Suppression Greater Threat Than Voter Fraud

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By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News

Voting by mail was introduced in Utah in 2013. It soon became very popular, with some counties seeing 99 percent of the 2020 primary ballots come through the mail. It’s a deep red and religious state with Republicans firmly in control. It voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and will again Nov. 3.

Until this summer, Republicans in Utah were just fine with voting by mail. They trusted their ballots would be counted and that no one would mess with the process. Now they aren’t so sure. Not because the process has changed but because their faith has been undermined.
“Suddenly (residents are) worried about voting by mail,” Ricky Hatch, a local county clerk, and auditor, in the Salt Lake area told the press. “Voters refer to ballots being thrown in a ditch, a river, and dumpsters…or dogs receiving ballots.” And, of course, dead people voting.

His office has had to add staff just to handle the concerns of the county’s voters.

Those concerns are being voiced around the nation by Republicans who have fully bought into their president’s attack on mail-in and absentee voting. False stories of voter fraud are rapidly twisted and amplified by the internet. Those already suspecting rampant voter fraud in America quickly forward them to friends and family, intensifying the mistrust in our elections. Nearly all the stories are entirely baseless.

Following the 2016 presidential election, which Trump won in the electoral college but lost in the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, he claimed widespread voter fraud. To look into those claims, Kris Koback, the former Republican secretary of state of Kansas, was appointed vice-chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The other vice-chair was Vice President Mike Pence.

Their mission was to expose “fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.” When the commission finally disbanded, despite the heavy bias with which it began its work, it found voter fraud nearly non-existent. Minor incidents, mistakes on ballots by individuals, are blown into incidents of widespread corruption, creating alarm, anger, and distrust.

The conservative Heritage Foundations maintains a database on voter fraud in America. In the past 20 years, more than 250 million mail-in ballots have been cast. Heritage has only found 1,200 allegations of voter fraud, with just 204 linked to mail-in ballots. Of those 204, only 143 investigations led to charges.

Still, among a sizeable segment of the American electorate, faith in our elections has been destroyed.

Rather than voter fraud interfering with our elections, what should concern Americans is voter suppression. It has a far greater impact on citizens’ rights to cast ballots and of our democracy to be truly representative of the majority’s will.

Today, 35 states have voter ID laws requiring for voters to prove who they are and where they live. Some are easy to comply with others not. If voters don’t have their required ID with them at the polls, they are given a provisional ballot. They then must return to an election office with an approved form of ID for their vote to be counted.

A 2014 study by the Government Accountability Office found that strict voter ID laws reduced voter turnout by 2% to 3%. It is no surprise that a majority of those disenfranchised by the strict laws are minorities.

To further ensure that it is difficult for minorities to vote, Texas has implemented a provision in its voter ID targeted at disenfranchising the young and people of color. It won’t accept state-issued photo IDs students attending the University of Texas are given, but does take the photo ID required to have a gun license. It isn’t a coincidence that more than half the students at the University of Texas are non-White and more than 80% of those with gun licenses are White, National Public Radio reports.

“In states like Alabama, in Wisconsin, in Georgia, when these ID bills have been passed, they have been followed by closing the motor vehicle offices in specifically Black counties. So you would have to take a day off from work, perhaps, and take a really long trip in order to go and get these IDs,” David Daley, author of “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy,” is quoted by NPR. When Texas passed its strict voter ID law, and closed DMV offices, some people had to travel 250 miles to to get a driver’s license.

Other states have also reduced the number of polling places in low-income and minority neighborhoods. It is no secret to why these actions have been taken – it is to make it more difficult for their residents to vote.

What is the impact of fewer places to vote? Standing in line for far greater times – up to seven hours versus only an average of seven minutes if you live in a White neighborhood, according to Daley.

Texas, which prides itself on its patriotism, is one of the worst states for abusing the rights of minorities to vote. Through an emergency declaration Oct. 1, its Republican Gov. Greg Abbott limited mail ballot drop-off sites to one per county. Harris County, which surrounds Houston, has 2.4 million people. The White population of Harris County is under 30%.

Is this Democracy at its finest? Are we a nation that can go to other countries and teach them how to conduct free and fair elections? Definitely not. We are an example of how to repress voter turnout, of how those in power can disenfranchise citizens with gimmicks and tricks.

In what should be an embarrassment to U.S. citizens, the British publication The Guardian says in its American edition, “Through our Fight to Vote project, the Guardian has pledged to put voter suppression at the center of our 2020 coverage. This election will impact every facet of American life. But it will not be a genuine exercise in democracy if American voters are stopped from participating in it.”

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