By Robert Mann
What persuades some Republican leaders and operatives that their ideas and policies are so unpopular that they can win elections only by preventing young people, black people and other minorities from voting? If your party can’t win majorities without stopping people from voting, shouldn’t you find other work?
As early voting continues around the nation, daily reports stream in about alleged Republican efforts to influence the fall elections by suppressing the votes of people who vote for Democrats. This is particularly appalling in North Carolina where Republicans have challenged the registration of thousands of people, most of them black Democrats.
A conservative group with an Orwellian name, the Voter Integrity Project (VIP), allegedly helped compile a list of Democratic voters. Local Republicans then mailed these targeted voters non-forwardable letters. If a voter’s mail bounced back undelivered, the Republican challenger contested the person’s right to vote.
If the voter receives mail at a post office box or his or her letter was incorrectly addressed or mishandled by postal workers, that person is automatically assumed to be living at another address and, therefore, ineligible to vote.
Among those purged was 100-year-old Grace Bell Hardison, who has lived nowhere other than her town of Belhaven, N.C., and has voted for the past 24 years. After an outcry, local officials restored Hardison’s voting rights. Others were not so fortunate.
This is not the first time North Carolina Republicans have been accused of minority voter suppression. In July, a federal appeals court ruled against the state’s voter ID law, finding it illegally “target[ed] African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans tried something like this in Louisiana 30 years ago in a U.S. Senate race between then-U.S. Rep. John Breaux, a Democrat, and his Republican House colleague, Rep. Henson Moore.
In the fall of 1986, Louisiana Democrats sued to stop the GOP from purging 30,000 voters in 11 parishes. Testimony in state court revealed that many of those challenged lived at the residences where they were registered. Regardless, the GOP effort was almost exclusively about disenfranchising black Democrats. A Republican judge ordered a halt to the operation.
The purges also ran afoul of a 1982 federal court order — still in force today — that prohibits the RNC from engaging in “ballot security measures” where “the racial or ethnic composition of such districts is a factor in the decision.”
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