Discouraging Voting
(Flickr/Todd Van Hoosear) Importance of Voting

Two dark clouds hang over voting rights in the United States. Regrettably, these clouds have grown under the Donald Trump presidency.

One is a Supreme Court decision that appears to be more receptive to state efforts to restrict voting. The other is a Trump-appointed commission on “election integrity.”

For most people, a vote is their only voice in politics. In the United States, minorities and women have fought fiercely for their voting rights.

As the 2016 Presidential elections showed, women, minority, and younger voters tend to vote for Democrats. Older and white males tend to vote Republican.

Restricting Voting Through Gerrymandering

Naturally, both Republicans and Democrats have attempted to redraw districts through gerrymandering. This practice enables them to maximize their respective demographic advantages.

To gerrymander, parties need to have political control at state level. In 2010, Republicans controlled state legislatures in 25 states. Since then, they have merrily gerrymandered.

In a 5-4 case Tuesday, the Supreme Court let Republican Texas use its new electoral districts that diminish the influence of minority voters. With Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch in place, it is doubtful that the Court will question gerrymandering.

Apart from gerrymandering, Republicans have attempted other ways in which to minimize voting. One rationale that Trump and allies have cited for their efforts is voting fraud.

Trumped-Up Voting Fraud

In the 2016 elections, Trump emerged with a lower popular vote than Hillary Clinton nationally. He claimed that the margin was because of massive voter fraud.

However, studies found the Trump claims to be without merit. Nevertheless, Trump appointed a commission to study “election integrity.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is steering the commission. For partisan reasons, Kobach is interested in pursuing this tiny problem of voter fraud.

Kobach has a long history of pursuing extreme-right policies. Earlier, for example, he took a lead role in devising a program to collect data on Muslim immigrants.

Continuing an old obsession, Kobach has used the commission to raise the alarm about voter fraud. However, one of his latest claims used slippery facts and shoddy reasoning. The claim was widely debunked.

Identity and Voting Rights

Kobach’s commission is a laughingstock. For example, one of the more absurd suggestions given to the commission was from a gun rights advocate, John Lott. Lott proposed that voters’ identity be checked like those for gun purchasers.

Identity checks for voters are one of the favorite ways for Republicans to try to curb voting. Of the 20 states that have new restrictions on voting since 2010, 10 have stricter voter ID laws.

Such laws pose special challenges to minorities and the poor because it is expensive to get acceptable identification. Evidence shows that laws like this favor white Republicans.

Gutting turnout, particularly in swing states, can be dangerous to Democrats. In 2016, a reduction of less than two percent in 13 swing states in total voter preference for Clinton defeated her.

With the 2018 elections coming up, Democrats might be better off concentrating on state elections. It might be the only way to head off more measures to restrict voting.

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