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One Person, No Vote
How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy
Carol Anderson
read on December 19, 2018

The well-researched and articulated thesis of Anderson's book is: since the end of the civil war, conservative whites have been working relentlessly to disenfranchise African American voters. Implicit in that sentence is that such efforts are ongoing, and in fact, Anderson illustrates clearly how they are actually ramping up again.

This book (for me) initially read very similarly to The Color of Law. That book was about how racist (government) housing policy prevented many generations of blacks in America from owning a home, and illustrated how despite today's improved regulatory environment around housing discrimination, the damage done w/r/t wealth accumulation was severe and its effects are absolutely ongoing. In contrast, One Person, No Vote has nothing even resembling a rosy ending. There is no "we've fixed most of it, and are ironing out the remaining issues today". Racially-motivated, lawful voter suppression is not even close to fixed, and is in fact getting worse. So here are the highlights. This is how shitty we are:

Voter ID

Different states have shit laws requiring ID to vote. I was initially sympathetic to this - I do think it's reasonable that you prove who you are in order to vote. Unfortunately, the reasonability of this claim is used as a bludgeon to make it unreasonably hard to actually vote.

  • Voter ID requirements are different in each state.
  • Very specific forms of ID are required/accepted in each. In some states, a driver's license (the overwhelmingly most popular form of ID) from outside states is not accepted. This is such bullshit that I can't think about it for too long without spinning out.
  • To get an ID, you need to go to a DMV. So, e.g.,:

Governor Scott Walker made sure of that. The Republican had curtailed the operating hours or removed many of the DMVs in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee, where 70 percent of the state’s black population lived, and in the Navy veteran’s university town of Madison.

The NAACP and ACLU noted, for example, that a birth certificate was necessary to get a driver’s license, but in an obvious “Catch-22 of classic proportions” in Marion County, where more than two hundred thousand of the state’s black population lived, the health department required a driver’s license as proof of identification to get a copy of a birth certificate.

With more than 80 percent of Texas urbanized, and Dallas now a Democratic stronghold, Houston overwhelmingly minority, and San Antonio as well, it was clear that the burgeoning Latino and African American population had the ability to turn a red state not just purple, but blue.97 Texas’s answer was S.B. 14, passed a mere two hours after the Shelby County v. Holder decision came down. The law skewed acceptable government-issued photo IDs to those “which white people are more likely to carry,” such as gun licenses. It made driver’s licenses the virtual holy grail of IDs because nearly one-third of the state’s counties, including some of those that are heavily minority, do not have DMVs. Republican legislators recognized that it would require some citizens to travel up to 250 miles round-trip to obtain a license, but the lawmakers decided to remove language from S.B. 14 that would have reimbursed those who had to make that poll tax–like trip. In fact, one of the state’s lawyers “brushed aside geographical obstacles as the ‘reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.’

Voter Roll Purging

IF (this is a really big if) you can get past the idea that people need to register to vote at all, then it becomes reasonable that a state should have an ability to remove people from the voter roll over time. After 100 years you don't want to have the names of every single person who ever registered in the state still on the list. Obviously, it doesn't scale, so there must be a method to remove dead/emigrated people, right?

  • In many states, they just remove people who don't vote 'frequently', at the discretion of the secretary of state. (This dovetails wonderfully with efforts that make it hard for people to vote at all, see above).
  • If your registered name doesn't match your gov ID name perfectly, you get removed. Guess how often this happens to "John" vs non-English names?
African Americans, who were one-third of the applicants, accounted for 64 percent of the tens of thousands of voter registrations that Georgia’s secretary of state canceled or “placed in ‘pending status’” for data mismatches between 2013 and 2016. Meanwhile, “Asian-Americans and Latinos were more than six times as likely as white voters to have their applications halted.”

His most devastating weapon to date, however, has been Interstate Crosscheck, which he has nurtured and promoted as an important device to eliminate voter fraud from the American political landscape. The program is supposed to root out those who are registered to vote in two different states as part of “a national move to bring more integrity to the voter rolls” and provide a solution to “registration systems [that] cannot keep up with a society of voters who move from state to state.” It works through an alliance of twenty-seven states, which sends voter information to Arkansas to upload. Kobach’s Kansas then pulls and runs the data for every member of the consortium, searching for comparisons “of registered voters to weed out duplicates.”

...

Arizona purged almost 271,000 voters. Michigan removed nearly 450,000 voters, and North Carolina managed to eliminate close to 600,000 from the system. The staggering numbers fueled the narrative of massive, rampant voter fraud.

...

Not all states require the same information that Crosscheck uses to purge the rolls. Social security numbers, for example, are rarely used. Ohio doesn’t bother with a person’s middle name either. Suffixes rarely make it in, as well. As a result, it believes that James Willie Brown is the same voter as James Arthur Brown, as James Clifford Brown, as James Lynn Brown. The possibility for error is exponential.

