Voter Suppression, Interstate CrossCheck, and the Fall of American Democracy Part 3 of 4

By 1895, Benjamin Tillman and the “Redeeming” Democrats in South Carolina had succeeded through violence, terror, and election fraud to reduce the number of African-Americans registered to vote in the state from 81,000 in 1868, to less than 10,000 in 1894”

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

1895. 2017. What’s the difference really?

In a story that appeared a couple of days after the 2016 election, Craig Gilbert, Todd Spangler, and Bill Laitner writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Detroit Free Press offered the following analysis of Hillary Clinton’s loss in November 2016,

It was Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall” — three Great Lakes battlegrounds that Republicans had banged their heads against for years.

But Donald Trump stormed the blue wall Tuesday, parlaying victories in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania into the presidency.

Trump did it on a tide of votes from rural and blue-collar whites.

But he was helped by Clinton’s neglect of the region and her failure to fully mobilize her party’s own base, including young voters and African-Americans.”

This was the story in many, if not most, news reports in the weeks and months after the election. Indeed, in many quarters, it remains the story today. Except there is much more to Secretary Clinton’s loss than this.

As Brian discussed in his piece on Interstate Cross Check, (ISCC) much of that success is built on the Kris Kobach-designed program currently in use in as many as 33 states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan.

ISCC has had a profound impact on voter rolls nationwide. In those states where the program was in use, the program’s less-than-rigorous name matching protocols sought out and purged voters who the program’s sponsors claim might be registered in more than one state. While on the surface, this sounds like a great idea (what could be wrong with a clean voter list after all), the reality is that if the matching protocols are weak John Q. Washington (DOB 1/1/1985) and John F. Washington (DOB2/2/1976) might be considered similar enough to warrant deletion of one person’s registration! While the ISCC claimed that its matching was rigorous. In practice, though the matching wasn’t quite as rigorous as promised, resulting in an error-prone deletion process. Once a voter was deleted, the responsibility is theirs to prove their citizenship and have their voting rights restored. And in the absence of any oversight from impartial observers insisting that duplicates have been properly verified before deletions occur, the resulting voter purges probably did result in folk being denied access to the ballot box.

A tale of [a lot more than] two cities

Thanks to new laws passed by Republicans, 1.28 million votes that were cast in the 2012 presidential election won’t be cast in 2016.

That’s because, of the 12 states considered up for grabs in 2016, four—Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio—have passed onerous new voter suppression laws, which disproportionately affect communities of color and other Democratic constituencies.

For example, in North Carolina, the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor eliminated early voting days. In 2012, 900,000 voters cast their ballots during the early voting window. In 2016, that number will be zero.

The motive is clear: In 2012, 48 percent of North Carolina’s early voters were registered Democrats and 32 percent were registered Republicans, an edge of 140,000 Democratic voters. Mitt Romney won the state by just 92,004 votes in 2012 after Barack Obama carried the state in 2008. In other words, banning early voting could keep this swing state in the Republican column this November.

The Republican lawmakers suppressing voters have had help from Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices. The Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder made it easier for states to make voting harder. Virginia quickly took advantage, passing a strict Voter identification law, which would disqualify the 200,000 voters in the state who lack photo ID. They, too, skew Democrat: the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that 25 percent of African American citizens lack a government-issued photo ID, compared to just 8 percent of whites. Low-income and elderly voters are also disproportionately affected
— Jay Michaelson, writing in The Daily Beast

To further develop this idea of massive voter disenfranchisement as presented by Mr. Michaelson, in the table below I’ve given a brief overview of the lay of the voter suppression land in several states.

Participation in the ISCC System by State

Participation in the ISCC System by State

Florida

Interstate Cross Check? NO

In spite of the fact that Florida does not use ISCC, this state has a history (see 2000 election result) of purging voter rolls. Under Governor Rick Scott, that has NOT changed.

Voter suppression, not fraud, is Florida’s problem

*************

Colorado & Iowa

Interstate Cross Check? YES

The question is to be asked, given what has occurred in so many other ISCC states, what can we expect to see in Iowa & Colorado? What is it reasonable to expect? What does the preponderance of evidence tell us we should expect?

Iowa voter ID law; Colorado voter ID efforts (this article is from 2013, but one wonders to what extent the ripple effects of this effort are still being felt)

*************

Michigan

Interstate Cross Check? YES

Per Greg Palast’s investigative reporting, as many as 75,000 votes may have simply not been counted.

