“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
— Leonard Cohen – “Everybody Knows”
For all the right-wing fear-mongering over election fraud by illegal voters, the number of documented cases of actual voter fraud is minuscule, and the most high profile instances of ballot tampering all involve Republicans as the indictment of a Republican political operative in the 2018 North Carolina 9th congressional district election demonstrated.
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In fact, contrary to the baseless accusations that swarms of illegal immigrants will be heading to the polls to vote against Donald Trump and his GOP enablers, the biggest threat to free and fair elections in this country is the regular campaign of voter suppression being waged by the Republican party around the country in states where they control the local governments.
The latest state to garner the attention of voting rights advocates is Texas which led the nation last year in reducing the number of polling stations available for people to cast their ballots, making it more difficult for people to participate in elections.
According to a report in The Guardian, “civil rights group The Leadership Conference Education Fund found that 750 polls had been closed statewide since 2012.” Compounding the problem of fewer polling places is the fact that the vast majority of the state’s poll site closures have been in areas where the black and Latin population is increasing by the largest numbers, making the decisions around which sites are shuttered a politically suspect handout to Texas Republicans.
The Guardian analysis of the Texas poll closures provides the disturbing statistics:
“The analysis finds that the 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latinx residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites, compared to just 34 closures in the 50 counties that have gained the fewest black and Latinx residents. This is despite the fact that the population in the former group of counties has risen by 2.5 million people, whereas in the latter category the total population has fallen by over 13,000,” the newspaper found.
With demographic changes in Texas pulling it towards the swing state category from the reliably Republican bastion it has been in recent years, the efforts to make it more difficult to vote can help the GOP retain power that otherwise might fall into Democratic hands with the influx of new and young voters to the state.
Suppressing voter turnout is a key strategy for those angling for continued GOP control of the state and for its electoral votes in the presidential race, particularly considering these comments from Antonio Arellano of Jolt, a progressive Latino political organization:
“The fact of the matter is that Texas is not a red state,” Arellano said. “Texas is a nonvoting state.”
This type of polling place accessibility problem was not an issue until 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could no longer enforce the Voting Rights Act which required states with a history of minority voter suppression to submit any changes to their election systems to the Justice Department to ensure that no one’s rights were violated by the proposed changes.
Now that states lack oversight, they are free to make changes such as transitioning from local polls to more centralized voting centers that some say can make voting more convenient. However, critics of the system say that centralization means people may have to travel unreasonable distances to simply cast their ballot and often simply fail to vote as a result.
While we can be sure that if Donald Trump loses the 2020 presidential election he will go on a Twitter rampage questioning the legitimacy of the vote, in fact, Republicans have been quietly working on the local level to ensure that its legitimacy can be questioned because they are stacking the deck in their own favor by making it harder for voters who traditionally lean Democratic to access the voting booth.
It’s fairly certain that you won’t see Trump tweeting about that type of election tampering on November 4th.
“Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Original reporting by Richard Salame at The Guardian.