Voter Suppression – Part 5

I’ll do another survey of states in this essay, where I’ll take in the Western states that I haven’t looked at already. Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and my home state of Texas. That’s 14 states and will bring my survey to 34 states, with heavily-Republican Midwest and Deep South states making up most of the remaining 16.

I start with Republican-held Alaska. Going into my check, I thought that there might not be enough minorities in Alaska to suppress, but I thought wrong. Alaska goes hard against Native American voters, with all kinds of additional complications brought into play because of their tribal affiliations. The law of the USA stipulates that tribal members living on reservations *can* vote in federal elections, but the Republicans in Alaska choose instead to pass laws that suppress their votes and then carry the fights into courts, where the state enjoys better access and legal resources than their suppressed plaintiffs.

Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota have similar arrangements as Alaska: Republican-dominated governments that block Native American access to the polls. It doesn’t matter if the laws stipulate forms of ID while blocking others, or if it’s a poll purging posing as an address update, or if it’s closing polls where the people can reach them without a massive drive – all of those and more get used to keep the Native Americans out of the polling places.

The same things that target hyper-rural Native American voters also work against Hispanic voters in Idaho. Idaho counties also do not uniformly offer Spanish-language ballots, even though they are required to by federal law.

Nevada is now mostly in Democratic hands, so the voter suppression stories coming out of that state are about how Republicans are trying to push through voter suppression measures such as restricting mail-in voting. It’s really breaking my heart to see, time and time again, the Republican Party acting to either reduce voting rights or to hold the line on Jim Crow laws that keep voting rights suppressed. Time and time again. I’ve got good friends who fight fires, heal the sick, teach in classrooms, defend our nation, and serve on police forces who are good, honest people… and then they vote Republican and extend the shadow of racial discrimination in our nation. It’s like watching alcoholics destroy their lives and the lives of others through occasional indiscretions.

And that brings me to Arizona, which has been suppressing Black, Hispanic, and Native American votes for over a century. The Republican Party there pushed for voter suppression measures in 1958, well before the national party adopted such strategies in 1964. Eyewitnesses recall how Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist once served as a major part of the Republican Party’s Operation Eagle Eye, challenging Black and Hispanic voters in South Phoenix. Arizona’s history reads like that of Alabama’s, which breaks my heart even more, as I have family history that hearkens back to that state.

I also have family history that reaches back to Utah. That state shows some hope in that the Republican-dominated government has started to roll back restrictions and open up other possibilities for voters. There are still laws that the Republicans put in that need to come out – remember that it was Republicans that took away rights for women to vote in Utah in the late 1800s – but it is good to see that change *is* possible.

But the Republicans revert to form in New Mexico, where out-of-state Republican groups have joined forces with in-state groups to file court cases to suppress minority voters there. Nebraska doesn’t need out-of-state groups to suppress votes, as the Republican Party there is strong enough to do the job themselves.

Kansas has been ruled by Republicans for most of its history, so it was no surprise to me that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach created multiple barriers to voting for the state’s current Black voters and the increasing number of Hispanic voters there.

Oklahoma’s party history pattern lets me know that I’m out of the West and into the Deep South – the Democratic Party white supremacists migrated over to the Republican Party when the national Democratic Party made that group unfriendly to white supremacists… and the national Republican Party made that group a home for them. But Oklahoma is nothing when compared to Texas.

Texas’ Republican leadership is keeping Jim Crow alive and well in the Lone Star State, with aggressive voter ID laws, voter roll purges, closure of polling places in minority neighborhoods, complicated registration practices, voter intimidation, and blocking of an expansion of mail-in voting. It’s sickening, and it’s pervasive.

I’ve looked at 34 states so far. In all but one, Utah, Republican Party politicians and affiliated groups are working to suppress minority voting rights. In Utah, Republicans are starting to roll back some restrictions, but they have a long way to go.

I’ve got 16 states to go: Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. Looking at those states, I know already of several with particularly egregious examples of Republican-led voter suppression efforts. By the time I’m done with this, I’ll no longer wonder about how closely-aligned the Republican Party is with white supremacist views. I’ll know, and it will be deeply disturbing.

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