Let us forget that the very first “official” vote-rigging of the 2016 presidential election was an idiot who went to the polls in Iowa and voted twice for Donald Trump.
Okay, let us forget it after first having a good laugh about it.
No, attempting to rig elections one vote at a time is a sucker’s game, strictly little league. The only way to go is to rig huge numbers of votes, and when it comes to that kind of thing, Republicans have written the how-to manual.
Their latest came courtesy of Slammin’ Sammy Alito and the Supremes, which overturned a long-standing section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required certain southern states to run any proposed changes in their election laws by the U.S. Justice Department because they had such a long tradition of disenfranchising minority votes. When that provision of the law was overturned in 2013 in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder, with Johnny Roberts, lead singer of the Supremes, writing that “Things have changed in the South,” elected officials immediately turned around and proved that, well, no, things actually haven’t changed that much in the south at all.
How so? An article in the October 27, 2016 edition of the New York Review of Books explains how that happened in North Carolina – starting the very day after the Supremes sang forth their decision.
The day after, the chairman of the North Carolina Senate Rules Committee announced that the legislature “would now move ahead” on its voter ID bill. One month later the legislature passed a greatly expanded law that added a host of new voting restrictions. The new law curtailed early voting and eliminated same-day voting registration, provisional voting for those who mistakenly voted in the wrong precinct, and preregistration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds when they obtained their driver’s licenses. Two features united all of the measures the new law now limited or ended: they had been originally designed to increase voter participation, and they were disproportionately used by African-American voters. The North Carolina legislature knew that, because it had requested and received data on the use of each of these measures by race before enacting the law. Republican legislative staff asked the state election board, for example, for “a breakdown of the 2008 voter turnout, by race (white and black) and type of vote (early and Election Day),” and for “a breakdown, by race, of those registered voters in your database that do not have a driver’s license number.”
The new law also included a much more stringent voter ID provision. The pre–Shelby County bill allowed use of any government ID; the final version ruled out the use of IDs that African-Americans were more likely to have, such as “public assistance IDs,” and approved only those forms of identification that white voters were more likely to have, such as driver’s licenses, passports, and concealed-gun permits. The requirement was said to fight voter fraud, but its defenders were unable to point to any evidence of such in-person voter fraud. As the noted conservative Judge Richard Posner has written, voter ID laws are “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”
Like the many other voter ID laws that Republican legislatures have enacted in recent years, the North Carolina requirement applied only to in-person voting, but not to absentee voting, where there actually has been evidence of fraud. Not coincidentally, absentee voters are disproportionately white.
The Obama Justice Department and several civil rights organizations challenged North Carolina’s new law as racially discriminatory. In April 2016, a federal district court rejected the challenge, finding that the legislature was merely seeking partisan advantage, not acting out of racial animus. The district court viewed the legislation as “politics as usual,” in which race was considered only as a proxy for partisan concerns.
But in July, the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit unanimously reversed the district court’s decision. As Judge Diana Motz wrote for the court:
Intentionally targeting a particular race’s access to the franchise because its members vote for a particular party, in a predictable manner, constitutes discriminatory purpose…even absent any evidence of race-based hatred and despite the obvious political dynamics.
“Politics as usual,” Judge Motz continued, “cannot be accepted where politics as usual translates into race-based discrimination.”
North Carolina asked the Supreme Court for an emergency stay, which the Court denied. But the decision leaves the number of polling places and voting hours up to the local election boards. Twenty-three of those boards have since cut early voting hours, and nine have cut Sunday voting—services used disproportionately by blacks.
And that, boys and girls, is how you rig an election, not by a woman in Iowa voting twice for Donald Trump or someone in Philadelphia or Chicago or Baltimore trying to sign up to vote in front of a table of their neighbors using the name of another neighbor’s recently deceased husband. That’s strictly amateur hour, shifting the tallies one or two votes at a time while posing a huge chance of getting caught in the act. The folks in North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, and other such places, on the other hand, shift the tallies tens of thousands of votes at a time and change the majority parties in town councils, state legislatures, and even the U.S. Congress in the process.
And the people doing this kind of rigging, notwithstanding all that finger-pointing about rigged elections, are Republicans, Republicans, and more Republicans.