Sunday, November 18, 2018


There's a vote suppression story in The New York Times today, but you have to dig deep to find it:
... Restrictive trends have accelerated since the Supreme Court invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act five years ago, with a number of states finding new ways to make it harder to vote. Some have aggressively purged voters’ registrations for inactivity. Still others have closed polling places.

Suspicions of political motives have fueled distrust and anger. When construction required relocating the only polling place in the heavily Hispanic Dodge City, Kan., this month, the local election official, a Republican, moved it four miles away, outside the city limits. Democrats cried foul, seeing a plot to discourage voting, which Republicans denied.

Democrats’ concerns in Kansas were heightened because of the involvement of the Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, in high-profile campaigns to crack down on voter fraud. Mr. Kobach championed a multistate system of checking registrations to prevent voters from casting ballots in two places at once, a system that critics contend is seriously flawed. A recent nonpartisan analysis estimated that it mistakenly flagged about 200 legitimate voters for every double registration it caught.
It's part of a larger article about voting in America -- and while vote suppression is discussed in some detail, it doesn't become the real focus of the story until paragraph 36. Prior to that, there's this:
Nearly two decades after voting problems in a handful of Florida counties paralyzed the nation, America’s election grid this month remained a crazy patchwork of inconveniences, confusion and errors, both human-made and mechanical....

With the nation polarized along party lines and many contests fiercely fought, tight races threw a harsh light on weaknesses in the system, fueling partisan accusations and legal challenges.
And this:
In New Mexico, a Republican congressional candidate, Yvette Herrell, sought to have the police seize 8,000 absentee ballots but cited no evidence of suspected fraud. A judge in Florida rejected efforts by the Republican Senate candidate, Gov. Rick Scott, to impound voting machines, and the authorities declined to investigate claims of fraud, saying they had no evidence of it.

And in Arizona, as the counting of mail-in ballots delivered a victory for the Democratic Senate candidate, Kyrsten Sinema, the state Republican Party leader lashed out at the elections official in Maricopa County, a Democrat, declaring, “Such a man cannot be trusted to administer elections.”

President Trump fanned the flames of distrust with tweets questioning votes in favor of Democrats in several states. As the counting of ballots continued in Arizona, Mr. Trump tweeted: “Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption — Call for a new Election?”
There's a brief mention on suppression accusations prior to paragraph 36, but for most of the story we're reading about human and mechanical errors, and the inevitable question of what if anything has changed since 2000.
The 2000 presidential election recount, with its televised images of hapless county officials in Florida squinting at ballots to discern voter intent, was the debacle that launched a thousand fixes....

Charles Stewart III, a leading expert on election administration at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said complaints about this month’s elections in some parts of the country should not be seen as evidence of a failing system, or lack of progress since 2000.

“Elections are incredibly complicated,” Mr. Stewart said....
On the subject of election problems in America, there are three narratives. The mainstream media likes the "Florida redux?" narrative. In the right-wing media, the narrative that obviously dominates alleges widespread Democratic electoral fraud and sore-loser Democratic candidates. When Stacey abrams acknowledged that Brian Kemp had the votes to be declared the winner of the Georgia governor's race without acknowledging that he'd won a fair election, there was this response from the right:

Martha McSally graciously conceded the Arizona Senate race when ballots that were counted late put her Democratic opponent in the lead. Because the "Florida redux" and "fraud" narratives dominate everywhere except in the progressive media, Lowry's tweet seemed plausible. In The Nation, Joan Walsh responds to Lowry and summarizes what's not in the dominant narratives (or even at the tail end of that Times story, which barely scratches the surface):
Martha McSally didn’t have to run against a candidate who was making the rules governing their election and who bent every one of them in his favor. She didn’t see her opponent purge more than a million voters—most of them clearly members of her base—in the year before their election. She didn’t see him close 214 polling places in six years—mainly in areas where her base voters resided. She didn’t see him put 53,000 absentee ballots into limbo because of tiny inconsistencies—a missing hyphen in a name, or a missing middle initial—70 percent of whom, again, would have almost certainly been McSally voters.

She didn’t find that on Election Day, in the heart of her geographic base—in Abrams’s case, Atlanta—700 voting machines were mysteriously wrapped up and unused, while lines to use the inadequate number of machines stretched for blocks, making her voters wait four hours or more. She didn’t see her opponent lie about doing those things—and, in fact, accuse McSally of being the actual cheater—in the days before her election. And McSally wasn’t forced to get the backing of four federal judges to make sure all the votes were counted in her election, because her opponent, who made and enforced the voting rules, opposed efforts to do just that.
And that's just one state. Vote suppression is a big story, but it's a secondary story because the right-wing press obviously won't acknowledge it and the mainstream press wants to run those poll-working-staring-at-a-chad images again.

(Joan Walsh via Lawyers, Guns & Money)

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