We all thought Wisconsin had shown us the worst of what could be in store for the 2020 general election. Their primary was an unmitigated disaster so fully realized that perhaps nothing captures the inanity of it more than the Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, Robin Vos, imploring voters that exercising their right to vote was completely safe, while dressed head to toe in personal protective gear. I can’t zero in on the right word for that.
Is it incompetence? Ignorance? Overwhelming privilege?
Regardless, it’s easy for us to view Wisconsin as an isolated incident, a staggering level of callous dismissiveness by a state party well known for its callousness. Spoiler alert: Voter suppression is not a fluke.
According to the New York Times, “Georgia’s statewide primary elections on Tuesday were overwhelmed by a full-scale meltdown of new voting systems put in place after widespread claims of voter suppression during the state’s 2018 governor’s election.” Machines were reported as missing or malfunctioning. In some places, wait times ballooned up to 4–5 hours on average. There were numerous reports of voters applying for absentee ballots, never receiving them, showing up in person to vote, and being turned away. There was even a report of the police being called on black voters who were still in line just after midnight, ever determined to cast their vote.
Of course, this is the first major election in Georgia since Brian Kemp, former secretary of state and current governor, stole the gubernatorial race from Stacey Abrams. Brian Kemp is infamous for his reckless antics in “securing our elections”. He is the purveyor of the asinine “exact match” system in Georgia which requires information on a voter’s application form to exactly match what’s on file with the government. If it doesn’t, the potential voter is sent exactly one letter in the mail notifying them of the discrepancy and then given 24 months to fix it without any further notices. This policy combined with Kemp’s ruthless purge of voter rolls from 2016–2018 amounted to over a half million voters being removed from the Georgia voter rolls without any notification.
Does it surprise anyone that most of those voters removed were people of color? Does it surprise anyone that when the dust settled Kemp won that gubernatorial race by “roughly 55,000 votes but was within about 17,000 votes of being forced into a runoff”?
The truth is that these unamerican voter suppression tactics are commonplace across the country. If we don’t pay close attention, Georgia and Wisconsin will be just a blimp in our rear view mirror as we barrell towards an electoral cliff in November.
So what’s to be done?
I don’t have time to run through all the ways that Republicans’ cries of voter fraud are disingenuous bullshit. For anyone curious, see here. That being said, we’ve learned the Republican game plan. It’s sabotage, and we must maintain constantly vigilant in the coming months in order to protect our election system from Republican-led meddling gumming up the works. Simply put, we can’t let another election be stolen like what happened in Georgia. Remember, in 2016, according to The Washington Post, “107,000 votes in three states effectively decided the election” in Trump’s favor.
Republicans are already priming the “let’s question the results of the general election” pump. The obvious way to combat that is them getting their asses thoroughly handed to them on election day. It’s the cleanest way to remove the stain from the White House. Anything less than that gets messy.
Thus, there are two ways to make this a reality: universal vote by mail and a large investment in election infrastructure across the country.
I wrote a piece last month about how important universal vote by mail is when considered through the lens of COVID-19. It is paramount that we have a simple, accessible way for people to exercise their right to vote without fear of infection. Disclaimers aren’t going to cut it. We need to get this in place now, make sure people know about it, and how they are able to apply for a mail-in ballot in their respective state without exception.
Secondly, it is crucial that Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats employ every tool at their disposal to force Mitch McConnell to bring the HEROES Act up for a vote which is currently sitting on his desk. According to Courthouse News Service, “The $3 trillion package, passed by the House in May but untouched by the Senate, allots $3.6 billion for a wide variety of voting security measures…” It includes everything from simply providing states financial support in administering their elections, requiring the development of contingency plans in emergency situations like a pandemic, and removing barriers to voting like photo-ID requirements along with many more long overdue adjustments to how we conduct elections in this country.
Passing the HEROES act will be tough. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, announced that the bill was “dead on arrival” once it made its way to the Senate. Unsurprising to say the least, Mitch McConnell has railed against badly needed election reform for years, passing it off as a Democratic plot to win elections. That logic always requires a breathtaking level of cognitive dissonance every time I hear him talk about it, though I suspect that’s the point.
If there was a motto for the Republican party, “weaponized cognitive dissonance” would be a solid contender.
Nonetheless, it’s important that this piece of legislation is passed. The Republicans are lying to you when they complain about voter fraud, invoking the sanctity of elections. All of it is a lie, and it’s time Nancy and all the others forcefully called the Republicans out on this. I’m talking like memorize the numbers, bring in receipts to whatever meeting or press conference they are having, and make them look like idiots. Name their hypocrisy and force them to respond.
Because what happened in Wisconsin and Georgia is unacceptable. We can’t let it happen across the country.