Mar
26

Can you feel the integrity?

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Can you feel the election integrity? By now, you’ve heard of the mess in Arizona during primary voting this week. Or rather specifically, in Maricopa County. The Arizona Republic diagnosed the problem succinctly:

Polling sites were overwhelmed for Tuesday’s Presidential Preference Election after county officials reduced the number sites to save money.

Most counties surveyed by The Arizona Republic had enough polling places to average 2,500 or fewer eligible voters per polling site. Maricopa County had only one site per every 21,000 voters.

Ari Berman blames the Supreme Court’s gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013 for allowing Arizona free rein to make these kinds of voting changes in a county with a 40 percent minority population. The decision has certainly fueled a certain, shall we say, attitude about certain kinds of people exercising the franchise. Paul Waldman assembled for the Washington Post a short list of the hurdles erected in Republican-controlled states to voting since the court ruling:

In that 2013 decision, the Supreme Court conservatives said that key parts of the Voting Rights Act are no longer needed because discrimination in voting is a thing of the past. As soon as the decision came down, Republican state legislatures moved swiftly to pass new voting hurdles that previously would have required Justice Department approval before. Here’s a summary of the Republican voting program:

  1. Impose voter ID requirements
  2. Shorten early voting periods
  3. Eliminate early voting on Sundays, when many African-American churches organize “souls to the polls” voting drives after services
  4. Eliminate same-day registration
  5. Restrict the ability of citizen groups to conduct voter registration drives
  6. Reduce the number of polling places

To Waldman’s short list throw in surgical (and illegal) gerrymandering, voting roll purges, registration challenges, eliminating out-of-precinct voting, and the kitchen sink. A map of the states that have added restrictions since 2010 is here.

I wrote in 2014:

Gaming election results through precision gerrymandering and repressive voting laws aimed at the poor and minorities is political Viagra® for the flagging demographic potency of the Republican base. Voter data matching exercises are not meant to uncover crimes, punish criminals, or even amass credible evidence. They are the pretext for a party suffering a lack of electoral confidence to throw smoke bombs into newsrooms and yell, “Voter fraud!” By the time the smoke clears and no evidence is found — again — of a “massive” problem, all viewers remember is that they saw smoke and heard cries of fraud. And where there’s smoke there must be a fire, right?

All this to combat the “existential threat” of “massive” fraud that for all the hue and cry remains all but immeasurable. All this to restore integrity to a voting system the designers of these voting hurdles have spent decades undermining. To paraphrase Matt Hooper from Jaws, this was not a voting accident.

While thousands stood in line in Maricopa County this week, election officials in North Carolina were still grappling with how many of the over 40,000 provisional ballots cast in its March 15 primary would count. That is nearly twice the 23,000 cast in the 2012 primary. Voters stood in lines until 11 p.m. in Durham County which, like Maricopa, also has a 40 percent minority population, just a different mix.

How many of the elusive fraudsters would wait in line for five hours to commit a felony that adds a single extra vote to their candidate’s tally? How many uncounted provisional ballots cast by minorities and students to restore white America’s confidence? Whose definition of integrity is at work here?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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