC which compares state registries and flags entries for removal based on secret algorithm, the narrowing of voting hours, the closing of DMVs, the confusion of college students about where they can vote (either at school address or home address according to federal precedent, but New Hampshire is making them get a new license), and the manipulative use of the closed primary, where voters must ascribe a party to themselves.

The current iteration of Republican Party in the style of Trump boasts of its preference for an unrepresentative authoritarian form of government rather than a new society free from the current power relationships that govern capital and workers, dark and light-skinned people, women and men, young and old, humans and Earth. This new society is not the vision of the Democratic Party, but the work for the people building it is easier under Democratic administrations who are not busy destroying people’s ability to survive.

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Buddy Bell

Buddy Bell often writes on the topic of representative democracy. A version of this article was originally published in the print newspaper Newsand Letters.