Friday, October 19, 2018

It's About Suppression, Con't

I said back in June that the Supreme Court decision that found Ohio's voter purges to be legal meant that red states were going to continually disenfranchise millions of black and Latino voters and black and Latino votes, every election cycle, every time, until they are stopped.  

North Carolina is doing it, eliminating early voting by making it as prohibitive as possible, and only recently was stopped from purging millions of voters through a loophole by a federal judge.

Georgia too has voter purge laws that remove voters for a host of reasons, possibly the worst ones in the nation, and GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp is using every one of them to disenfranchise as many black voters as he can so he can win his race for governor against Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams.

Georgia officials removed an estimated 107,000 people from voter rolls because they decided not to vote in prior elections, according to a new report.

An APM Reports analysis found the voters were removed under the state's "use it or lose it" law, which starts a process for removing people from voter rolls if they fail to vote, respond to a notice or make contact with election officials over a three-year period.

After that three-year span, those who don't vote or make contact with authorities in two elections can be purged from the voter rolls under the Georgia law.

Such laws, generally enacted by GOP governments, have been growing more common, with at least nine states now having them, according to APM Reports.

And of course, the overwhelming majority of these purged voters were black and registered as Democrats

Kemp is Georgia's secretary of state, and his office oversees elections. Abrams has argued that Georgia laws and Kemp's office have acted to suppress the votes of African-Americans in the state. Kemp says his office is following Georgia law and that he has acted to prevent voter fraud.

The two are locked in a tight race that could be decided by a relatively small number of voters.

The APM investigation concluded that many people struck from voter rolls under "use it or lose it" laws do not know that they have been dropped and are likely to be surprised if they are turned away from the polls on Nov. 6.

 Surprise!  You have to fill out a provisional ballot, which means Kemp's office will find a way not to count it, since he's still in charge of counting all the votes for the contest.

That's right.  Kemp has yet to resign or recuse himself from overseeing his own election.
Oh, but it gets worse.  Unless your absentee ballot signature perfectly matches that of your voter registration form in the judgment of Kemp's office, your vote is thrown away.

Say you live in Georgia. You’re eager to vote in this year’s election—a tight race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Trump acolyteBrian Kemp—so you fill out an absentee ballot and mail it in. Then, days or weeks after the election, you receive a notice in the mail. The signature on your absentee ballot, it explains, looked different from the signature on your voter-registration card. So an election official threw out your ballot. There is nothing you can do. Your vote has been voided.

If Georgia’s signature-mismatch law remains in effect through the November election, this fate will befall thousands of would-be voters. The statute directs elections officials to apply amateur handwriting analysis to voters’ signatures and reject any potential “mismatch.” Nearly 500 ballots in Gwinnett County alone have already been rejected for mismatch, a disproportionate number of them cast by minority voters. Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is suing, demanding that the state give all citizens an opportunity to cure ballots rejected for mismatch. Its suit will help determine how successfully Georgia will suppress minority votes in the upcoming race.

And Kemp's office is definitely targeting black voters in Atlanta for this methodology of disenfranchisement.

That’s the case in Georgia. The epicenter of the current mismatch crisis is Gwinnett County, the most diverse county in the state. While Gwinnett has just 12 percent of the state’s total mail-in ballots, it’s already responsible for 40 percent of statewide rejections this election cycle. Voters who cast absentee ballots very early may receive their rejection letters before Election Day, which allows them to try again by voting in person. But there is no requirement that the state send these letters speedily, so many receive them far too late. And even worse, there is no procedure by which a voter can cure her ballot—by, say, verifying her identity to an election official. If she wants to cast a ballot that counts, she must start from the beginning. And if the election is over, she has no ability to exercise her right to vote.

The ACLU argues that this scheme violates due process. It’s well established that qualified voters have a liberty interest in casting a ballot that counts, and so the government must provide some process before depriving citizens of that right. Georgia grants them none. Under long-standing Supreme Court precedent, courts must decide “what process is due” by weighing the interests at stake, the risk of violating those interests, the value of additional safeguards, and the burdens they will impose on the government.

The ACLU should win this suit.  But guess who gets the final say?

The Supreme Court.

Stay tuned.

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