...

Minorities in America tend to have common or shared last names.

...

researchers at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania discovered that Crosscheck has an error rate of more than 99 percent.

Shit Voting Practices

Unfortunately, the assault on democracy is not only about the way congressional and legislative district lines are drawn. The undermining of democracy is also achieved in the way long, seemingly interminable lines at the voting booth have been artificially created. We’ve seen the results: A five-hour wait in Maricopa County, Arizona. A line with four thousand people stretching for one quarter mile in Cincinnati. Lines in Miami-Dade County, Florida, bending beyond the photographer’s lens and melding into the horizon.

...

this is a burden that is disproportionately borne in order to exercise that fundamental right to vote. In 2012, on average, blacks had to wait in line twice as long as whites. In the “10 Florida precincts with the longest delays … almost 70 percent of voters were Latino or black.” Nationwide, in the 2012 election, whites who lived in white neighborhoods had the shortest wait times of all citizens—just seven minutes.

...

In Ohio, for example, the secretary of state allocates only one polling station per county for early voting. On the surface, that gives the aura of fairness and equity. But all counties are not equal. Pickaway County has fewer than sixty thousand residents total.95 Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, however, has a population of more than eight hundred thousand.96 Yet despite this seismic disparity, each had only one early voting polling place available. There were, obviously, no lines in Pickaway County, home to Circleville. Hamilton County, however, in trying to squeeze a population of that magnitude through only one facility, had a line that stretched a quarter mile.

...

North Carolina, in a “subtler maneuver” than the gerrymandering and voter ID laws that landed the state in court, “moved the location of almost one-third of the state’s early voting sites,” which then “significantly increased the distance African Americans have to travel to vote early, while leaving white voters largely unaffected.” This was deliberate.

 

Gerrymandering

Ahh yes, the evergreen practice of allowing the elected officials who seek more power to determine who is allowed to vote for them. This is a well documented pile of horse shit, so I'll keep it light.

Before the redistricting, Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation was composed of eleven Republicans and ten Democrats. The Census-driven reduction of two seats did not lead to an eleven-to-eight ratio, however, but one that would yield thirteen or fourteen Republicans out of a total of nineteen seats.

Indeed, after the high-powered gerrymandering, “more Americans lived in areas with uncontested elections than … before.” And when there is a competition, it usually isn’t much. Only 4.9 percent live in districts where the margin of difference between the winner and loser was 5 percent or less.

I've gone on for too long. This is too many quotes, and sadly only about 10% of what I highlighted in my kindle while reading. To read this book is to be disgusted with our nation, and disappointed with its people. To read this book while watching, in real time, Stacy Abrams "lose" the gubernatorial election in Alabama to a super racist shitbag who was also the AL secretary of state, and who actively did all of this quoted bullshit in order to eke out a "win" was unbearable.

I don't know what the end game here is. I don't understand what the GOP thinks is going to happen, by not allowing minorities to be represented, while 1) income inequality rises significantly, 2) 'minority' populations grow faster than whites. This is obviously, painfully obviously, going to end badly.

Other

I appreciated:

Based on research out of Stanford, the activists knew that the message wasn’t to ask whether someone was going to vote; the point was to define the person as a voter because a “voter is who you are” whereas “voting can be a task competing with lots of other ones.” The volunteers were, therefore, instructed to use “HIGH VOTER TURNOUT LANGUAGE AND ASK HIGH VOTER TURNOUT QUESTIONS LIKE: ‘I know you’re a reliable/consistent voter’ and ‘We rely on reliable voters like you’ and ‘What time of day are you going to vote?’

And lastly, this is a bit of a tangent, but I definitely stopped when I read:

What ruined the U.S.’s credibility, the Soviets gleefully claimed, was that people who “dream of nooses and dynamite … who throw rocks at defenseless Negro children—these gentlemen have the audacity to talk about ‘democracy’ and speak as supporters of ‘freedom.’” Don’t be fooled, the Kremlin warned—the U.S. goal was to export Jim Crow, not democracy. “American racism and its savage practice of cruel persecution and abuse of minorities is … the true nature of the American ‘democracy’ which the United States is trying to foist on other countries and peoples.”

The US was so scared of the USSR during the cold war, and so desperate to win it, or to appear to be winning it, that Anderson alleges here that a driving force of the civil rights movement was not in fact a repudiation of our disgusting history and practice and culture of racism and hate for moral reasons, but only (or primarily, or even only partially) for political reasons. The country needed to appear to be united, and peaceful, in order to credibly show that democracy and capitalism (and lets face it, mainly just capitalism) were better than authoritarian communism.

Truly, we are pathetic.

Author Bio:

Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. She is the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.