DJT won the state by fewer than 10,000 votes and recount efforts were frustrated and eventually abandoned.

Michigan recount effort stopped

*************

Minnesota

Interstate Cross Check? NO

ISCC is not currently in use in MN, however, the legislature has passed a voter ID law that will, inevitably suppress turnout and ballots cast. ISCC isn’t the only route to controlling and determining the outcome of an election.

Election bill may suppress voter turnout

*************

Nevada

Interstate Cross Check? YES

Lest we fall into the trap of thinking that ONLY Republicans have their finger on the scale, here’s a story about Democrats in Nevada making attempts to selectively cull the voter lists. Dems attempt to suppress the vote

*************

New Hampshire

Interstate Cross Check? NO but….

The legislature has been hard at work. Like Minnesota, ISCC isn’t needed to get to the destination of suppressing votes. New Hampshire Republicans work on voter ID

*************

North Carolina

Interstate Cross Check? YES

Trump won the state by ~200,000 votes but North Carolina has a long history of voter suppression activity. ISCC is simply one of the newest tools in the state’s toolkit. It is NC that recently had its signature voter ID law ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court and the SCOTUS refused to revisit the NC voter ID law struck down in '16, leaving the lower court’s order in place.

*************

Ohio

interstate Cross Check? YES

Trump won this state by ~500,000 votes but there are serious questions about voter suppression tactics in the run up to the election. Thousands of Ohio voters purged

*************

Pennsylvania

Interstate Cross Check? YES

Trump won by ~50,000 votes. As the video above suggests, voter suppression was to have handed this state to Mitt Romney in 2012. Pennsylvania voter suppression tactics

*************

Virginia

Interstate Cross Check? YES

Immediately after the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, under Republican governor Bob MacDonell, Virginia passed a strict Voter identification law, which would disqualify the 200,000 voters in the state who lack photo ID. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that 25 percent of African American citizens lack a government-issued photo ID, compared to just 8 percent of whites.

This move likely disenfranchised thousands of Black and low-income citizens.

It’s now harder to vote in VA

*************

Wisconsin

Interstate Cross Check? NO but…..

In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by ~22,000 votes, but 300,000 registered voters didn't have requisite forms of voter ID and were likely disenfranchised.

“Neil Albrecht, the executive director of Milwaukee’s Election Commission, believes the policy depressed turnout in the blue counties Clinton desperately needed to carry Wisconsin. Compared to 2012, 60,000 fewer people voted in this year. Milwaukee – the county that holds the vast majority of the state’s Black population. Statewide, turnout was the lowest it has been for a presidential election in two decades.” So writes Ian Millhiser for Think Progress reports.

*************

What all these states and news stories show is that there is a concerted move to limit voter participation. The attitude of those in power seems to be: if you can’t win, cheat.

In addition to the structural forces trying to limit participation, there is the related issue of voter ignorance. What you don’t know, can and will hurt you when it comes to casting your ballot.

If voters hear a news report that references a need for voter ID but fail to follow the story closely, there is a real possibility that they will show up at the polls without the required ID. Moreover, inattention may mean that when a voter ID law is overturned in the courts, and voter ID is NOT needed, malicious or ill-informed elections officials can demand ID that the law says they do not need. If you don’t know the law, you will allow yourself to be turned away. In states like Wisconsin for example, in the final weeks leading up to the election, voting rights groups discovered that Wisconsin officials at local DMV offices were giving false information to voters attempting to get the proper ID, putting those officials in violation of a federal court order. Knowledge is power. But do we all have the knowledge?

Whether misinformation is given maliciously or not doesn’t matter. An opportunity to cast a ballot is lost. Repeat this action enough times and an election is stolen..

In our next instalment, we’ll talk about what each of us needs to do to address this going forward. This isn’t about winning or losing elections any more. This is about democracy itself. If it’s at risk then it’s up to every voter to get in the game and bring it back from the brink.


About the Author - Elle Sagar

Elle Sagar

Elle Sagar

I am a strategic thinker and problem solver. I have a knack for seeing the heart of an issue, clearing away all the noise and nonsense and hopefully making cogent arguments that go to the central issue under consideration. Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try. That's a lyric from an Ella Fitzgerald song and from the songbook of my life.

Read Some of Elle's Other Articles...