It's no coincidence that in this same month that Republican state legislatures have introduced over 250 proposed laws to make it harder for people to vote, Arizona Republicans are also standing before the US Supreme Court trying to make voting more complicated, as well.
There's a long and largely hidden history here.
It was in Arizona back in the 1960s that Republican operative and local lawyer William Rehnquist helped launch Operation Eagle Eye, a program where large, physically intimidating Republican lawyers would show up at polling places heavily frequented by Hispanic and Native American voters and loudly challenge their right to vote.
Ranquest was perfect for the job, standing at 6'3" and over 200 pounds, and he delighted in chasing away brown-skinned would-be voters. The program, under that name and others, quickly grew all across the American South in the spirit of the old Jim Crow voter challenges of the late 1800s, and Rehnquist's role made him such a rising Republican star that he ended up Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court several decades later.
The latest slick little trick in Arizona is to assign people to one, singular voting location, even when other polling places may be more convenient for them, on their route to or from work, or even closer to where they live, and then this week argue before the United States Supreme Court that when those people vote in other, more convenient or nearby locations, their votes should be thrown out.
The Arizona Republican's attorney stood before the Supreme Court yesterday and said that failing to further complicate their voting systems in places like heavily Hispanic Maricopa County, where the number of polling places was recently reduced by 70%, "puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats."
We're talking about legal, registered voters here. They jumped through all the hoops. They rummaged through old papers at home to find their birth certificates and utility bills, they double-checked to make sure that the Social Security card is in their pocket and their drivers license is current, they went to their local polling place and stood in line for hours and hours because the Republican's who control the voting systems in the state chose to cut back on the number of polling places and voting machines used in minority communities.
And then, all too often, when they finally get to the front of the line they're told that the Secretary of State has removed them from the voting rolls because their name is similar to that of a felon in another state, or because they didn't vote in the last election. Better luck next time.
This song and dance is repeated literally millions of times every election year in the United States in those states that are controlled by Republicans. It's been going on since the 1960s, but really got put on steroids in the 1990s when Republicans computerized their gerrymandering and voter suppression systems nationwide.
Because of their gerrymandering, in numerous states the majority of people voting for members of the House of representatives vote for Democrats, but the states send a majority of elective officials to the US House of Representatives as Republicans. This is particularly conspicuous in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but happens elsewhere all across the country as well.
In Ohio, the Republican administration ordered massive purges of their voting rolls that largely targeted African-American communities, and when voters challenged it all the way to the Supreme Court, the conservatives on the court said it was just fine. As a result, Republican-controlled states all across the country are purging tens of millions of voters every four years, forcing people to re-register within a narrow window of time, months in advance of the election, so they can be allowed to vote on election day.
Because of the way Republicans have gerrymandered the state, in 2018 Democratic House candidates won 54% of the votes and Republicans got only 44%. But Wisconsin sent Republicans as five out of their eight members of Congress to Washington DC.
Although Democrats in the United States Senate represent 51.4 million more Americans than do Republicans, they have an equal number of votes at 50-50.
And the last time a Republican won the White House with a majority of votes across the nation was 1988, when George HW Bush became president with a small majority of the nationwide popular vote as well as winning the electoral college.
Bush Jr. lost the national vote by a half-million votes, and Trump lost the national vote by over 3 million in 2016, and lost the national popular vote by about 7 million votes in 2020.
There's a reason why Republicans are resorting to massive, computer fine-tuned gerrymandering and complicated, nuanced requirements for voting, particularly in America's larger cities located in the state under Republican rule.
It's that they have no real ideas or plans for governance; they simply represent the interests of giant corporations and billionaires and so their singular focus when they get power is slashing protective regulations and cutting taxes on rich people while jacking up taxes and fees on average working people.
They've even extended this logic to the United States Senate, were Republicans are one vote short of a minority but insist that nothing can be done unless at least 10 of them agree with it.
Every single one of those Republicans in the Senate, along with Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema, would claim they had won the election and take their seat in the Senate if they had beat their opponent I even one single vote. They proclaim Democracy in elections.
But they sure don't want democracy in the United States Senate. There, they want to make sure that the people who represent the billionaire class and America's largest corporations run the show.
The old song phrase goes, "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose."
When it comes to offering anything that might benefit average working Americans or the increasing ranks of the poor who have been economically marginalized by 40 years of Reaganomics, the Republicans "ain't got nothing."
So they have to resort to "regulating" peoples ability to cast their ballots.
Are you a gun owner in Texas with a concealed carry permit? Come on in! But a student attending a state university that has verified your identity and issued you a photo ID? Not a chance: you don't qualify to vote.
Georgia today is debating numerous restrictions to voting in that state, a process that is being replicated in Republican-controlled legislatures all across America this month.
Instead of coming up with new and better ways to rebuild America and revive America's middle class, Republicans are focusing all their efforts instead on how to make it harder for people in cities, particularly young people, racial minorities, and Social Security recipients, to vote.
While they talk about so-called "wedge" issues like guns, abortion and religious freedom, the real issue they've been laser focused on since the election of Ronald Reagan is white supremacy and white rule.
Republicans are most rigorous about suppressing the minority vote in the old slaveholding South, but that practice that was the norm in those states for 100 years of Jim Crow has now spread to other states in the Midwest and north as well.
This is not how democracy is supposed to work, particularly when America holds herself out to the world as an example of the core democratic ideal that the will of the majority of the people should decide who's elected to run the country.
The Supreme Court will almost certainly be of no help here.
In 2013 in their bizarre Shelby County ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that racism no longer exists in America and the proof was that a Black man, Barack Obama, had just been elected to the White House. Having established that "truth," he and his conservative buddies on the Court then gutted the Voting Rights Act, which had passed the Senate unanimously when renewed just a few years earlier. Just days later, dozens of Republican-controlled states moved to institute draconian restrictions on voting and purge tens of millions of minority citizens from their voting rolls.
Democrats are offering a solution to this crisis of democracy which, surprisingly, doesn't specifically advantage the Democrats themselves. Instead, they are calling for free and fair elections nationwide.
HR1, the For The People Act, would make it much harder for individual states to tinker with their election laws in ways that specifically disenfranchise local minorities and rig their congressional districts in ways that perpetually advantage either party.
The For The People Act simply calls for the core ideal on which this country was founded: a fair and honest vote cast by American citizens without harassment or interference.
Thomas Paine called our vote the beating heart of democracy; Republicans call it an inconvenience that must be hyper-regulated to their advantage.
This week the For The People Act will be voted on in the House and will probably go to the Senate next week. Now is the time to let both your Member of Congress and your two Senators know that you support democracy in America and would like to see an end to rigged election processes.
The phone number for the congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121. Let them know what you think.
Originally posted on thomhartmann.medium.com.